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This week in HORT 1101 – Potato chip edition

Top to bottom, potato grading line, Don Halseth reveals potato flaws, and analyzing chips.

Top to bottom, potato grading line, Don Halseth reveals potato flaws, and analyzing chips.

From Frank Rossi, who introduces students to plants grown for foods, beverages, fiber, aesthetics and recreation in HORT 1101 (Horticultural Science and Systems). View more HORT 1101 posts.

This week, our HORT 1101 students visited the Homer C. Thompson Vegetable Research Farm in Freeville, N.Y. Farm manager Steve McKay gave us a short overview on the challenges of managing research for faculty in seven departments on more than 55 acres. Later, we hung out in a high tunnel growing organic broccoli and discussed the unique issues of growing and marketing crops in tunnels.

Our lab experience focused on potato grading. Don Halseth, our potato guru in the Department of Horticulture, and his team of Jeff Kelly, Randy MacLaury and Eric Sansted led the students through the grading process. That’s where potatoes are counted, washed, defects removed, and sorted by size. The stduents helped the team process several potato varieties that are part of Professor Halseth’s potato evaluation program that he coordinates for breeders around the country. After we graded the potatoes, we had a short demonstration of how to measure specific gravity to determine percent dry matter. Then it was on to the chipping evaluation.

With about 75 percent of all potatoes in the U.S. grown for processing, understanding the quality of the potato when chipped is criitical. Randy led us through the standard methodology used to create the chips, and then measured light emission through the chips. The higher the sugar content, the browner and less uniform the chip emerges, and this is less desirable to the potato chip makers.

Then we found a salt shaker and ate the fruits of our labor! Yum. Nothing like a freshly made, lightly salted potato chip. My favorite was the purple ones!

Working the line.

Working the line.

Frying chips.

Frying chips.

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