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Small potatoes no more

By TAM MOORE Oregon Staff Writer

Freshly dug Carlingford potatoes, their name incorrectly spelled on a hastily made sign, were out for grower inspection at last July’s field day at University of California Intermountain Research and Extension Center in Tulelake. Seven acres of the spuds were commercially grown for marketing tests that continue this spring. - Capital Press file photo

When the Klamath Pearl potato got ho-hum reviews during supermarket retail sales tests in 2003, Klamath Direct, a marketing cooperative, turned to restaurants for more testing.

The results are good.

“I really liked them,” said Alan Brines, the executive chef of McGrath’s Fish House. The Northwest-based restaurant chain has 15 locations, and folks in the corporate office from President John McGrath down have heard of the Pearl.

It’s a knockoff of a European variety, called Carlingford, that matures in 75 days as a tuber 2 inches in size.

The McGrath’s March menu trial was assembled by Brines at the Beaverton kitchen where he works.

It included a small helping of mashed Pearls, a presentation garnished with apples and feta cheese, and herb-roasted Pearls.

Brines said by telephone that he believes the specialty spud has a place among McGrath’s rotating special menu items, but it may be too pricey to turn it into the regular menu.

“Our price point is a bit lower” than the San Francisco Bay-area restaurants that also tried the Pearl over this past winter.

In addition to working on a food-service strategy, Klamath Direct is also mulling offering the tiny potatoes through upscale growers’ markets. There’s hope that the little spud could be worth $5 a pound at retail.

If the markets develop, that could translate into grower gross profits of $5,000 an acre, far above returns for either fresh or chipping varieties.

Tam Moore is based in Medford, Ore. His e-mail address is cappress@charter.net.


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