Chipped, fried, sautéed, boiled, baked or mashed, potatoes are one vegetable we simply couldn’t be without. But what type and variety of potato should you be growing? Read on or watch our video to find out about the different types of potatoes so you can choose the best varieties to meet your needs.
Culinary Uses of Potatoes
The first thing to think about is how you want to use your potatoes. Different varieties have different amounts of starch, making the flesh of some break down into a fluffy texture while others retain a firmer, waxy texture.
Potatoes that are high in starch are great at absorbing liquids, causing the potato to break apart in cooking. These types are great for baking, mashing or cutting into wedges. They make the ideal accompaniment to roast meats too.
Waxy potatoes contain less starch and hold together during cooking. This makes them ideal for cooking in soups and stews, where you want the potatoes to retain their shape. They are also the ones to use in salads.
Look closely at the descriptions for different varieties and make sure you pick one that’s suitable for how you want to cook it.
First Early vs Second Early vs Maincrop Potatoes
Potatoes are also categorised according to how long it takes the plants to reach harvest time. Early varieties are, unsurprisingly, the earliest to crop, and are subdivided into ‘first earlies’ that are ready as soon as the start of summer and ‘second earlies’ following on a couple of weeks later. Maincrop potatoes are next and are ready to dig up and enjoy anytime from mid to late summer onwards. Early potatoes will naturally be smaller at harvest than maincrop types.
Our Garden Planner is a useful tool for choosing varieties suitable for your location and working out how many plants you can fit into the space you have for optimal harvest. Double click on potatoes in the selection bar to open the varieties box. Click on the plus button to scroll through the drop-down list. You can browse varieties by hovering over the information button for catalogue descriptions.
Alternatively, add your own variety by clicking the New Variety button. Type in the name of the variety and adjust spacing and planting dates accordingly. Then you can drag out a row or block and see how many plants will fit in the space you have.
Any potato will grow in ground that is moist, fertile and well-drained. However, some potatoes need more room than others to grow. Early potatoes can be planted in rows just one foot (30cm) apart, while maincrop potatoes need at least one and a half feet (45cm) between rows.
Many gardeners also like to grow potatoes in containers or special potato sacks, which are perfect on patios or where space is at a premium, as long as the roots can remain relatively cool during the summer. If you want to grow your potatoes like this pick a salad or early variety of potato. These types tend to grow less foliage, suiting this compact growing environment.
Disease Resistant Potato Varieties
Potatoes are pretty resilient plants but like any crop they’re vulnerable to a few diseases. Chief among these is blight, a fungus that can cause foliage to collapse and the tubers to rot, closely followed by scurf or scab.
The solution to these woes lies in choosing varieties described as displaying ‘resistance’ or ‘tolerance’ to these and other common diseases. Blight can also be avoided by growing early varieties that are normally harvested before summer weather conditions increase the risk of an attack. New varieties with improved disease resistance are constantly being developed, so it’s worth checking anew every growing season to see what’s available.
With literally hundreds of potato varieties to choose from there’s certainly something for everyone!