Not long ago as the WSL tribal library consultant I facilitated the annual meeting of the Washington State tribal librarians. One of the topics up for discussion was the native foods. The tribes are making a concerted effort to reintroduce them into tribal members diets both as a way to preserve tribal culture and to promote healthy eating habits.
Tracy Hosselkuss, Lower Elwha tribe, talked about Ozette potatoes. She said lots of folks in her area were growing this fingerling potatoes which have a distinctive nutty taste. Tracy said they are wonderful roasted in a fire pit which is the traditional way of preparing them.
As potatoes always play a starring role in my family’s Thanksgiving dinner I asked Tracey to share some information about this food which the Makahs preserved and have been enjoying for 200 years.
It turns out that Jesuit Missionaries came up to the Olympic peninsula from Peru in the late 1700′s. They brought the potatoes with them. One rainy winter in the rain forest was enough for the missionaries and they left when their ship returned. The potatoes remained and the Makahs just kept planting–and eating them. WSU got interested in the the origin of the potatoes and ran some tests to verify the oral history of this breed. Sure enough genetic tests revealed that the potato was indeed from Peru.
I have included links to recipes and to a place where you could order and grow these Northwest delicacies.