If you are new to potato growing the number of different potato varieties can be pretty bewildering – so how do you decide which to grow from the 100 or so in front of you?
First you need to know that potatoes are divided into three basic groups, based on how long they take to grow. These groups are:
- Earlies – (green name cards) the fastest growing; ready for harvesting in 3 to 4 months
- Second Earlies – (yellow/orange name cards) the second fastest to grow; ready in 4 to 5 months
- Maincrop – (pink name cards) the slowest growing; ready between 6 and 7 months.
The next points to consider relate cooking and the all-important matter of taste.
Not all potatoes behave the same way when they are cooked – some are great for cooking one way, say roasting, but are not that great when cooked another way, like boiling.
On our potato list, we say what the best use is for each variety and say whether it is
- waxy [good for salads and boiling]
- floury [good for mash, soups and roasting]
- in between [‘all rounders’ for general use]
The difference lies in the amount of starch, with more meaning a more floury potato. Potatoes with less starch generally hold together better when boiled and often make good salad potatoes.
Taste is a very personal thing and some people say floury potatoes have the best flavour; others favour waxy ones but most agree that if you only have a little space, grow some early potatoes to have the tastiest new potatoes and potato salads in early summer!
Finally, you can think of disease resistance, particularly important for main crop varieties with their longer growing season. There’s some information on the name cards and there’s more information in Alan Roman’s Guide to Potato Varieties.