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Potato Varieties

Most people think of potatoes as being either white or red. Nevertheless, there are thousands of potato varieties. The number long ago exceeded 4000 and geneticists are constantly developing new varieties in an effort to improve taste, blight resistance, and storage qualities.

Potatoes can indeed be divided into a couple of categories that include red and white. There are also Yukon (yellow), russets, and even purple. (Just remember, don't eat the green potatoes.) These categories are based on the skin. Classification of the consistency of the flesh of the potato is also important. Potatoes with a starch content of more than 20% are usually used for baking. While potatoes with a lower starch content are used for boiling.

Washington State University has a list of over 500 varieties. Some of the more common baking potatoes are Goldrush, Long White, Russet Arcadio, and Norgold Russet, (Idaho is not really a variety, but almost any variety of russet that comes out of Idaho is commonly referred to as an Idaho potato). The red boiling potatoes include, Round Red, Red Potato, Red La Rouge, Red Pontiac, Red Nordland, Red Bliss, and Ruby Crescent.

Other varieties include: Peruvian Blue, Yukon Gold, Kennebec, Superior and Katahdin.

Geneticists have come up with genetically modified potatoes, including one called New Leaf, which is highly resistant to the potato beetle. However, under pressure from environmental groups, the potato was discontinued. Other genetically modified potatoes are being grown, mainly to produce starch. It should be noted that genetically modified varieties can be created to be highly resistant to diseases and drought, vastly reducing the need for pesticides.

As both potatoes and tomatoes are of the nightshade family, tomato stems can be grafted to the trunk of a potato plant, making it possible to grow tomatoes above ground and potatoes below ground at the same time. Nevertheless, this is not commonly done, especially in large scale production, because grafting can be cost prohibitive.

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For a great history read "The Potato: How the Humble Spud Rescued the Western World", by Larry Zuckerman. Visit Amazon.com for details:

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