​ Fried, boiled or roasted? A guide to growing the best potatoes for different menus

Yukon Gold and Arran Victory are great varieties for roastingYukon Gold and Arran Victory are great varieties for roasting
Yukon Gold and Arran Victory are great varieties for roasting
​They’re such as staple of our weekly menu, yet potatoes come in all shapes and sizes and some are far more suitable for particular cooking methods than others.

Some swear by King Edwards for their roasties, others prefer Maris Pipers for mashing – and there’s nothing quite like a new potato for a summer treat.

You can find out more about potato varieties by attending different Potato Days in celebration of the humble spud this month, where you get a chance to quiz expert growers, find out about new and heritage varieties and can purchase different seed potatoes to try yourself.

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Expert grower Graeme Green, member of Nottingham Organic Gardeners, has grown more than 70 varieties over the years on an allotment he shares with a fellow grower.

“The number of varieties you can buy has expanded over the past few years, and in garden centres you’ll sometimes find 10 different choices,” he says. You need a ‘dry’ flesh for good mash, which doesn’t go pulpy and soggy when boiled.


“’Red Duke of York’ is a first early with a beautiful deep red skin and is fantastic for mash. Another favourite of mine for mash is ‘Shetland Black’. They’re fairly small with a beautiful white flesh, while ‘Golden Wonder’ is a Scottish variety which is extremely dry but very highly regarded,” Green recommends.


“I really like ‘Yukon Gold’ for roasting. It’s a big American potato, which is becoming increasingly popular over here. ‘Arran Victory’ is another good one.”


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“If you make this dish with floury potatoes they can start to go soggy, absorbing a lot of the moisture from the milk or cream. My favourite is ‘Pink Fir Apple’, which has waxiness and will resist collapsing.”


“’Picasso’ is a good all-rounder and a great cropper, ‘Marfona’ and ‘Desiree’ are also good.”

Boiled and salad potatoes

“Two or three really stand out. ‘Ratte’, a classic French variety, is a fantastic salad potato, while ‘Charlotte’ is becoming increasingly popular as a boiled and salad potato. It’s traditionally fairly waxy. Some are more waxy if you harvest them slightly earlier. If you leave them in the ground longer they will become slightly more floury.”


“’Maris Piper’ and ‘King Edward’ are very good for chips. A lot of all-rounders will make reasonable chips, but ‘Yukon Gold’ stands out,” Green says.

Growing tips

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Chit your seed potatoes indoors to start them off, putting them in egg boxes or trays on the windowsill until strong shoots have grown out of them. Leave two or three shoots and rub the rest off once the seed potatoes are ready to plant in the ground (or in a large container).

This can take around six weeks, when you can be warming the soil outside by covering it in black plastic or horticultural fleece.

Potatoes like a sunny spot and if you have a good amount of sunshine and the soil warms, you should be able to plant them in the ground at Easter, although cover them with straw or horticultural fleece if frost is forecast, or it will kill the foliage, which won’t kill the plant, but will set growth back, Green warns.

How long will potatoes keep?

“I’ve still got some ‘Ratte’ potatoes in my cellar from last year. There’s an issue called ‘dormancy’ when you keep them in a cool, dark place. It’s not the end of the world if they start to sprout, as you can just take off the sprouts and they’ll be ok.

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“Another of my favourites, ‘Pink Fir Apple’ is a late main crop, but I’ve still got quite a lot of those in the cellar. They are a top-quality salad and boiling potato. Because they have really good dormancy, you can store them until February or March.

“With summer salad potatoes (first earlies), you want to eat them as soon as you’ve picked them to give you that ‘wow’ flavour, but with main crops, storing them doesn’t matter that much.”

Other growing tips

Grow a variety of potatoes during the year – first earlies, second earlies and main crops – as some are more resistant to weather extremes than others, Green recommends. “If you have good growing conditions early in the year you might get a good crop of first earlies, but your main crop might not do as well if there’s a big drought,” he says.

“Spread your growing across the calendar year to give you a better chance of one or two varieties being able to capitalise on good conditions. Different potatoes cope differently with drought and with excess rainfall, blight and diseases.”

Good drainage is important

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Adding organic matter to the soil is important to aid drainage and enrich the earth, as potatoes are hungry feeders. Impoverished soil will give you a crop but they will be small potatoes, Green warns.

“If you look after the soil, the soil will look after the potatoes, the potatoes will be stronger and will withstand different weather conditions and pests.”


Only store really healthy looking potatoes, not ones with blemishes or slug damage. Dry them off after harvesting so the skin can harden a bit and place them in a cool, dark place, in a breathable container, so not polythene bags.

Green says a cardboard box is fine, but put newspaper between layers and check them on a regular basis. If any show signs of rot or disease, remove them immediately.

Can you leave them in the ground until you need them?

It depends on the weather and your slug population, Green says. Make a judgment in September, he recommends, but you don’t want the tubers to become too wet or frozen.

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