heritage variety potatoes arran victory and british queens in a bag after harvest

What Are Heirloom Potatoes: are heritage varieties similar?

Heirloom potatoes, are traditional potato varieties that have been preserved and passed down through generations. They offer unique flavors, appearances, and a connection to the culinary heritage of different countries. Unlike modern commercial potato varieties, heirloom potatoes maintain their historical significance and provide a glimpse into the traditional cultivation practices of the past. In this article, we will explore the world of heritage potato varieties and their cultural importance.

What Are Heirloom Potatoes?

Heirloom potatoes, are varieties that have been cultivated and preserved for many generations. Unlike modern commercial varieties bred for uniformity and high yields, heirloom potatoes often exhibit diverse shapes, colors, and flavors. These unique characteristics have been maintained through open pollination and careful selection by farmers, gardeners, and enthusiasts. Heirloom potatoes offer a link to the past, preserving traditional varieties that might have been lost to time.

Are Heirloom Potatoes The Same As Heritage Varieties?

Yes, heirloom potatoes and heritage varieties refer to the same concept.

Both terms are used to describe potato varieties that have been cultivated and preserved over many generations, often for more than 50 to 100 years. These varieties are treasured for their unique flavors, historical significance, and diverse characteristics.

The terms “heirloom” and “heritage” are often used interchangeably in the context of potatoes and other crops. They both signify that a particular variety has a long-standing history and has been passed down through generations, maintaining its original traits and qualities.

So, when you come across the terms “heirloom potatoes” or “heritage varieties,” they essentially refer to the same group of potatoes with rich histories and distinct characteristics that make them stand out from modern, commercially produced varieties.

Identifying Heirloom Potatoes

Identifying an heirloom potato variety can be challenging since there are no standardised markings or labels. However, there are some indicators to look for:

Unusual Shapes and Colors

Heirloom potatoes often deviate from the standard round or oval shapes. Look for potatoes with unique shapes or knobby appearances. They can also come in a range of colors, including vibrant hues like purple, blue, or red.

Local or Specialty Markets

Visit local farmers’ markets, specialty food stores, or agricultural fairs that focus on heritage or rare produce. These venues are more likely to carry heirloom potato varieties cultivated by small-scale farmers or enthusiasts.

Family or Regional Connections

Heirloom potatoes are often passed down within families or cultivated regionally. If you have a family member or neighbor with a long history of potato cultivation, they might have heirloom varieties in their collection.

Research and Seed Catalogs

Familiarize yourself with heirloom potato varieties by researching their names, appearances, and origins. Seed catalogs specializing in heirloom and rare vegetables can provide valuable information and images to help identify potential heirlooms.

Historical Documentation

Some heirloom potatoes have documented histories, especially those cultivated for several decades or longer. Explore books, articles, and online resources dedicated to heirloom vegetables to learn about specific potato varieties and their stories.

Popular Heirloom Potato Varieties

Let’s explore some of the most beloved heirloom potato varieties from different regions. Each variety offers its own unique characteristics, flavors, and culinary possibilities. Whether you’re in the United States, Europe, or the United Kingdom, these heirloom potatoes are sure to add diversity and excitement to your meals.

Popular Heirloom Potato Varieties In The United States

Russet Burbank is a very popular heirloom potato variety in the US.
  • Russet Burbank: Russet Burbank is a significant heirloom potato variety developed by Luther Burbank in the 19th century. It has rough, netted brown skin and creamy white flesh. With high dry matter content, it is ideal for fluffy baked potatoes and crispy French fries. Widely grown in the US, it holds cultural significance. Preserved as an heirloom potato, it is valued for its unique qualities and historical importance.
  • Kennebec: Kennebec is a classic American heirloom potato with light tan skin and white flesh. It has a mild flavor and a versatile texture that holds up well in a variety of cooking methods, including baking, boiling, or frying.
  • All Blue: True to its name, this variety has striking blue-purple flesh and skin. It retains its vibrant color even after cooking and offers a mild, earthy flavor. Use it to make eye-catching mashed potatoes or colorful salads.
  • Purple Peruvian: With its deep purple skin and vibrant color, Purple Peruvian adds visual appeal to dishes. It has a rich, sweet flavor and can be used in salads, side dishes, or even as chips.
  • Yukon Gold: Although widely known, Yukon Gold is still a favorite heirloom variety. It has thin, yellow skin and buttery, creamy flesh, perfect for making fluffy mashed potatoes or roasted dishes.

Popular Heritage Potato Varieties In Europe

Heirloom potatoes are known as heritage potato varieties. The term “heritage” is used to emphasize the historical and traditional nature of these potato varieties that have been preserved and passed down through generations.

Charlotte potatoes are delicious cold in salads.
  • Ratte: Hailing from France, Ratte potatoes are small with an elongated shape. They have a delicate, buttery flavor and a smooth, creamy texture, making them great for boiling or roasting.
  • Charlotte: Commonly grown in France and the UK, Charlotte potatoes have a yellow skin and firm, waxy texture. They offer a rich, buttery flavor and work well in salads, boiling, or steaming.
  • La Bonnotte: La Bonnotte, grown on the French island of Noirmoutier, is a prized heritage variety. These small potatoes have a delicate, sweet flavor with a hint of chestnut. They are traditionally harvested by hand and enjoyed boiled or steamed.
  • Nicola: Originally from Germany, Nicola potatoes have a smooth, golden skin and creamy yellow flesh. They offer a buttery, nutty flavor and a firm, waxy texture. Nicola potatoes are versatile and work well in salads, roasting, or boiling.
  • Amandine: Amandine potatoes, commonly grown in France, have a pale yellow skin and creamy flesh. They offer a buttery, subtly sweet flavor and a firm, waxy texture. Use them for boiling, steaming, or roasting.

Popular Heritage Potato Varieties In The United Kingdom

Heirloom potatoes are more commonly referred to as heritage varieties in the UK. The five examples below are very popular and eaten by the vast majority on a daily basis.

A large Kerr's Pink potato on scales weighing over half a pound.
A large Kerr’s Pink potato on scales weighing over half a pound.
  • Maris Piper: Maris Piper is a widely recognized heritage variety in the UK. It has a golden skin and creamy white flesh, suitable for roasting, frying, mashing, or baking. It makes excellent chips.
  • King Edward: King Edward potatoes have a creamy white flesh and a distinctive red skin. With a floury texture, they are excellent for roasting, mashing, or making crispy chips. Great for baked potatoes.
  • Duke of York: Duke of York potatoes have a red skin and creamy yellow flesh. They offer a slightly waxy texture and a buttery flavor, making them ideal for boiling, steaming, or mashing.
  • Kerr’s Pink: Kerr’s Pink potatoes have a pale pink skin and a creamy white flesh. With a floury texture and an earthy, nutty flavor, they are perfect for mashing, baking, or making hearty soups and stews. Kerr’s Pink make excellent boiled potatoes.
  • British Queen: British Queen is a widely recognized heritage variety in the UK. It has a pale yellow skin and creamy white flesh. With a firm, waxy texture and a subtly sweet flavor, it can be boiled, steamed, roasted, or used in potato salads.

Do Heirloom Potatoes Have To Be A Certain Age?

Heirloom potatoes do not have to be a certain age to be considered heirlooms. The term “heirloom” refers more to the heritage or traditional nature of the variety rather than its age. Generally, heirloom potatoes are varieties that have been passed down through generations and have a long history of cultivation. However, the specific age can vary depending on the variety and the region.

Some heirloom potatoes have been cultivated for centuries, while others may have originated more recently but still hold cultural or historical significance. The key characteristic of heirloom potatoes is that they have been preserved and maintained through open pollination and careful selection, often by farmers, gardeners, or enthusiasts dedicated to preserving these traditional varieties.

So, while there is no set age requirement for a potato to be considered an heirloom, the term generally implies a connection to the past and a sense of tradition. It’s the heritage and historical value that make these potatoes truly special and sought after by those interested in preserving biodiversity and exploring unique flavors.


Heirloom potatoes offer a captivating journey into the past while adding a burst of unique flavors and colors to your culinary endeavors. Whether you’re exploring the diverse varieties from the United States, Europe, or the UK, each heirloom potato brings a piece of history to your plate. Remember to keep an eye out for their distinct shapes, colors, and flavors when searching for heirloom potatoes, and don’t hesitate to experiment with different cooking methods to bring out their best qualities. So go ahead, embrace the heritage and savor the taste of these remarkable potatoes that connect us to our culinary roots.