Potatoes are one of the most popular vegetables, likely because of their versatility. Not only can you prepare potatoes in a myriad of ways, but there are so many unusual potato varieties to try. From russet to fingerling in hues of red, yellow, white and even purple, there’s a unique potato variety out there you will enjoy. Some unusual potatoes might be considered gourmet potato varieties, while still others are de rigueur, but all of them are delicious. Keep reading to learn about unusual potato varieties and which ones you should grow.
Potatoes get rather a bad rap. Much is made about tomatoes, related in the family Solanaceae, but no one makes a big deal about tomatoes despite the fact that they can be fried, sauteed, broiled, boiled, baked, roasted and of course mashed.
Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) are an annual, cool season crop. There are seven types of potatoes: red, russet, white, yellow, purple/blue, fingerling and petite. Each has that earthy aroma and flavor but some seem almost buttery, while others are extra starchy, nutty or even somewhat sweet.
The cool growing season of the northern United States is perfect for growing potatoes, but with so many varieties even those in the South can enjoy a spud fresh from the garden.
Unusual Potato Varieties
Everyone that’s ever eaten a baked potato knows what a russet potato is. Red potato salad? Roasted Yukon golds? You know them. So what constitutes an unusual potato? Unusual or rare or even gourmet potatoes are those you won’t usually find at your standard grocery store or supermarket. They are often not even heirlooms, but rather more likely to be new incarnations of potato, bred for specific qualities.
Rare potato varieties are more likely to be found at the Farmer’s Market or specialty grocery that caters to those looking for the unusual, and often more expensive. Another way to find varieties like gourmet potatoes is to scour seed catalogs. The best, newest and brightest will be featured prominently in annual seed magazines or online.
Gourmet Potato Varieties
Gourmet potatoes are so named for their varying colors, textures, and small size that have been developed with superior flavor in mind. They are similar to a new potato, so what’s the difference?
New potatoes are gleaned from varieties you've likely heard of such as Yukon Gold, Pontiac, and Kennebec. New potatoes are simply the youngest, smallest and tenderest of these varieties. These young potatoes are pulled from the hill early, labeled “new” and the rest of the spuds are left behind to mature into larger Kennebecs, Pontiacs, and Yukon Golds.
Examples of gourmet potatoes include Adirondack Red, FrenchFingerling, German Butterball, and All Blue. Like new potatoes, gourmet spuds are small with a thin skin, but not thick enough to store for any length of time.
Other Unusual Potato Varieties
- Red Bliss is a waxy potato not usually recommended for mashing but this particular variety is still sometimes mashed or smashed, with the thin red skins left on.
- Carola hails from Germany, tastes like a new potato, and can be cooked in every way imaginable.
- Cracked Butterball is a larger version of German butterball with unique cracked skin.
- Red Thumb spuds are fingerling potatoes with red skin and creamy pink marbled flesh perfect for roasting whole.
- Russian Banana is another fingerling potato with a buttery flavor and a shape rather like a banana.
- Purple Peruvian potatoes are also fingerlings but unlike the previous two, aren’t waxy but rather starchy making them perfect for mashing and deep frying.
- Desiree is an oblong red tuber with a pinkish/red interior that is resistant to many common diseases.
- Rose Finn Apple fingerling has deep yellow flesh, fine flavor and is a mid-season
Purple and blue potatoes are by far the most unusual looking of the cultivars. Originating from South America, their color comes from anthocyanin pigments in the skin and flesh. Examples of these colorful spuds include Magic Molly, Blue Tomcat, Purple Majesty, Purple Pelisse and Adirondack Blue.
Other potato varieties to look into include Agria, Caribe, Cranberry Red, Goldrush, and Keuka Gold.
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Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.
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