Native to the Andes and a cool-weather crop, the potato (Solanum tuberosum) may not seem particularly well suited to growing in the South. But by employing proper techniques and choosing the right selections, you can make the venerable spud your best bud. Like its cousin, the tomato, it produces a lot of food per plant. Two pounds of seed potatoes can produce 50 pounds of potatoes. The tasty, fat-free tubers are an excellent source of Vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.
The large, thick-skinned russet-type potato may be the most popular in supermarkets, but it doesn't do well in the South due to its long growing season. Potatoes that mature more quickly in cooler weather, such as 'Yukon Gold,' are a better bet. And you don't have to stick to white potatoes anymore. You can grow novelty potatoes with skins and flesh of blue, purple, red, pink, or yellow. Shapes vary from round to cylindrical or fingerlike (the latter are called fingerlings). Most selections take at least three months to mature. Plant in either very early spring or, in the Tropical South, fall and winter.
Recommended selections include:
'All Blue.' Blue skin and flesh, round to oblong. Matures in 110 days. Moist, good flavor, great for potato salad. Excellent keeper.
'Caribe.' Blue skin, white flesh, oblong. 7080 days. A little dry, good for baking. Good keeper.
'Cranberry Red.' Red skin, pink flesh, round. 90100 days. Moist, creamy, good for baking. Excellent keeper.
'Irish Cobber.' Yellow-brown skin, white flesh, round to oblong. 6585 days. Great flavor, excellent for mashed potatoes and baking. Heirloom.
'Kennebec.' Yellow skin, white flesh, round. 8590 days. Great flavor for baking or frying. Excellent keeper.
'Red LaSoda.' Red skin, white flesh, oval. 80100 days. Highly adaptable and productive. No. 1 potato for north Florida. Good baked or fried. Excellent keeper.
'Red Pontiac.' Red skin, white flesh, oval. 80100 days. Does well in heavy soil. Good all-around potato. Good keeper.
'Sebago.' Light brown skin, white flesh, round to oblong. Great flavor and creamy texture. Popular in Florida. Good all-around potato.
'Yukon Gold.' Gold skin, yellow flesh, round to oblong. 7080 days. Very popular for its delicious, rich, buttery flavor. Great all-around potato. Not a long keeper.