Plant "Gourmet" potatoes
By Melanie Mathieson
Most gardeners don’t give a second thought to planting potatoes. Many just grab whatever seed potato variety is left at the local gardening supply store and then just throw them in the ground. As almost everyone enjoys the first ‘baby’ potatoes from the garden later in the season, you would think that a vegetable that is a staple in most diets and one that is full of nutrients would be more important to the gardener.
A gardener should never use the potatoes from the pantry that have sprouted as these potatoes are meant for eating not for planting. Potatoes sold for human consumption are sprayed with chemicals to help them store over the winter and inhibit sprouting. If you plant these in your garden they may not even sprout or grow and even if they have already sprouted slightly in the house they may not develop into plants. Potatoes for human consumption may also harbour organisms such as potato scab or blight or other fungi, viruses or bacteria. Once planted in your garden, these organisms can flourish and spread into your soil. Every year after that, when you plant a new crop of potatoes they will become infected with these organisms.
Certified seed potatoes have been treated with a chemical to protect them from harbouring infectious organisms and also to prevent rot and promote healthy growth in the garden. Seed potatoes are not expensive, and are worth buying to ensure good growth and protection from disease.
Review the descriptions listed below and pick a single variety or a selection of varieties to enhance your potato experience. Like with other varieties of vegetable, the difference in ‘days to maturity’ between potato varieties can vary from very early to late fall, so take note of this in the description, as well as, the other positive characteristics.
‘ERAMOSA’ (very early) – ready in early July. Has a compact plant size but produces a high yield. Very disease tolerant. Has red skin with white flesh that is great for boiling. Usually found by mail-order.
‘CHIEFTAIN’ (mid-season) – Ready in mid- to late- July. Has a red skin with a creamy white flesh and tend to be round in shape. Best for boiling. Plants tend to be wide spreading but disease resistant. Plants produce large yield and both plants and potatoes are disease resistant. A harder to find variety but certainly worth the search.
‘CARIBE’ (early to mid-season)- Ready to pick and eat as early as mid-July. Has a blue-purple skin with a white flesh. Great taste – good for frying and boiling. This is a good one to eat and the purple skin is fun to show off.
‘NORLUND’ (mid-season) – This is a red-skinned, white flesh variety that is a high producer. Potatoes tend to be on the larger size and can produce some of those giant award winners. Ready in August and can store for several months. Good tasting and versatile for all your potato needs. A great choice if you don’t have a lot of room for potatoes or just want one reliable variety in your garden.
‘YUKON GOLD’ (early) – this is an all Canadian variety and is best known for its golden skin and yellow, buttery-tasting flesh. A great potato to plant to enjoy the first baby ones from the garden as early as the first of July. Usually mature about the first of August. Nice round to oval shapes and will grow quite large if left in the soil until fully mature. An excellent all around potato for boiling, baking, potato salad and French fries. Keeps well.
‘RUSSET BURBANK’ (late maturing) – This potato is the infamous ‘baked potato’ you are often served in a restaurant. Great for baking at home but not recommended for frying or boiling. Has a cream coloured flesh and a rough brown skin. Stores very well. Grows best in well-drained or sandy soils. Highly recommended if you have the right growing conditions and like baked potatoes. Good for long storage and usually ready in early September.
‘RED PONTIAC’ (late maturing) – ready in late August, early September. An excellent winter storer. Red skin with a white flesh. A good all around potato useful for all types of cooking. Grows very well in heavier clay soils like those throughout the Rainy River District, so recommended by the Gardening Guru.
‘KENNEBEC’ (late maturing) – usually ready in early September. One of the best varieties for long-term storage. Has a nice oval shape usually medium sized, but can produce some of those giant prize winners and produces heavy yields with each plant. White skin and flesh that is good for all types of cooking, including baking. Disease and drought resistant. A reliable classic variety that is recommended by the Gardening Guru.
‘BANANA’ (late maturing) – usually ready to harvest in September. These potatoes grow into a long oval or banana shaped fruit also called a fingerling. Has a thin waxy yellow skin and a very tasty yellow fresh. Stays firm when boiled so great for potato salad. Also good boiled or made into soup, but makes the best French fries you have ever tasted. Disease resistant and a dependable producer. Fun to try, especially for the kids.
‘RUSSIAN BLUE OR ALL BLUE’ (late maturing) – In my opinion the very best potato for taste. Has purple/blue skin and flesh which maintains colour even after they are cooked, but will not stain hands or utensils. Excellent boiled and made into fries. Store quite well and plants are good producers. These have been used by high-end restaurants for years and are now available to the public to enjoy growing and eating. The Gardening Guru’s all-time favourite.
As you can see there is more to potato varieties than meets the eye. A good gardener can streamline the type of potato to suit their needs and uses. Experiment and have some fun producing gourmet flavoured potatoes.