|This sad image of the few spud varieties allowed in WA was swiped from the website of Western Potatoes.|
I was warned before we moved here that Western Australia had many bizarre or perplexing regulations. The warners were not kidding. I've lost count of the number of times I've wondered why some ordinary everyday thing either doesn't exist here or only exists in an old-fashioned way that I am familiar with from my small-town New Zealand childhood. Often this situation is just interesting, but sometimes it is also jolly annoying.
One of WA's most antiquated laws is the Monty Pythonesque Marketing of Potatoes Act 1946. Enshrined in that law is the ability for potato inspectors to stop and search vehicles carrying too many potatoes. This would simply be comical except for the fact that that law also restricts WA potato growers to only ever growing 13 of the 66 varieties of potatoes grown commercially in Australia. I'm not making this up and these restrictions aren't in place to prevent the spread of diseases, which I would understand. Via this odd law Western Potatoes and the Potato Marketing Corporation of Western Australia also restrict how many potatoes growers can grow and at what price they can sell them. My local supermarkets only ever stock two or three varieties at a time and one of them is always that trusty but dreary wallflower: Nadine. I've never thought of myself as a foodie but I find life in WA decidedly deprived in the spud department.
So forget finding any of the planet's 4000 or so other crazy potato varieties at farmers' markets here. My attempts to source interesting varieties to grow have also failed; my days of walking out the back door to harvest small, nutty, black-skinned Maori potatoes or huge, yellow sweet potatoes or any other waxy or starchy beauties are just a distant memory.
So it was with some interest that I noticed that potatoes have become a campaign issue in the upcoming state elections. The Western Australian Labor Party is pledging to free up the sale of potatoes in Western Australia. We aren't Australian citizens (and never can be - too old) so we don't get to vote but if I could and I saw a candidate called Cliff Kidney, Jersey Bennes, Russett Burbank, Purple Congo or King Edward I'd be sorely tempted to vote for them. Fingers crossed that however Western Australians vote, we'll all win a bit more choice over what we are allowed to eat sometime soon.