Know your potatoes: what type should you use?

22 February 2019


Potatoes are a trusted staple food in many South African homes, yet we don’t always know which type of potatoes is best to use for a particular dish.

Fortunately Potatoes South Africa in conjunction with researchers from the University of Pretoria have grouped this stalwart vegetable into texture classes which makes it easier for people to choose the right potatoes for a dish.

Although the features of a potato is determined by various factors, cultivar is the most important, according to Carmen van Niekerk, who’s a PhD food science student at the University of Pretoria.

“The cultivar and class usually are indicated on the bag, with recommendations for how to cook them,” she adds. The three main groups are waxy, floury and multi-purpose potatoes:  

1. Waxy

This kind of potato is known for its creamy though firm and moist texture retained even after cooking. That’s why it’s perfect for dishes where you don’t want the potato to disintegrate, for example potato salad. It can be used for chips though, but remember it will give you slaptjips, not crispy, crunchy chips. 


Waxy potatoes are good for potato salad. Pictures: Pexels and Gallo Images/ Getty Images

2. Floury

To make chips or roast potatoes, floury potatoes are your best choice.

This type of potato has a high starch content and a fairly dry texture. The potatoes don’t retain their shape in cooking so are suitable for mash potatoes.


Floury potatoes are good for baking and mashing. Picture: Pixabay

3. Multipurpose

The medium-starch content of these potatoes mean they’re somewhere between a waxy and a floury potato. They’re good for most cooking methods and are the potatoes mostly commonly sold in supermarkets


All-purpose potatoes, as the name says, can be used for just about anything, including French fries. Picture: Pixabay

Store potatoes this way

Always store potatoes in a cool area of your kitchen that’s well ventilated, Carmen advises.

“Potatoes shouldn’t be kept in the fridge. The cold causes the starch to be converted into sugar, which affects cooking attributes as well as nutritional value,” she says.  

How to cook potatoes 

Thanks to the wide variety available these vegetables are suitable for a range of cooking methods, Carmen says. 

According to her, it’s best to cook potatoes unpeeled because of the nutritional value of the skin.

“The skin ensures that nutrients are retained and not lost in cooking. The skin itself also contains nutrients and fibre. Potatoes truly constitute ‘health from the soil’ because they’re a source of starch for energy and contain vitamins and minerals.

"Prepared correctly potatoes can form part of your five-a-day portions of vegetables and fruit.”


Brothers Elias and Isaac Monhla on the potato farm. Picture: Supplied

Where does McDonald's chips come from?

Elias Monhla (46) and his brother Isaac Monhla (39) are farmers who grow potatoes from Limpopo.

The Monhla brothers’ farm provide work for about 250 people, which makes the farm is a major asset in the local community. 

Isaac explains that their farmworkers learn and become knowledgeable about soil preparation and fertiliser and when the potatoes are ready for harvesting.

Their farm activities are divided into three programmes, namely the plant-, harvest- and spring programme.

Elias is full of praise for the community programme they’ve introduced at Boshatolo farm school.

“We have a joint project with McDonald's to promote sporting activities at our local schools.

“It’s a poor rural community and the learners often don’t even have the clothes needed for playing soccer or netball,” Elias says.

Their farm is also involved with a debating contest which is aimed at boosting the language skills of learners.

Ploughing the potato fields. Picture: Supplied

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