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Grow a Colorful Potato Patch

A stack of potatoes in a jar sit next to a yellow squash.

Growing Irish potatoes ( Solanum tuberosum) is a family tradition here in the Mountain State. Potatoes are a staple  food across the world due to their adaptability, yield, nutritional value and storage quality. Irish potatoes are not roots, but specialized underground storage stems called “tubers.”

Plan ahead for your potato patch. One pound of seed  potatoes will yield 10 pounds of usable potatoes. Purchase certified seed potatoes. Do not buy potatoes from a grocery store for planting – most have been chemically treated so they do not sprout.

Potatoes love rich, well-drained, sandy soil. Poorly drained soils are more likely to produce diseased tubers. Cultivate well before planting. If you have a lot of clay, you may benefit from growing in a raised bed or container. Keep the soil pH slightly acidic, between 5.2 to 5.5, and your potato crop will be less susceptible to common scab fungus.

Irish potatoes can be a diverse range of colors. The color in purple and blue potatoes comes from the anthocyanin pigments in both the skin and flesh, the same compounds that give color to eggplant, red cabbage, blackberries and concord grapes. Recommended blue and purple varieties include Adirondack Blue and Purple Majesty.

Red-skinned potatoes are a popular choice and high in antioxidants. Chieftain is a red-skinned, white-fleshed, mid-season potato with wide adaptability, good yield potential  and disease resistance. Adirondack Red has lightly netted  pink flesh with a fine, succulent texture. Keuka Gold is a yellowish-buff-skinned potato with light  yellow flesh, similar to Yukon Gold, but not as early. It is resistant to scab and is a good, all-purpose eating potato.

By J.J. Barrett, WVU Extension Agent – Wood County