Escalante Honors Native Potato Species with “Wild Potato Days” Celebration May 28 & 29

ESCALANTE – Escalante citizens, friends and travelers are invited to celebrate the heritage of a humble spud by attending the first annual “Wild Potato Days,” May 28 – 29, 2021, in recognition of the native potato species, Solanum jamesii. The purpose of this new festival is to inform people of this variety’s unique and astounding history, entertain with a potato theme, and preserve and conserve remnant populations by recruiting citizens to propagate their own backyard tubers.

A flowering Solanum jamesii “Four Corners Potato” plant. Courtesy Lisbeth Louderback.

This nutritious root vegetable has been consumed by people in the valley for thousands of years. First, by Native Americans, known as Ancestral Puebloans, Anasazi, Fremont, and Paiute, followed by cavalry men, pioneers, pioneer descendants (especially during the Great Depression) and now by individuals enjoying the region’s fine dining. Escalante Valley was first called “Potato Valley” in about 1866— named after this very same species now commonly known as the “Four Corners Potato.” “Potato Valley” was later renamed Escalante by members of the John Wesley Powell Expedition in 1875 when they advised the prospective settlers to name it after the river they had just surveyed.

Join us Friday, May 28th at 6 PM for a “Potato Bar” dinner with toppings and dessert ($10 plus tax) at the Escalante Showhouse on Main Street to kick off the festival. A program at 7 PM will include a 30-minute video highlighting the “Four Corners Potato” on the food show “From Scratch,” which was filmed at the Slot Canyons Inn for this year’s TV series. The director and chef may be attending.

The “Four Corners Potato.” This humble spud will be honored at the “Wild Potato Days” celebration in Escalante from May 28 – 29. Courtesy Lisbeth Louderback.

Saturday, May 29th, starting at 9 AM, plants will be available for purchase to interested individuals at the “Escalante Heritage Park” behind the Escalante Showhouse on 100 North and Center Street. Much of the technical work on conservation and propagation has already been done by supporting institutions (Red Butte Garden and the Natural History Museum of Utah), and there is a strong local interest in developing the species as a specialty crop and on a commercial scale. Bruce Pavlik and Lisbeth Louderback will be at the festival to answer questions and distribute the plants for sale.

Other activities at the festival will include vendors, potato sack races, making potato print artwork and target practice using potatoes as missiles. Vendors will be selling their wares from 9:00-3:00. A flag raising ceremony will be at the Veterans Memorial at 11:30 AM, officially naming the park “Escalante Heritage Park,” followed by lunch, which will be (you guessed it) a “Potato Bar” with toppings and drinks for $8 plus tax.

We hope you will join us in celebrating this humble tater and promoting the heritage we all enjoy in our lovely valleys.

Wild Potato Days

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