Ark of Taste
Red McClure Potato
In the early 20th century, the town of Carbondale, Colorado produced more potatoes than the entire state of Idaho. Carbondale exported four hundred railway cars filled with potatoes each year. One of these potato varieties, the Red McClure, developed by Irish mining immigrant, Thomas McClure, disappeared during the 1940’s potato industry collapse but is currently making a comeback in its native soil.
The soil conditions of the Roaring Fork and Crystal River Valley of Colorado have been praised as “nearly perfect… as can be found, and the potatoes grown there are not excelled anywhere in the world, and are equaled in but few places.” Spearheaded by Marie Louise Ryan, a member of Slow Food Roaring Fork, projects to repatriate the Red McClure have resulted in high demand for this native potato. “People were very excited for this potato,” she recalled. “I think, in part, it was also because the potato is from here — it creates a tie to this area.” The Red McClure is making a comeback but is grown at a very low production scale, mostly by home-gardeners, and there is little to no commercial availability of Red McClure seed potatoes.
Yet interest in and demand for these spuds is growing in Carbondale and the neighboring regions. Even though the Red McClure does not necessarily fit the description of marketable beauty — its deep eyes make it trickier to peel than modern varieties — it is recognized for both its superior taste and its cooking qualities.
Photo courtesy of David Frey, Aspen Daily News