Potato Varieties - RegenZ

Types of Potatoes in South Africa

Your Cheat-Sheet to Potato Cultivars and Varieties in South Africa

The humble potato is not so humble after all…there are hundreds of varieties of potato and multiple potato cultivars in South Africa. Different potato types vary in texture and colour and behave differently when cooked, making some potato varieties better suited to certain purposes.

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

What is a potato cultivar?

Also known as a potato variety, a potato cultivar is a type of potato that has been bred for desired traits. These traits are reproduced in each new generation to maintain the cultivar’s characteristics. 

Commercial potatoes are generally grown from seed potatoes

How many varieties of potatoes are there?

There are over 5,000 different types of potatoes, with more being developed over time following selective breeding. 

Fun fact: Over 99% of potato varieties cultivated worldwide descended from varieties that originated in the lowlands of south-central Chile. 

What are the 7 types of potatoes?

Each variety of potato fits into one of 7 types of potato, depending on their colouring and characteristics:

  1. Russet
  2. Red
  3. White
  4. Yellow
  5. Blue/purple
  6. Fingerling
  7. Petite

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 of potato for your dish thus ensures a better end result. 

Starchy potatoes

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

Waxy potatoes

  • 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

All-purpose potatoes

  • 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.

Cooking tips for different types of potatoes

Baked Potatoes The skin becomes crisp because the starch just below the skin converts to sugar, which browns in heat. Long, slow cooking is best. 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.
Mashed Potatoes 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.
Fried Chips Make sure that your potatoes are dry before frying. 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.

What varieties of potatoes are available in South Africa?

The following Zylem potato varieties have been widely commercialised in South Africa:

Variety  Market
Abby Table – specifically speciality and salad
El Mundo Table – pre-pack
Labadia Table – pre-pack
Mondeo Table – pre-pack
Nicola Table – specifically salad

You can learn more about farming potatoes in South Africa in our comprehensive guide. 

New potato varieties in South Africa

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

Variety Market
Ariata KWS French fries and table
Bonnata KWS Table, home fries – pre-pack
ERA 11-4755 Table
Essenza Table – pre-pack 
Leonata KWS French fries
Lucera Table – specifically speciality and salad
Mustagata Crisps
Pink Fir Apple Table – pre-pack
Richhill Table – pre-pack

Potato varieties and their uses in South Africa 

Types of potatoes in south africa - RegenZ

RegenZ’s seed potato solutions 

Major farming organisations around the country grow potato crops from seed supplied by RegenZ’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 and soil health solutions.