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bins of a variety of potatoes

Potatoes come in many forms. Functional nutritionist Jesse Haas, CNS, LN, notes that multiple varieties of potatoes were first harvested by the Inca in what became Peru, and present-day Peruvians have maintained that cultivation. “When I visited Peru, I was completely gobsmacked by how many varieties they use in the Andes: Potatoes come in all shapes, sizes, and colors,” she explains.

“In the United States, we lack a lot of that biodiversity in our diets, and I think we’ll learn more about how important diversity is for health in the years to come.”

You can get that diversity now by bringing a Peruvian approach to your potato choices. The guide below shows starch levels for different varieties, with nutrition information for one 100-gram serving, or about 2/3 cup. (Net carbs are a food’s nonfibrous carbohydrates; they have the greatest impact on blood sugar.)

French Fingerlings

french fingerling potatoesThese delicate, low-starch potatoes were developed in France in the 1950s.

Characteristics: Pinkish or rosy-red skin; yellow flesh (sometimes with pink streaks); long and narrow shape.

Fun fact: They were once widely called “nosebag potatoes,” after a rumor that they were smuggled into the United States in the nosebag of a horse.

Nutrition: 16 g net carbs, 2 g protein.

Flavor: Almost nutty, with a robust and earthy flavor.

Try Them: Roasted. Because they are smaller and keep their shape so well, and their thin skin softens easily, fingerlings make perfect oven fries. Cut larger ones in half and roast them in the oven with some butter or olive oil and whole garlic cloves. This may satisfy your fry cravings. (Or try them out in our sirloin steak, fingerling potatoes, and broccoli foil-pack meal.)

Peruvian Purples

purple potatoesIndigenous to the Peruvian Andes, these are another type of fingerling potato. Other non-Peruvian fingerlings include the Russian banana (developed in the Baltic region) and Swedish peanut.

Characteristics: Deep-purple skin; violet flesh that’s occasionally marbled.

Fun fact: That rich color, which comes from generations of breeding for deeper purples, means they’re especially high in the phytochemical anthocyanin. Studies have found that this antioxidant, which also appears in blueberries, can help cool inflammation and reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Nutrition: 16 g net carbs, 2 g protein.

Flavor: Nutty and almost sweet.

Try Them: Mashed or in soup. They retain their color through cooking.

Red Potatoes

red potatoesThese low-starch potatoes originated in Peru. There’s also a U.S. variety called Red Pontiac or Dakota Chief, which is still one of the most abundant red varieties.

Characteristics: Pink or reddish skin; round shape; light-yellow or white flesh.

Fun fact: The numerous red-potato varieties often have jaunty names, such as Red Sonia, Red Bliss, Lollipop, and Dakota Rose.

Nutrition: 14 g net carbs, 2 g protein.

Flavor: Neutral and mild — even the skin. Because of that, they’ve been called the workhorse of the potato world.

Try Them: Skin on, in potato salad. Red potatoes are incredibly versatile, and they’re the best choice for the cook-then-cool method used for a Nicoise or potato salad. (Try these fun and flavorful Caponata-Stuffed Potato Boats.)

Yukon Golds

yukon gold potatoesDeveloped in the 1960s and released in the 1980s in Canada, these medium-starch potatoes are actually a hybrid.

Characteristics: Smooth and yellow-hued skin; oval shape; dense flesh.

Fun Fact:  Agriculturists at Ontario’s University of Guelph crossed a North American white potato with a yellow South American variety to create the Yukon Gold, with its light-yellow tone.

Nutrition: 16 g net carbs, 2 g protein.

Flavor: Buttery and mild, almost neutral — that makes them a good base for seasonings and a strong all-around choice.

Try Them: Mashed. Unlike some potatoes that can get chunky or mealy when boiled and mashed, Yukons lean toward creaminess, and the slightly buttery flavor adds to the appeal. (Try them in this tasty and satisfying Spinach and Potato Frittata.)

Russets or Idaho Potatoes

russet potatoesThese high-starch potatoes were developed by American botanist Luther Burbank in the 1870s to be resistant to potato blight; he was responding to the Irish potato famine. This variety is still sometimes called the Burbank potato.

Characteristics: Usually large; brown skin; dry, white flesh.

Fun fact: Only potatoes grown in Idaho can be called Idaho potatoes; the ones grown elsewhere are called russets.

Nutrition: 19 g net carbs, 3 g protein.

Flavor: Russets have an earthy flavor that pairs well with strongly flavored seasonings.

Try Them: Baked. These make superb classic baked potatoes — with some butter and sour cream to soften the glycemic impact.

This was excerpted from “The Great Potato Comeback” which was published in the March 2022 issue of Experience Life magazine.

Elizabeth Millard

Elizabeth Millard is a writer, editor, and farmer based in northern Minnesota.

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