Monday, October 4, 2010
It took me a while to figure out the terminology in potato varieties. The considerations are: texture and your length of season.
Mealy or starchy varieties have a low moisture high starch content. Think of the fluffy texture of mashed potatoes. These varieties will soak up a lot of moisture or fat, making for good mashed potatoes. The same starch also browns and crisps very well, and so they are used for french fries. However, if you were to try to make a potato salad or another such dish in which you want your potatoes to hold together, they would fall apart on you. In short: use these potatoes when you want a nice browning when you fry them, for baking, for mashed potatoes, but not for holding their shape.
Waxy potatoes have a low amount of starch, high sugar and high protein content. These types hold their shape well and are sweet but would be a terrible choice for frying. If you were to fry or brown these potatoes you would likely end up with burnt potatoes, because there is not enough starch content to brown and the sugars would just end up burning. In short: use waxy varieties when you want them to hold their shape, but not for frying.
Dual purpose varieties fall in-between these two. They are sweet like the waxy potatoes and hold their shape and they will brown a little if you attempt to fry them.
Fingerling potatoes--as far as I can tell the term "fingerling" only refers to an oblong shaped potato. If anyone knows otherwise please let me know.
Length of season: often you will see early, mid, or late season in the catalogs. This refers to how long the potato tuber takes to develop. The later season varieties tend to store longer. The shorter season varieties are nice so you can have an earlier crop available. But some areas of the country don't have a hot enough summer to allow later varieties to develop. If you call a seed supplier, such as Ronniger's, they would be able to help you figure out how long your season is and the best varieties for you.