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Are Waxy White Potatoes Available Anywhere?

Q:

What has happened to the waxy white potatoes that we used to boil for potato salad, or use in soups and in stews? I don’t like to work with gold potatoes, as their color is not nearly as appetizing. I now buy red, new potatoes but they don’t have the same flavor and they are hard to peel. Please let me know if the waxy white potatoes are available anywhere.

A:

(Note: Some defining is in order for this excellent question. So for our readers benefit this is a little more detailed):

Primary potato types are broken down by the USDA as such: Russets, reds, long whites, and yellow types. As we delve even deeper, specific potato varieties are found that fall under each of the primary types. For example, a Burbank is a russet type, one of numerous russet varieties. Similarly, most color types have specific variety or identifying names such as Norland reds or Yukon golds – as well as numerous others, including many specific-named, proprietary varieties.  

Also the difference between ‘new’ and storage potatoes is that storage potatoes are just that – potatoes kept in storage for packing and consumption later. Usually within a few months or longer. Potatoes thrive in mountainous growing areas and there are perhaps six major areas in the U.S. that grow so many potatoes that storing the crop in a large climate-controlled environment is necessary to keep and ship throughout the winter months. Idaho of course, leads the U.S. in production with approximately 315,000 acres, accounting for one-third of the nation’s potato volume.

‘New’ potatoes on the other hand, are any type/variety of potatoes from any growing region that have been harvested and are immediately packed and sent to market without being stored.

Over the years, ‘new’ potatoes have been marketed and signed as such in grocers because many such potatoes (namely red, white, and yellow types) are also harvested in the spring and summer months from lower-volume, non-storage harvest areas. Also, keep in mind that many produce items have similar names that while technically incorrect, stick in our minds as consumers. Examples such as ‘Iceberg’ lettuce or ‘Beefsteak’ tomatoes are two items that may or may not be technically accurate, but are referred to as such as a matter of general identification. Same thing with the color potato varieties you mention, many times people refer to them as ‘new’ when (although they could very well be new at some times of the year) these could have just as likely come from a shed, mid-winter and technically be old-crop or ‘storage’ potatoes.

Idaho grows a copious supply of not only russet potatoes, but is a leading red potato grower, along with the other major potato types such as whites and yellow types, and specialty varieties too. Some Idaho ‘new’ crop goes directly to market in late summer/early fall, but the majority of the crop is held in storage.

We also refer to non-russet varieties as ‘waxy’ – as color varieties for the most part are lower in solids/starches and have a higher water content than their russet cousins. White potatoes are indeed available, both in round and elongated varieties, and are an excellent choice for preparing dishes where the light color skin and ‘waxy’ characteristics are desirable.

If your store does not carry white potatoes, ask your produce manager to order and stock them for you. Chances are good these are available in your area if not from your regular store, then likely at one close by. By the way, I always advise people to select the busiest store in the area to do their regular shopping. Chances are much higher that the busy store will offer an expanded produce selection (including the white potatoes), their inventory ‘turns’ will be higher (meaning they sell lots of fresh produce) and the produce they offer for sale will likely be much fresher than slower stores can offer.

As for being hard to peel, try a new, sharp peeler. Potato peelers are an often-used kitchen tool, have a tendency to get dull over time and are difficult (if even possible) to keep sharp. Especially in a busy kitchen it’s best to discard the peeler and even other, easy-to-disregard cutting tools (like can openers) yearly and replace.