September 08, 1986 12:00 PM

When Idaho dairyman Alan Reed told his wife, Holly, he was thinking of making ice cream from potatoes, she feared he had been out in the sun too long. One year and countless mashed potatoes later, Reed’s idea doesn’t appear so half-baked. “Spuds-cream,” as customers have dubbed his flaky frozen dessert, is being scooped up by Idahoans at the rate of 650 gallons per month.

Reed, 31, began churning out the concoction last September after his father, LeRoy, a member of the Idaho Potato Commission, joked that it would help promote the Idaho potato, which has fallen victim to overproduction. Alan, who grew up on a potato farm in Idaho Falls, was already in the ice cream business, producing 50 flavors at the family dairy. Reed trod a rocky road before he was satisfied with the potato-based product. The first time he tried it, the mixer exploded, coating him with frozen, tasteless globs. “Even the finest giblet gravy in the world wouldn’t have helped,” he says. Reed continued to experiment and after eight months had developed seven flavors: chocolate, then strawberry, raspberry, banana-berry, chocolate almond, butter pecan and, finally, vanilla. “That was the toughest,” confesses Reed, “because it kept tasting like ‘potilla.’ ”

Al & Reed’s Sugar Free sells for $3.95 a half gallon in nine Idaho Falls and Pocatello stores. Made with cream, milk, apple sweetener and just how many potato flakes Reed won’t say, it has 40 percent fewer calories than Reed’s regular ice cream. The consistency is thinner, but that doesn’t bother fans a lick. Says Shelley Wads-worth, 16: “I thought it would be gross. Boy, was I surprised.”

Reed, who consumes a bowl of spudscream every day, is already planning to expand production, although there’s a potential hot potato ahead: He figures that if he can capture 10 percent of the nation’s ice cream sales, the dairy will consume more potatoes than the state of Idaho grows each year. “I don’t know if I can use other kinds,” he says. “Nothing can top the Idaho spud.”

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