The Humble Potato

Let’s take a minute or two to talk about the humble potato. We all know the potato, we most likely all have a bag of potatoes tucked away in a pantry corner somewhere. They are a ubiquitous food staple that many people probably take for granted but are used and consumed every day around the world in astonishing numbers.  At Cultivatr, we are constantly stocking different varieties of interesting potatoes from our local farms.

Our Featured Potato Farmers are:

Phoenix Farms (Nobleford, Alberta)
Poplar Bluff Farms (South of Strathmore, Alberta)
Lund’s Organics (Innisfail, Alberta)
Busy Bea Farms (Monarch, Alberta)

Brief History

The potato (Solanum tuberosum) belongs to the solanaceae family of flowering plants. It originated and was first domesticated in the Andes mountains of South America. There are an estimated 5000+ varieties of potatoes found across the world. Of these, in North America, we use approximately 200+ varieties which can be classified into a number of categories based on the cooked texture and ingredient functionality. Potatoes are #4 in the world food staples behind rice, wheat and corn (maize).

Types of Potatoes

Also known as “mealy,” starchy potatoes, which include Russets, Idahos and many yams and sweet potato varieties are high in starch. They are also low in moisture, fluffy and absorbent, making them ideal for baking, frying, boiling, and mashing. Because the flesh flakes and separates easily after cooking, they do not hold their shape compared to waxy potatoes.

Waxy potatoes are low in starch, high in sugar and moisture, and tend to hold their shape, even after cooking. They have thinner skin, a smoother texture and are generally smaller and rounder. Common varieties include French fingerling or Red Bliss. They hold their shape well after cooking, they’re ideal for boiling, roasting and used in dishes like gratins or potato salad, where you’ll want the potato to stay intact.

All-purpose potatoes, like Yukon Golds, fall somewhere in the middle. They are less starchy than your typical high-starch potato and hold their shape better than them, too. But they are decently absorbent and fluffy, making them suitable for any type of potato dish, especially in a pinch. These can be used for mashed potatoes, as well.

Applications and Cooking

When cooking and planning a meal, it’s best to identify what potato to use. 
Here are some cooking ideas associated with the potatoes we stock here at Cultivatr:

Kennebecs / Yellow Columba / Agrias (All Purpose):

Mashed Potatoes, Hasselback Potato, Wedges. 

When cooked, these potatoes have a velvety texture with a buttery flavour, and a medium sugar content.


Russets / Innovators (Starchy):

French Fries, Mashed Potatoes, Potato Chips, Wedges, Hashbrowns.

These potatoes have a mild, earthy flavour with medium sugar content.

Red Fenway / Small Red Potato (Waxy):

Potato Salad, Roast Potatoes, Rustic Skin-on Chunky Mashed.

Red potatoes are subtly sweet with a mild medium sugar content.

Yellow Fingerling / French Fingerling Potatoes (Waxy):

Roast potatoes, Grilling. Can also be used for thick-cut French Fries.

Fingerlings have a buttery, nutty, earthy taste with medium sugar content.

Leave a comment