• Juneau Empire spotlights harvest of Tlingít potatoes

(Photo courtesy of Klas Stolpe/Juneau Empire) Bill Ehlers, assistant gardener at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in Juneau, holds a Tlingít potato next to some borage plant flowers.

(Photo courtesy of Klas Stolpe/Juneau Empire) Bill Ehlers, assistant gardener at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in Juneau, holds a Tlingít potato next to some borage plant flowers.

The Juneau Empire on Monday (click here) ran a nice photo package of a sustainable harvest camp at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in Juneau that was hosted by the 4-H program run by UAF Cooperative Extension Service and the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. The photos feature several children harvesting “Maria’s Potatoes,” a type of Tlingít potato grown from seed potatoes that originally came from deceased Tlingít elder Maria Miller’s garden in Klukwan. These fingerling potatoes do well in Southeast Alaska’s rainy climate and have been around for hundreds of years. The story link above has a link to an audio slideshow by Juneau Empire photographer Michael Penn. The slideshow is worth watching.

By the way, click here to read more about the Tlingít potato posted on the Sitka Local Foods Network site about three weeks ago. Elizabeth Kunibe did want to clarify that in the link to the Chilkat Valley News story she is misquoted so it appears that she “discovered” the Ozette potato (another Native American variety). She said she is not the discoverer.

Kunibe also said the Tlingít potatoes can be sold, but for food only and not for seed. Some of them contain potato viruses, transmitted by vectors, that can affect the soil and other varieties of potatoes. She said when people buy seed potatoes, they need to make sure they have “clean seed” or “virus-free seed” before they plant. She said potato viruses do not affect humans who eat the potatoes, but we need to use clean seed to keep the viruses from destroying crops (like what happened in the Irish potato famine). She said the UAF Cooperative Extension Service, which has offices in Sitka and Juneau, may have more information on how to find virus-free seed potatoes.

Kunibe, who made a presentation on Tlingít potatoes and traditional gardening in Sitka last year, is hoping to schedule another trip to Sitka for a future presentation. Kunibe also wanted share this link from the USDA Agricultural Research Service about newly discovered nutritional benefits of potatoes, especially in regards to phytochemicals and cancer prevention.

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