Alan's Top Varieties
"My latest book, The People's Potatoes, has over 400 named varieties. I guess I could have doubled that with so many varieties to choose from. The list on this website is a hit list of great potatoes. Recommendations are based simply on what has worked for me over the past 38 years of potato growing. Most of the newer introductions are omitted and the comments here are edited down from the book which has more detail.
In alphabetical order and maturity and waiting for you to go out and grow them or find them, some will be easier than others!"
Select one of the potato varieties below and get stuck in!
A round to oval shaped variety with light yellow skin and flesh. The lowish dry matter gives a succulent texture which it holds during to maturity so you can use this variety at any point in the summer. Accent is a great utility potato and can gain good size. A good choice in dry years. If you want the taste of Duke of York but would like a modern yield then try Accent. Very successful here and lots of good comment on taste.
2. Duke of York
It’s simply as delicious today as it must have been over 100 years ago. Its foliage is relatively low and it recovers well from frost. The yellow tubers are waxy with a strong earthy undertone and sweetness. Expect a low yield. Its culinary strength is also its limitation as the tubers do gather dry matter fast and if left too long in the ground the sweet taste and close texture give way to chestnut and floury/mealy texture. This combination makes an excellent baking potato.
Excellent tasting potato aimed at commercial/pre-packing sector. Very grower friendly, it produces high yields with good baker content. The oval white skinned tubers can be eaten as a new potato or left to bulk and sold later in the season. Orla is a worthy choice for organic production.
4. Ulster Sceptre
My favourite from the breeder John Clark (1889-1980). This is a very early variety. It’s a blight catcher but the sweet taste of the dark yellow tubers is up there with the best.
5. British Queen
A stomper of a variety! Although now well dated it has built a strong reputation for good mealy taste. It crops fairly well and produces a really nice flavour which is derived from the high dry matter. Best consumed before Christmas. Its rough skin makes for a scruffy appearance. Loved in Ireland.
Purple splashed varieties have always had a rough hide from defensive commercial buyers. Like the modern Kestrel, Catriona found its admirers from gardeners who loved the earthy, nutty taste. Its yellow flesh did not put off gardeners and as a second early Catriona is well worth a look at.
7. International Kidney
Fantastic kidney shape, it was one of the most popular potato varieties on show in 1878. International Kidney is a second early variety with a perfect kidney shape and absolutely delicious taste when young. Poor agronomy as fits such an old variety but what a story for one single variety. If you like Jersey Royals then this is it but not in your back garden.
Probably the best introduction since World War Two and definitely the breeder's (Jack Dunnet) best variety. In short, its excellent agronomy combines with excellent taste. It has good resistance to PCN. The yield can be shy on cool soils so don’t plant early. The blight resistance is only fair so in wet seasons there could be trouble. Yet large tubers await which can excel for all purposes. Best eaten mature from harvest in late July through to February. This variety is strongly supported by the garden trade.
This large, smooth skinned, creamy white tuber has shallow eyes and yields plenty. The taste is pleasant and the texture smooth. Its agronomy is now dated with no PCN resistance. Good for yield.
10. Red Duke of York
Another sport this time from the first early Duke of York. Red Duke of York is a stunning red crimson colour, almost of alarming intensity. It’s very early to crop and if eaten young you get the same delicious taste as Duke of York. It bulks quickly and by mid-summer expect large tubers which can be baked. By then the dry matter has risen and it's a floury potato. Highly desirable.
Superb French close textured yellow fleshed potato that makes excellent potato salads and retains its new potato feel. The French harvest when the tubers are large and I think they know best! Best eaten when nearly mature e.g. the tops are starting to become light green and show signs of dying back.
It has a long, oval tapering shape with course russet skin in some conditions. The taste is strong and delicious with a waxy feel, though not as pronounced as Charlotte. Prone to bruising in the commercial farming world and if it had PCN resistance I would probably be growing it today.
13. Arran Victory
Vivid purple skins adorn this fantastic, flattish, pear shaped variety with striking white flesh. Eats like a baked chestnut and one of my favourites. It stores well and is a good late season eating potato and looks fantastic on the exhibition table.
High yields and early bulking and good resistance to drought, and powdery scab. Medium dry matter, firm cooked texture and good culinary quality. It boils, bakes, roasts and chops all with ease. It's one you can trust. If growing Desiree, watch the crops don’t get too big as the tubers can get misshapen.
15. Dunbar Standard
The gem in Charles Spence range from the heavy red soils of Dunbar Scotland. Can be all tops and no bottoms so careful on management. However Dunbar Standard will give you very tasty and large tubers for late winter use. Yields variable.
Absolute gem of a variety. It's one of the oldest potato varieties still around and its striking purple skin flecked with yellow, its true round shape and its buttery eating texture and sweet flavour make it a must for potato lovers. My sandy soil in Fleet produces really nice buttery tubers and with modest foliage cover. However I have seen stocks on heavier soils where taste is not consistent and the foliage very dense.
17. Golden Wonder
The russet skin, the funny oblong, tapered pillow shape. Its stubbornness to yield large tubers make it fascinating, even before you have cooked and seen it explode as a baked potato - all because you forgot to prick the skin! It is a dry, floury type with a fusion of flavours from chestnut to almond. A famous variety in Ireland.
18. Red King Edward
The same as King Edward but 90% covered red with streaks and splashes of cream. I prefer this to the ordinary Kind Edward for yield and storage.
19. Russet Burbank
The tops are vigorous and light green, the tubers are of course russet with a long flat shape. The flesh is bright white and makes fantastic chips. Agronomy now dated but the texture of the chips alone makes them worth growing!
20. Shetland Black
Excellent pear shaped black potato. Flesh is cream with the vascular ring showing blue pigmentation. A superb taster if a little shy on yield. Poor agronomy but a must for the potato enthusiast.
21. Yukon Gold
Fantastic true round, smooth cream skinned tubers with a delicious creamy buttery texture and fresh taste. Poor agronomy and aimed at the processing market but a distinctive and interesting one to grow. Deserves wider acclaim.
One of the original purple fleshed types that is grown now in France as a real delicacy. Delicious taste but if grown in the home garden the tubers may not be long but round. Ideal for use in salads.
23. Belle de Fontenay
A low to medium yielding but the tubers are a really nice taste for using as a salad or boiled potato. The plant has no pest or disease resistance to speak being very blight prone. Seed is hard to come by which is a shame. Dozens of books name this as the potato that potato lovers grow. High yields of small curved yellow tubers can be expected.
Now if you want a salad potato look no further. Ratte (Asparges) is a long, look-alike Pink Fir Apple, but without the knobbly bits. It’s a cream skin with yellow flesh and tastes like a buttery chestnut. Its dry matter is balanced to simply make you want to eat it. Either hot or cold Summer or Winter Ratte is the benchmark in salad potato production. Seed quality is, I suspect, lacking vigour so growing results vary. Useless agronomy.
25. Pink Fir Apple
Very, very long, knobbly tubers that eat like a new potato all year round. This was the Victorian’s Christmas trick to bring out new potatoes in mid-winter. It yields dozens of often small tubers very close in its roots under the bushy plant. Don’t be surprised to get 50 or 60 per plant. Space wide and double ridge as the tubes will come out from everywhere. It’s a fun variety!
© Alan Wilson 2017