There are six basic types of potatoes:
Among those types are many, many varieties—many of which you’ll never see at the market, but which you can grow yourself.
Within these six basic types of potatoes, they’re categorized roughly based on their starch content. Those categories are:
- Medium, or all-purpose
Potatoes categorized as starchy have a mealy or floury texture. Potatoes with less starch are waxier and firm. So, which potato you use for fries or stew really does matter.
Want baked potatoes or French fries? Go for potatoes with a higher starch content and which have a soft texture when they’re cooked. High starch potatoes can also be good for mashing as long as you don’t get carried away with the masher and make everything more mushy than mashed. Potatoes with a lower starch content are a good choice for soup, stew, and potato salad because of their waxy texture. They’re also delicious roasted or scalloped.
Potatoes are a pretty sturdy food, but you still need to take care of them. If you have potatoes that develop a green tinge to their skin and taste kind of bitter, that’s a sign that your potato has developed solanine, a poisonous alkaloid. Don’t eat those potatoes. At the very least, peel or cut away any green parts. And those sprouted eyes? Get rid of them.
Let’s take a closer look at our six spuds and what they’re good for.
Uses: baking, frying, mashing
Varieties: Russet Burbank, German Butterball
Russet potatoes are the classic “Idaho” potato, often labeled as baking potatoes—because they’re the number one choice for baking.
Uses: baking, frying, mashing, steaming, boiling, roasting
Varieties: Yukon Gold, Inca Gold, Yellow Finn
Yellow potatoes are golden on the outside and the inside. They boast a rich, creamy texture and buttery flavor. They’re a great all-around potato.
Uses: steaming, boiling, roasting
Varieties: Red Pontiac, Klondike Rose, Norland
Red potatoes hold their own in soups and potato salads. They’re smooth and red on the outside and white on the inside. These make great mashed potatoes with the skins on.
Uses: boiling, mashing, steaming, roasting
Varieties: White Rose, Cal White
White potatoes are low in starch and make great potato salad. Like their red cousins, they’re also roasted, mashed, or in soups.
Uses: steaming, baking, boiling
Varieties: All Blue, Purple Cream of the Crop, Peruvian
Blue potatoes are also called purple potatoes because the antioxidant in them turns the potato purple when it’s cooked. You can make French fries with these colorful tubers, or even chips!
Uses: baking, roasting
Varieties: French Fingerling, Austrian Crescent
These finger-sized potatoes come in a variety of skin and flesh colors, and they make a great side dish. Their flavor is mild and a little nutty. Just don’t put them in soup; they tend to fall apart.
You may also come across potatoes classified as “petite.” Their similar to their larger counterparts, just with more concentrated flavor.
Not to be overlooked, our friend the sweet potato has more variety than you might know about.
Orange Sweet Potatoes
Uses: roasting, mashing, frying
Varieties: Beauregard, Garnet, Jewel
Except for some subtle differences in flavor and moisture, orange sweet potatoes are more or less the same. They’re super versatile: you can roast them, mash them, or make them into sweet potato pie.
White Sweet Potatoes
Uses: roasting, mashing, frying
Varieties: Bermuda White, Southern Queen, Hayman
White sweet potatoes may resemble russet potatoes, but they have much the same fiber and vitamin content of orange sweet potatoes—but clearly not as much beta-carotene. You can use these sweet potatoes to make pasta like gnocchi. They’re also a tasty addition to soups and stews.
Purple Sweet Potatoes
Uses: roasting, sautéing, frying
Varieties: Stokes, Okinawan, Charleston, Murasaki
Purple sweet potatoes are packed with anthocyanins, just like blueberries—with powerful antioxidants. Stokes is by far the most popular. To help these colorful potatoes maintain their blue hue, it’s best to roast, sauté, or fry them.
Have you tried growing potatoes? What challenges have you faced with your potato copy? Please tell us which potato varieties are your favorites.