Planning your potato patch for the next year – or wondering what to do with the glut of Cara that you’ve harvested? Here’s our guide to potato varieties and cooking them.
Potato varieties are usually classified according to the time they take from planting to harvest. New Potatoes are ready in early spring, and include Arran Pilot, Rocket, and Lady Christl; Maincrop Potatoes, which are harvested later in the summer, and include Maris Piper, Cara, and King Edward; and Salad potatoes, which can be planted and harvested at any time from spring onwards, and include Charlotte, Anya, and Vivaldi.
Floury or Waxy?
The second way that potatoes are classified is according to how ‘floury’ or ‘waxy’ they are. A floury potato will usually look whiter inside, with a dryer flesh that mashes and roasts well. Waxy potatoes stay more firm after boiling, and usually have yellower flesh.
Potatoes can be graded 1‐10, where 1 is waxy and 10 is floury. Here are some common potato varieties and their grade.
- Anya: 6 (slightly floury).
- Cara: 3 (more waxy)
- Charlotte: 4 (slightly waxy)
- Desiree: 5 (all‐rounder)
- Golden Wonder: 9 (very floury)
- King Edward: 6 (all‐rounder)
- Pink Fir Apple: 3 (slightly waxy)
- Maris Piper: 5 (all‐rounder)
- Rocket: 4 (slightly waxy)
Potatoes for Mashing
Good mash comes from a floury, dry potato – the less water there is, the more creamy your end result will be. Choose a potato at 4 or above, such as King Edward, Vivaldi, Desiree or Golden Wonder. Peel, and make sure you boil them for long enough (18‐25 minutes) to make sure there are no undercooked lumps in your potato. Then drain thoroughly for a few minutes. Melt some butter and a little milk in the pan you cooked the potatoes in, and return the cooked potatoes to the saucepan. Mash well, then whip up with a fork and taste for seasoning before serving.
Potatoes for Roasting
For a great roast potato, choose a variety that’s graded at 5 or above ‐ Golden Wonder and King Edward are good choices. The dryer flesh gives you a fluffy interior and a crispy exterior. The same potatoes will make good chips as well!
To make perfect roast potatoes, it’s important to preheat the fat they will cook in – and if you want to prepare and freeze uncooked roasties, you’ll also need some flour or polenta.
First, peel and roughly chop your floury potatoes. Bring a big pan of salted water to a rolling boil and carefully drop in the potatoes. Boil for 5‐7 minutes or until the potatoes are slightly tender. Drain in a colander, letting them dry out well over the sink. Meanwhile, if you’re cooking the potatoes straight away, preheat the oven to 200 degrees C and put in a large oven tray with 2‐3tbsp of fat (goose fat or vegetable oil). After 10‐15 minutes, take out the tray and put it carefully on a heatproof surface. Standing well back, put the potatoes into the tray – they’ll sizzle in the oil. Use a tongs to turn the potato pieces until they are coated in hot fat. Return to the oven and cook for 30 minutes or until golden and crispy. Drain briefly on kitchen towel before serving.