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Gardening Information Series



Potatoes Varieties for Home Gardeners

Potatoes plants (Solanium tuberosum) are an erect South American herb of the nightshade family widely cultivated as an important vegetable crop. The edible starchy tuber is the part of the plant that is eaten. The green leaves and stems are usually quite poisonous to humans, although this condition varies from human to human.

Healthy potato plants are the result of healthy soils and proper environmental conditions. One of these conditions is to pick a garden area with at least six hours of direct full sunshine each day. Eight or more hours is better. Potatoes will grow with less than six, but the yields will be lower.
The required healthy soils is necessary for optimim root, plant and tuber developement. The soil must have a proper balance of numerous enzymes, microorganisms, nutrients, organic matter and a favorable soil pH. Our goal as gardeners is to help establish and to maintain an optimum balance of these factors. This will maximize the nutritional value, quantity, quality, flavor, and appearance of our home grown potatoes.

Potato varieties are designed to meet growing potators and culinary demands, soil conditions, temperature ranges, pest resistance, size, skin color, harvesting, yield, grade, cooking method, flavor, and texture.

These round, waxy potatoes, which range in size from 1 inch in diameter to 2 1/2 inches or larger, have smooth red skins and white flesh. They are lower in starch than russets or whites, have a firm texture and are good for boiling, roasting, steaming and in casseroles (scalloped and au gratin), soups and salads. They should be firm and smooth-skinned, with bright red color and just a few shallow eyes.

Klondike Rose:
An all-purpose potato grown in Washington since about 1999, with a smooth red skin and oval rather than round in shape. The flesh is golden, which sets it apart from the rest of the red family. The skin turns brown with baking. Steamed, boiled, mashed or sautéed, the Klondike Rose is especially buttery and flavorful.

Norland:
A popular oblong, smooth, slightly flattened and medium red smooth skin with shallow eyes. It is preferred for unpeeled preparations because of its bright skin color. This low starch potato is good in salads and for frying, mashing and boiling.

Red La Soda:
A round to oblong potato slightly flattened in shape with medium deep eyes. The La Soda’s skin is smooth and a deep red at harvest but the color tends to fade with time. Its flesh is white. It is low in solids (specific gravity) and perfect for boiling.

Russets:
The russet is named for its netted reddish-brown skin and is the most widely used variety in the US. Its white flesh is high in starch (solids), which means it is the perfect potato for baking and mashing, and also good for frying or roasting. Russets are also sometimes called bakers or baking potatoes.

For all practical purposes, potatoes fall into two easy categories – baking potatoes and boiling potatoes. The chief difference between the two types is the amount and nature of starch each contains. Baking potatoes are relatively high in starch and it is called amylose starch. Boiling potatoes are low in starch and it is called amylopectin. This pectin (just as with fruit for jams) is what holds the potato together when boiling or in soup and stews.

Baking potatoes These are also called starchy potatoes. They tend to be long and have a coarse, cork-like skin. They are high in starch, with a dry, mealy texture. But, they turn light and fluffy when cooked. They are ideal for baking, mashing and French fries. They are light and fluffy baked, light and creamy mashed, and frankly, the only potato worth frying. Some of the names you’ll see them under in the supermarket are Russet Burbank, Russet Arcadia, Norgold Russet, Goldrush, Norkotah, Long White (or White Rose or California Long White), and Idaho.

Boiling potatoes These are also called waxy potatoes. They come in a variety of shapes and can be long or round. They have a thin, smooth skin and an almost waxy flesh. They are relatively high in moisture and sugar, but low in starch. They are ideal for soups, casseroles, potato salad, roasting, and barbecuing because of their tendency to hold their shape. You can mash them, but instead of smooth and creamy, the results tend to be thick and lumpy. You will find them sold as Round White, Round Red, Yellow Potato, Red Potato, Salad Potato, La Soda, Red La Rouge, Red Pontiac, Red Nordland, Red Bliss, Yellow Finnish, Ruby Crescent, and Australian Crescent. Now, there are some potatoes that fall in the middle, in the "all-purpose" category, such as the Yukon Gold, Peruvian Blue, Superior, Kennebec, and Katahdin. They are moister than baking potatoes and will hold together in boiling water. They are particularly well-suited to roasting, pan frying, and using in soups, stews, and gratins. They can be baked, mashed, and fried, but will not produce the same results as the bakers. And finally, a new potato is just that – an immature, small potato of whatever variety. Red potatoes may be the type most often sold, but that does not mean that a red potato is a new potato or that a new potato is a red potato.

Potato Growing & Gardening Links

Gardening Links

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