Choosing and Growing the Perfect Potato

Choosing and Growing the Perfect Potato

The humble potato is not so humble when it comes to its many varieties, of which there are hundreds! Different potato types vary in texture and colour and behave differently when cooked, making some potato varieties better suited to certain purposes.

The two main characteristics used to determine different potato varieties are:

  1. The type of starch
  2.  The amount of moisture in the flesh

For example, if you make a stew and chuck in some chunks of potato, they will either remain intact or disintegrate, depending on these two characteristics. Those that remain intact are of the waxy/moist variety; those that fall apart are in the dry/mealy category. Choosing the right type potato for your dish thus ensures a better end-result. 

In this blog post, we’ll look at some of the major categories of potatoes in more detail. 


  • Starchy potatoes are high in starch and low in moisture
  • Good for: Boiling, baking and frying
  • Best avoided in: Casseroles, gratins and potato salads


  • Low starch content; with a creamy, firm and moist flesh that holds its shape well.
  • Good for: Roasting, boiling, casseroles and potato salads
  • Best avoided in: Microwave cooking, mashing


  • Medium starch content (somewhere in between the starchy and waxy potatoes)
  • Multi-purpose potato used for just about any cooking application. 
  • These are the variety most commonly available in supermarkets.

These are the Zylem potato varieties have been widely commercialised in South Africa:

AbbyTable – specifically speciality and salad 
El MundoTable – pre-pack
LabadiaTable – pre-pack
MondeoTable – pre-pack 
NicolaTable – specifically salad

New potato varieties in South Africa

As at the 2018/2019 season, these varieties are in trials and various stages of seed multiplication:

Ariata KWSFrench fries and table
Bonnata KWSTable, home fries – pre-pack
ERA 11-4755Table 
EssenzaTable – pre-pack 
Leonata KWSFrench fries
LuceraTable – specifically speciality and salad
Pink Fir AppleTable – pre-pack
RichhillTable – pre-pack

Potato-cooking tips

  • Long, slow cooking is best for baked potatoes. The skin becomes crisp because the starch just below the skin converts to sugar, which browns in heat.
  • As soon as baked potatoes come out of the oven, cut a slit in them so that the inside doesn’t steam, as this makes for a heavier consistency.
  • When boiling potatoes for mashing, return them to the hot pan after draining them to dry them out a little before mashing them. 
  • Add butter before you begin mashing. This coats the cells and the starch so they absorb less liquid, making the potatoes fluffier.
  • When making fried chips, frying them twice gives the best results – cook for six to eight minutes, let them stand for ten minutes, then cook for a few minutes until golden brown.
  • Make sure that your potatoes are dry when fried.

Zylem’s seed potato solutions 

Major farming organisations around the country grow potato crops from seed supplied by Zylem’s contract growers for table and for processing. 

Good potato growing starts with good soil health, another focus area of our consultants. 

When it comes to crops disturbing the soil for planting and harvesting, potatoes are one of the worst offenders. This means that it’s important to manage the soil health carefully and optimise it accordingly to improve plant health and yield. 

Instead of taking the conventional approach focused on applying a variety of herbicides, fungicides and pesticides, focusing on soil health brings a long-term solution to growing potatoes sustainably. 

Get in touch to find out more about our seed potatoes. 


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