FREX:

A pure Finnish potato that returned to its roots

Even a tasty potato variety's flavor is largely determined by giving the plant the right amount of water and nutrients. Tapio Knuuttila, who co-owns Skabam in Finland, decided to see how potatoes would taste if you returned their cultivation to its roots. He now sells Frex potatoes which several Michelin chefs use.

Tapio en Pia Knuuttila van Skabam and the FREX brand

"The more advanced the chef, the more they appreciate these potatoes' flavor, consistency, and versatility,” he begins. “That's because their unique taste is impossible to copy. Nowhere else in the world has Finland's unique combination of soil, pure groundwater, high-light intensity, and cultivation knowledge. We've returned to these potatoes' roots. We combine today's know-how of modern methods with traditional, eco-friendly ways of farming."

Much research was done into removing all the bitter substances from these potatoes, thus getting them to taste like they used to. Proof that this is successful came from a 100-year-old German woman who tasted FREX potatoes. "She burst into tears; she recognized the flavor from her childhood," Tapio says. "These potatoes look authentic and rustic too. They're primarily characterized by a delicious, genuine flavor that harks to a time before large-scale agriculture, a time when people still lived in harmony with nature, and their food was clean, tasty, and ecological."

It took years for Frex potato cultivation to begin. Grower Rami Lilja, a Frex team member,  also known as the 'potato professor', knows all about potatoes. "Rotating the crops with mainly legumes fertilizes the soil, which must have just the right amount of water and air. FREX potato yields are, thus, constant, regardless of the summer weather. Our growers now have a formula with precisely detailed advice. We also what to patent this technique," he says. Another thing that has come out of the studies is that Frex potatoes CO2-negative. That is because "fertilizer plants" absorb so much carbon dioxide. Most Frex fields are in Ostrobothnia, but there are also growers in other parts of Finland.

Tapio got the idea for these potatoes when he was living in Belgium. "I've been promoting Finnish food for decades while living abroad for more than half my adult life. This potato idea came about while I was presenting Finnish processed fish in Belgium. A well-respected chef commented on its excellent quality but said the side of potato was only good. I began wondering why Finns don't make better use of our clean nature, good groundwater, and clear summer nights. That country has everything you need to produce premium products."

That was the start of a long journey. Tapio tasted countless Finnish products and had endless discussions with store managers, consumers, and chefs, incessantly asking for their opinions and trusting their tastes. "Finally, we bundled all those answers together to build our Frex product family, which currently consists of potatoes, eggs, and red beets. We have begun exporting our new 2022 crop to our European customers too."


Frex Beetroot

Though you can find Frex potatoes in any Finnish supermarket, on the European continent, they are only available via wholesalers specializing in hospitality industry products. There, these have to compete with French-grown potatoes, which have been considered top-of-the-line for years. By organizing events and tastings, Tapio has testimonials from several Michelin-starred chefs, including those outside Finland. One of them is Alain Bianchin of Belgium's starred restaurant of the same name.

He created an appetizer dish that stars the Frex potato. Alain tops a softly boiled potato with caviar, avocado, crab, and two crispy deep-fried potato chips. This starter will set you back €62. Only one other dish on his menu, a main course, reaches that price. Bianchin knows what he wants from a potato: "I expect it to look amazing, with a thin peel, robust, but smooth maltiness, and a refined aroma."

FREX Soraya is a universal potato you can use in purees and soups. They are slightly sweet and not watery at all.

Waxy FREX potatoes (Jazzy) are firm yet crumbly. These are perfect for broiling and can be used in salads, stews, and gratins. These potatoes retain their moisture well and are, thus, suited to savory pies and baked dishes.

Some 60% of a potato's flavor is genetically determined. During cultivation, external factors like soil type, sunlight, and the amount of water and later storage factors affect the remaining 40%. Potatoes that grow too fast have little flavor, while slow, balanced growth makes them more flavorful.

Tapio Knuuttila
Skabam FREX
T: + 358 45 330 9808
tapio.knuuttila@skabam.com 
info@skabam.com  
www.frex.fi  

 

 


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