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New potato varieties could improve taste of French fries

Potato growers and industry members gathered in Fredericton for the Potato Selection Release Open House on Wednesday to learn what new varieties are available for trial that could improve yields and taste – including the varieties used to make French fries.

Potato growers and industry gathered at the Fredericton Research and Development Centre for the Potato Selection Release Open House on Wednesday February 14, 2018 to learn about what new varieties are available for trial that could improve yields and taste — including a new variety that could improve the taste of French fries.

The annual potato selection event was hosted by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and gave potato producers the chance to learn about 15 new selections of what researchers are calling “promising potatoes.” The new varieties include five French fry potatoes, two types of spuds for those in the potato chip sector, six fresh market selections, and two potatoes with coloured flesh.

AAFC potato breeder and gene resources curator, Benoît Bizimungu, said the new varieties will help growers deliver a higher quality and better quantity of potatoes to market, that he says will taste even better to consumers.

Benoît Bizimungu:

“This is our annual event where we unveil our new selections ready to give out to industry for commercial testing.”

“So it’s aimed at growers, processors and city growers because more and more, we see people actually [growing] it for exports for potatoes as well so it’s really time to put it to industry, the whole chain.”
The most popular and intriguing potato was one that has the potential to replace the most popular potato used for French fries — the Russet Burbank.

Researchers say the Russet Burbank usually accounts for 70 per cent of potato sales to North American processors, and 20 per cent of the overall potato market.

The new variety can grow in a variety of conditions, produce a higher yield because of its resistance to soil fungus, and can be easily stored.

It is also 50 per cent less likely to experience tuber defects than the Russett Burbank, meaning less wasted potatoes and higher yields.

Benoît Bizimungu:

“Our goal is to have the same quality, but in much more improved variety that has less defect, stores well and taste well as well.”
When it comes to the advancements of popular spuds used for potato chips, one of the new “chip potatoes” is said to do very well in a variety of different growing conditions and can be harvested earlier than previous potato varieties.

For those looking at potatoes that might make a great Valentine’s dinner for years to come, one variety even has pink flesh.

New Brunswick Community College student chef Chantel Cyr prepared sample plates of food made with some of the new varieties, including a perogie filled with the pink potato and cheese.

Chantel Cyr:

“I’m a potato lover and when there’s a new variety, like a new kind that’s coming out, then I take it and I use it and try to make something fun out of it and something good.”
She said the pink and purple potatoes are actually higher in antioxidants than blueberries.

Ontario potato farmer Kevin Smith was in attendance looking for new varieties to grow at Smoyd Potato Farm.

Smith said he came to see which varieties might be a good fit for some of the restaurants in Fergus, Ont., which he supplies with potatoes.

Kevin Smith:

“Ideally, a restaurant is looking for something that mashes well, that bakes well, that if they’re doing their own fresh-cut fries that it fries well, so you’re looking for a very very versatile potato.”
The event took place in Fredericton, Lethbridge, Alta., and Guelph, Ont., with video conferences connecting all three cities throughout the day.
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