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U of I team potato, Clearwater Russet, wins McDonald's french fry status

Clearwater Russet: less water, more protein
Posted: 5:43 PM, Dec 16, 2016
Updated: 2016-12-16 19:43:57-05

A University of Idaho team has won a coveted spot among the Russet Burbanks in those familiar red french fry holders emblazoned by golden arches. Their Clearwater Russet - developed by developed by a team of hundreds of people over 13 years, was selected by McDonalds for use as a french fry.

It is a combination of taste and texture -- which, to the novice, is delineated among 7 attributes: crispiness, mealiness, moistness, exterior shell, texture variation, texture defects, and internal appearance.

The journey for any acceptance can be more than a decade. A variety has to clear agricultural hurdles -- how it harvests, how it stores -- and it also has to process and keep well.

But even after years of development, a panel can dismiss it on any or any combination of the 7 attributes, or other reasons.

"Then you get to the textural attribute, and then the taste panel. and the taste panel [can say] 'Nope, it's out of the running," says Dr. Addie Waxman, who defended and passed her Ph.D. dissertation just last week, and studied the Clearwater Russet's textural attributes which helped vault it to the front of the pack for consideration by McDonalds.

But Dr. Waxman has her eye on a destiny far beyond the fryer for this champion spud.

"By requiring less water," she says, "and having less nutritional needs, andproviding 33 percent more protein than the average potato, this could help developing countries meet their protein needs," in addition to helping to conserve water, she says.