Ontario potatoes are classified as long, round whites, round reds, or sweet.
Long potatoes are the most popular. The interior is white, the skin varies from brown and rough (Russet Burbank, Russet Norkotah and Frontier Russet varieties) to buff-colored and smooth (Shepody).
Round whites are usually large, round or oval with light to medium skin. The flesh is white (Kennebec, Superior and Cherokee) or yellow (Yukon Gold).
Round reds have rosy red, thin, glossy skins, but otherwise they’re similar to round whites. Popular varieties are Chieftain, Rideau, Norland and Sangre.
Potatoes are an excellent source of potassium, a good source of Vitamin C and a source of fibre and folacin.
Along with tomatoes and squash, potatoes are native to South America.
The potato was slow to be adopted by early settlers to North America, particularly by the Puritans, partly because they were profoundly suspicious of any vegetable not mentioned in the Bible.
Potatoes helped save Ireland from famine in 1740, as well as Prussia in 1774. But Late Blight decimated the fresh potato crop in the 1840s and resulted in massive starvation and immigration to North America.
The potato enabled cheap labour during the European industrial revolution as people could eat self-sufficiently on a relatively small piece of land.
Buying and storing
Look for firm, dry, well-formed potatoes, free from bruises, dark spots, cuts, cracks and sprouted eyes. Avoid potatoes greened by in-store florescent lights. Store in root cellar or at 45 to 50°F (7 to 10°C), out of direct light. (Light can cause potatoes to turn green and sprout.) Loosely cover with clean burlap or ventilated plastic and ensure good air circulation. All potatoes must be kept dry. Handle sweet potatoes with particular care as they bruise easily.
Ontario potatoes need only be scrubbed and checked for spots before using.
Long varieties have a dry, fluffy texture, are popular for baking, mashing and French-frying. Round whites and round reds are firm, waxier in texture and particularly good for boiling and steaming.
Yukon Gold are also good for mashing, baking and French frying.
New potatoes are wonderful and are harvested in an immature state while tops are often still green. They skin easily and the thin flavorful skins should be boiled or steamed with the rest of the potato.
Hint: New potatoes retain their quality only for a week or so. They are better stored in the refrigerator.