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I've been gardening and writing about gardening for more than 20 years, yet I find I'm always learning new things about the plants, insects and other critters that call my backyard home. That's the great thing about gardening — it's never boring! I've worked as a landscaper, on an organic farm, as a research technician in a plant pathology lab and ran a small cut-flower business, all of which inform my garden writing. Someone once asked me when I'll be finished with my gardens, to which I replied, "Never!" For me, gardening is a process, not a goal.
If you think a potato is just a potato, think again. You know how the inhabitants of some regions in the frozen North have dozens of different words for snow depending on its texture, etc.? We could well do the same for potatoes. Starchy, waxy, fluffy, moist, dry, creamy, mealy, floury — all are commonly used to describe potato flesh.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of potato varieties; they vary in texture and behave differently when cooked. If you make a pot of soup and toss in some potato chunks, one of two things happens: The potatoes chunks remain intact, or they disintegrate. The difference is due to the type of starch and the amount of moisture in the flesh — two characteristics that are used to categorize potato varieties. The potatoes that remain intact are of the "moist, waxy" variety; the ones that fall apart are in the "dry, mealy" category. For detailed information on the two types of potato starch and how it affects texture, read The Best Cooking Techniques for Potatoes.
Here we'll look at some categories of potatoes, where the varieties we sell fit in, and provide some insight into what you can expect in the kitchen.
Baked: Russets are the classic for baking, although any potato can be baked.
Chowder: Use waxy potatoes in chowder because they'll keep their shape.
French fries: Most fries are made with russets.
Hash browns: Russets hold together better than waxy varieties.
Mashed: Russets make the fluffiest mashed potatoes, but any variety can be mashed.
Potato pancakes/latkes: Russets hold together better than waxy types.
Potato salad: Waxy varieties and fingerlings are best because they don't fall apart.
Scalloped potatoes: Waxy varieties hold their shape and have a pleasing texture.
Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wikipedia, and the Cecil Adams/The Straight Dope.
Last updated: 5/2/19
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