In 1715 the Scot-Irish brought potatoes to Maine, rich soil conditions, along with warm nights provided for a perfect place to raise potatoes in Aroostook County. The potato is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial Solanum tuberosum of the Solanaceae family. The word potato may refer to the plant itself as well. In the region of the Andes, there are some other closely related cultivated potato species. Potatoes are the world's fourth largest food crop, following rice, wheat, and corn. Maine produces around 5% of the nations potatoes. Aroostook County produces more potatoes than any other in in the United States. Many Potato farmers schedule their vacation, school, around the potato harvest. This happens in August and September.

Potato plants are herbaceous perennials that grow about 60 cm high, depending on variety, the culms dying back after flowering. They bear white, pink, red, blue or purple flowers with yellow stamens resembling those of other Solanaceous species such as tomato and aubergine. The tubers of varieties with white flowers generally have white skins, while those of varieties with colored flowers tend to have pinkish skins. Potatoes are cross-pollinated mostly by insects, including bumblebees that carry pollen from other potato plants, but a substantial amount of self-fertilizing occurs as well. Tubers form in response to decreasing day length, although this tendency has been minimized in commercial varieties

Potato plants

After potato plants flower, some varieties will produce small green fruits that resemble green cherry tomatoes, each containing up to 300 true seeds. Potato fruit contains large amounts of the toxic alkaloid solanine, and is therefore unsuitable for consumption.

All new potato varieties are grown from seeds, also called "true seed" or "botanical seed" to distinguish it from seed tubers. By finely chopping the fruit and soaking it in water, the seeds will separate from the flesh by sinking to the bottom after about a day (the remnants of the fruit will float). Any potato variety can also be propagated vegetatively by planting tubers, pieces of tubers, cut to include at least one or two eyes, or also by cuttings, a practice used in greenhouses for the production of healthy seed tubers. Some commercial potato varieties do not produce seeds at all (they bear imperfect flowers) and are propagated only from tuber pieces. Confusingly, these tubers or tuber pieces are called "seed potatoes".



FOR BAKING, MASHING OR FRYING High starch varieties

Belrus: A dark-skinned russet, Belrus has skin that is thick and crunchy when baked. Bintje: Developed in Holland, the Bintje is the most widely grown yellow-fleshed potato in the world. Not quite as mealy as the other high-starch potatoes, the Bintje has a distinctive flavor. Green Mountain: While it was named after the mountains of Vermont, this is the potato that made the state of Maine famous. Replaced on most Maine farms in the 1940's by varieties that were easier to grow, "Mountains" are considered by many to be the most flavorful of all potatoes. Irish Cobbler: A round white potato, the Cobbler is one of the oldest varieties. Difficult to grow (it bruises easily) and with deep eyes that make it hard to peel, the Cobbler was popular with farmers for years not only because of the favor that it found in the market, but also because it matures earlier than the other varieties. Shepody: A long white, high starch potato that was developed for the early french fry market, Shepody is seldom found in supermarkets.

ALL PURPOSE Medium-High starch varieties

Carola: This yellow flesh, German potato has a smooth, creamy texture. Goldrush: A new russet type, Goldrush has a light brown, netted skin. Kennebec: Widely grown for potato chips, its versatility in the kitchen and ease with which it is grown has made Kennebec the favorite potato for home gardeners in North America. Yukon Gold: Round, with yellow flesh and pink eyes, the Yukon is somewhat mealy, but does so well in a wide variety of recipes that it is the most popular of the specialty potatoes.


Katahdin: After the Green Mountain, Katahdin has been the most well-known "Maine" potato, from the 1940's until recently. Moist as a baker, it has a thin skin and "waxy" texture.