Potatoes are one of the most affordable and versatile foods on the planet. There are many varieties of potatoes grown in Canada but most varieties are classified within the broader categories of russet, red, white and yellow. Mini potatoes are a popular option as well. Some of the most popular varieties include Yukon Gold, Klondike Rose and Russets.
The most common potato variety, russets are medium to large in size with an oblong shape, brown skin and white flesh. They have a high starch content and are low in moisture with a mild earthy flavour that makes a delicious baked potato because they are fluffy and can be topped with anything. Russets are the most common French fry potato.
Smaller and round or oblong in shape with red skin and white flesh. They are a waxy potato with a moist creamy texture and mildly sweet flavour. They hold their shape well when cooking and make colourful additions to soups, stews, and salads.
Often called ‘new potatoes’ they are small to medium sized and round to long in shape with white or tan skin and white flesh. They have a low sugar and medium starch content and their creamy, dense texture is subtly sweet. Often used for potato chips, they hold their shape well after cooking and are great for salads, steaming, boiling and frying.
Come in many shapes and sizes but are identified by their yellow flesh and tan to golden skin. They are a slightly waxy potato that is rich and buttery with a medium sugar content. They are the perfect potatoes for baking or mashing and retain their yellow flesh colour after cooking.
How to Buy:
Choose potatoes that are firm and free of cuts and blemishes which may lead to decay. Avoid potatoes that are green, have wrinkles, bruises, or are beginning to sprout. While it is possible to peel away many unwanted spots, you will get better value and a fresher product by carefully selecting your potatoes.
Starchy potatoes such as Russet, Idaho and sweet potatoes are best for deep frying, baking, roasting and mashing; however, they can become mushy when added to soups and stews.
How to Store:
Do not wash potatoes prior to storing them as moisture may encourage the growth of bacteria and fungus. It is important to keep potatoes in a well ventilated, dark and cool space. You can place them in a cardboard box with holes punched in the sides, a mesh or paper bag, or a gunny sack. Cover them with paper or cloth to keep out any light. 7-10 C (45-50 F) is the ideal temperature for storing potatoes. This is slightly warmer than a refrigerator and cooler than room temperature.
Potatoes should be stored away from produce that ripens as it ages, such as bananas and tomatoes, because the ethylene gas they release can cause potatoes to sprout more quickly. Potatoes and onions should not be stored together as they release gases that ripen each other.
It is possible to extend the storage life of freshly picked potatoes by curing them. Simply spread potatoes out on newspaper in a cool dark place for a few weeks or until their skins thicken. Alternatively, you can cure potatoes by storing them in the dark with high humidity and moderately high temperatures, around 18°C (65°F), for two weeks.
New potatoes do not retain their quality as long as more mature potatoes so they are best used shortly after harvest or purchase and may be kept in the refrigerator.
Do not store uncooked potatoes in the fridge, with the exception of new potatoes that you intend to use in a day or two. Low temperatures convert the starch in potatoes to sugar. Cooked potatoes stored in the fridge should be used within four days as they can become watery or gummy.
Do not store uncooked potatoes in the freezer as they will become mushy and brown when defrosted. It is possible to freeze cooked potatoes in an airtight container.
How to Prepare:
Potatoes are incredibly versatile and may be roasted, fried, deep-fried, boiled, mashed, and incorporated into stews, bread, pasta, salad and casseroles. Potato starch is used as an alternative to corn starch and because it has a high heat tolerance, it works well to thicken sauces, soups and stews. It is also gluten-free and may be used in baking.
Potatoes are an excellent source of potassium, a good source of Vitamin C and a source of fibre and folacin.
How They Are Grown:
As a member of the solanum and capsicum families, potatoes are relatives of nightshade and the stems and coarse, dark green leaves contain toxic substances that make them inedible. The plant produces white to purple flowers and small berries which generate seeds and the tubers grow underground on special stems called ‘stolon.’
Potatoes are grown in every province but the largest potato production is in Prince Edward Island, followed by Manitoba, Alberta, and New Brunswick. Potatoes are planted in the spring using seed potatoes that have hardened roots growing from them. In commercial production, seed potatoes are cut into a similar size and planted in fields by special machinery. Planting machines guided by high-tech laser sensors ensure seed potatoes are planted uniformly, at the same depth and distance apart.
Depending on the time of year and their location, potato plants will begin to rise from the ground in two to six weeks. While the plants can survive a degree of drought, they produce more potatoes when well hydrated so many commercial farms use irrigation systems when needed.
Growers test samples from growing potato plants and measure the nutrient content. If nutrient levels are low, they fertilize the crops.
Harvesting starts in July and continues into the fall when the plant stalks and leaves dry up and fall off. Potatoes are mechanically harvested by equipment that digs the potatoes out of the ground and separates them from stems, dirt and rock, all without bruising the potatoes during the process.
After harvest, potatoes are sent to the manufacturer or a packing facility depending on their end use (french fries/chips or table potatoes). There they will be washed and graded by size, colour, shape, damage and defects and packaged or processed.
Potatoes store well and under the right conditions will last up to 11 months. Only a portion of potatoes are sent to market directly after harvest while the rest is put in storage to be sold throughout the year.
The majority of Canadian potatoes (69%) are sent to the processing sector to be turned into French fries and other frozen or fast-fry potato products. About 19% go to the fresh sector and become table potatoes while 12% are reused as seed potatoes for the next year’s crop. Canada is a leading producer and exporter of seed potatoes as our growing conditions and lack of damaging disease and pests allow us to grow quality seed potatoes that are shipped to other markets and planted for commercial potato production.
Canadian Crop is Available:
Fresh Large Potatoes – Late August to late October
New/Mini Potatoes – July to September
Sweet Potatoes – late summer
If properly stored, potatoes can last for eleven months.
Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Alberta, and New Brunswick.
For more Information:
- Keystone Potato Producers Association
- Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association
- Ontario Potato Board
- Potato Marketing Association of North America
- Potato Growers of Alberta
- Potatoes New Brunswick
- PEI Potatoes
- United Potato Growers of Canada
Potatoes are the fourth most important food crop on our planet, following rice, wheat and corn and the most valuable vegetable crop in Canada. Potatoes account for approximately 36% of all fresh and processed vegetables consumed in Canada. Canada is among the top 20 potato producing countries worldwide.
Although it is possible to produce potato seeds (also known as True Potato Seed, TPS) from table potatoes, it is unusual to do so. A seed potato is a potato that has been grown specifically to be replanted to produce a potato crop.
Potato plants store energy as tubers to regrow the following year. In spring, potato tubers start to sprout new growth from growing points called eyes. Although table potatoes will start to sprout as they age, it’s not recommended to plant them as they could be contaminated with blight spores and viral diseases.
Alberta is the largest exporter of seed potatoes in Canada and is internationally renowned for its high quality seed potatoes. 50% of the seed potatoes grown in Alberta are exported to the United States and other international markets.