No matter how you slice, dice, or mash them, potatoes are delicious. A staple food for many cultures across the globe, they are a vegetable which would be difficult to live without.
Although store-bought potatoes are tasty, nothing beats the flavor of a freshly-unearthed tuber from your own garden. I will help you pick the best tasting potatoes to grow, by giving you examples of the different characteristics potatoes can have.
But which potatoes are the best for home gardeners? Which will grow well and offer the largest crop yield? Which potatoes taste best?
The simplest answer is that every garden is different and each grower should choose their preference. And yet, there are some varieties that virtually guaranteed an abundant crop packed full of flavor.
Growing your own potatoes
If you would like more information about growing your own potatoes, please read my article Growing your own potatoes. This covers everything you need to know from planting, preparing seed, growing, harvesting and storage and more about this great vegetable.
What are the qualities of a great potato?
There are a few things, other than flavor, that are important to consider when choosing a potato variety to plant.
Potatoes are typically a resilient vegetable, vulnerable mainly to potato blight, and other fungal and bacterial infections such as scurf or scab. Because late blight has the potential to wipe out an entire crop in only a few days, it’s best to choose a variety described as “resistant” or “tolerant” to the disease.
New varieties are constantly being developed, so every growing season offers the opportunity to try a different type of disease-resistant potato.
Blight, specifically, can also be avoided by growing varieties that are typically harvested before the hot and humid weather of late summer increases the risk of blight.
Potatoes are classified by their harvest times:
- First earlies will produce usable tubers within 100-110 days of planting
- Second earlies need 110-120 days to produce usable tubers
- Early maincrop potatoes are ready to harvest after 120-125 days
- Maincrop potatoes need between 125 and 140 days to mature
Typically, first early potatoes are ready to lift in June or July, the second earlies are ready in July or August; maincrops can be harvested in August through to October.
Many growers swear that organically grown potatoes have the best flavor. But growing potatoes without herbicides or pesticides can be very difficult – and is extremely time-consuming and labor-intensive.
Flavor and Texture
Some potatoes have waxy flesh and others are softer or more fibrous. There are starchy, fluffy, dry, creamy, mealy or floury potatoes as well. Flavors can also vary. The ideal texture or flavor is – of course – a matter of personal preference for the home gardener.
The best tasting potatoes to grow
Categories of potato
The hundreds of different potato varieties can all be categorized as either starchy which are fluffy – such as russets or white potatoes – or as waxy – including colorful potatoes, fingerling varieties, or new potatoes. Some types can fall under more than one category, making strict categorization difficult.
And each category of potato should be prepared and cooked in a particular way to unlock its best flavour and texture.
The potatoes have a high starch content and little moisture; they are fluffy, but lack structural integrity. These are usually great for boiling and mashing.
With rough brown skin and white flesh, russets are typically dry and mealy. They bake quite well and are also easy to mash, fry or roast. They will not, however, hold their shape well so should not be used for casseroles, gratin, or potato salads.
The Russet Burbank, also called the Idaho potato because so many are grown in the state, is the favored choice in the U.S., with a traditional, neutral potato flavor. It was developed in the 1870s. Other popular and tasty russet potatoes are the Goldrush, Norgold – an early variety that is a great choice for areas with short, cool growing seasons.
All-Purpose, or White potatoes
White potatoes, with their smooth, thin and light-coloured skins, are a great all-purpose crop that hold their texture well and can be creamy and moist when baked.
The Onaway – with its light tan skin and buttery flavor – and the Elba are excellent choices for the home gardener; both are early producers while the latter is also resistant to both disease and drought.
Irish Cobbler, a popular heirloom variety, has a strong potato flavor and makes excellent mashed potatoes.
This variety – with its classic potato flavor – is ideal for making French Fries, but the fluffy, creamy, and soft texture of the Katahdin makes them a poor choice for any dish that requires the potatoes to hold their shape.
One of the top ten tubers in the Northeast United States, this variety grows very well in harsh conditions and is delicious when baked with the skin on.
These varieties have a lower starch content and often have creamy, firm, and moist flesh. They hold their shape well after cooking and are great for roasting, boiling, and casseroles but are most chosen to go into salads and great to eat cold.
Carola potatoes have a strong, classic flavor with some earthy and buttery notes; the Inca Gold is dumpling-shaped with an earthy, nutty flavor and creamy texture.
Colorful varieties such as Adirondack Blue or Adirondack Red are also waxy. The former has an earthy, rich and nutty flavor and the flesh can either darken when roasted or fade to a bluish tone when mashed; the latter has red skin with pink to red flesh that may be opaque or sport a sunburst pattern – their flavor is slightly sweet.
Purple Vikings are small, dark purple-skinned potatoes with white flesh; their meaty, slightly sweet, and buttery flavor, is best for baking or roasting, though they’re great in most dishes, other than soup.
Arron Victory is a famous blue-skinned variety in Europe which have excellent boiling quality and a fluffy texture.
Rooster is a red-skinned variety with yellow flesh which are also fluffy inside – an excellent potato.
Fingerling potatoes also have a mild, nutty, and earthy flavor; they are excellent when baked, roasted, or fried – they can be used in virtually any dish except soups.
New potatoes – which can be any type of potato that are harvested early, before the tubers become big and starchy – they can vary in color and flavor; they are typically sweet, creamy, and firm.
The skins are quite thin, and though they roast well, new potatoes shouldn’t be baked. They are ideal for steaming, or boiling and are delicious in soups.
Take a look at these seed potato varieties to see if any are suitable for you:
Russet Burbank – for Fall planting
Yukon Gold – for Fall planting
Yukon Gold -for Spring planting
Charlotte – great for salads