Slow Food - The Chip Peddler | Gourmet Potato and Tortilla Chips in Durango, CO
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Slow Food

Our chips are made from heritage ingredients that have been part of the North American landscape for thousands of years. That is not to say these ingredients come from stock that has never been bred to enhance the best qualities, they have. But they have never been altered in a genetically enhanced way.

Here is how the corn started:

Over a period of thousands of years, Native Americans purposefully transformed maize through special cultivation techniques. Maize was developed from a wild grass (Teosinte) originally growing in Central America (southern Mexico) 7,000 years ago. The ancestral kernels of Teosinte looked very different from today’s corn. These kernels were small and were not fused together like the kernels on the husked ear of early maize and modern corn.  SOURCE –


We start with sourcing our corn from the Ute Mountain Ute, Farm & Ranch where they grow Non-GMO corn on 7,700 acres of tribal land. Starting the year prior the fields are planned and then planted with the hope that the rains will be sufficient to fulfill the promise of a bountiful yield.

From the time that the corn is planted, grown, harvested, cured, stored and then made into chips could be a full year or even more. Once cooked we put the best buy date, 100 days out.



Sunflower Story:

Sunflowers originate from North America but would travel to the Old World and back – and back again – in their centuries old journey to become the plant we know today. They were probably one of the first crops to be grown in the Americas. Before this they were picked by hunter gatherers as a natural source of fat. The seeds could be ground up and mixed with flour to make bread much like the pita variety we eat today. Around five thousand years ago people began to farm them in the south-western parts of North America in what is now Mexico. As they were cultivated over the generations the plants were encouraged to produce ever bigger seeds – and many more of them as well. So, the sunflower we have now bears no resemblance to how it started out as the human race has interfered with its characteristics for all these thousands of years.

Although many people might not know where the sunflower originated it is not really an omission in their education for which they could be blamed. It would not take long for Europeans, after the discovery of the New World as they called it, to see the benefits of transporting seeds across the Atlantic and beyond. It is thought that the plant arrived in the Old World (to Spain) around the beginning of the sixteenth century but because of its wonderful size and beauty (it was considered very exotic) the sunflower was first used mostly as an ornamental plant. There is a record of a patent for squeezing the oil out of the sunflower muchlater – in England in 1716.

It was not until the eighteenth century that the sunflower gained huge popularity as a cultivated plant and the person we have to thank for that is perhaps not the first who might spring to mind. Peter the Great of Russia went on one of his many trips and landed up in Holland. There, he became so enamored of the giant flower that he took seeds back to Russia where the people were no doubt nonplussed by it – at least to begin with. During Lent, the Russian Orthodox Church forbad its adherents from consuming oil. However, the oil of the sunflower was not on the prohibited list and the Russian people jumped on Peter’s bandwagon wholeheartedly. By the third decade of the nineteenth century sunflower oil was manufactured in Russia on a large and highly lucrative commercial scale.

journey of the sunflower


Russia was awash with the giant flowers, growing over two million acres a year. They identified two types, one for oil production and one for their own consumption. The government even invested money in to what we now call research projects and one scientist, VS Pustovoit was the originator of the most successful breeding venture. Even today scientific awards for the study of the sunflower are awarded in his name. So, by 1830 the time was ripe for the sunflower (as it had become in Russia) to make a triumphant return to the Americas.

That’s right. One of history’s ironies is that the native of the Americas returned, changed with its properties heightened by Russian intervention. Perhaps if Stalin had known this he might have demanded their return to the motherland a century later when the two nations threatened to annihilate each other. It is thought that Russian immigrants to the US and Canada took seeds with them and by the 1880s companies were offering the ‘Mammoth Russian’ in their catalogs – a variety that was sold until the nineteen seventies.

It has been suggested that the sunflower was even domesticated before corn. It was during this time that the Cherokee and other Native Americans also began to farm sunflowers. They became an important part of the diet of these peoples as a good source of fat – which hunter gatherer societies needed to supplement the lean meat they would eat. Down south in Mexico the Aztecs were also cultivating the plant but they worshiped it too. In their temples to the sun, the priestesses would wear headdresses made of sunflowers to give themselves the air of the divine.

It took a while for the Americans to take advantage of the sunflower as a cash crop and it is first recorded as silage feed for chickens. Then in 1926 the Missouri Sunflower Growers Association started processing sunflower seed in to oil. The secret was finally out and nothing would be the same for the sunflower ever again. The Canadians got the same idea about the same time and the government there started its breeding programme in 1930. In both countries the breeding material (the seeds) came from members of the Russian Mennonite community.

Now the race was on. The amount of acres given over to sunflowers grew as demand for oil grew. In 1946 a crushing plant was instituted in Canada then North Dakota and Minnesota started out on their journey to become major sunflower cultivators. Again it was a Russian cultivar (Peredovik) that was used as it produced high yields with oil content second to no other variety. Then came the supersonic, scientific, psychedelic seventies: new technology and hybridization were on the horizon.

By the early eighties the US was producing over five million acres. Then – by yet another quirk of history – the sunflower that went from America to Russia and back would return once again to Europe. Cholesterol had by this time become a household word and European demand for sunflower oil had increased to such an amount that Russian exporters could no longer cope with the amounts needed. The seeds were imported in to Europe from the US and then crushed and refined there. Today, however, things have balanced out and US exports of the seeds or oil is relatively small once again.