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Picking the perfect potato; GARDENING.

Byline: JULIAN RANSON

Did you know that 2008 is "International Year of the Potato?" So great is the spud that it has even been centre of attention at the United Nations in New York where IYP (International Year of the Potato) was launched to focus upon the importance of the potato in the world.

Indeed we Brits would be completely lost without our favourite vegetable and this year on average each of us will consume 94 kilogrammes of them.

So how will you have yours? Boiled, baked, chipped, wedged, in a salad, in a cake or is your favourite dish potato dauphinoise?

Whatever your preference, I am sure most of us will be mashing them at some point. And as you choose which seed potatoes to grow this year you may remember former world boxing champion Barry McGuigan with his trade mark mashed potatoes on TV's Hell's Kitchen last autumn. But do you know which is the best variety of potato to use?

As familiar as we are with cooking and eating the potato, and in many cases how to grow it, it does appear that many of us are still ignorant on what varieties perform best in the kitchen.

Following Barry's leap to culinary fame with his amazing mash last year, the British Potato Council conducted a survey which found that many consumers had no idea what type of potato to choose.

Kathryn Race, marketing director at the British Potato Council, said: "Barry's winning performance on Hell's Kitchen pushed mash back into the limelight as one of top meal accompaniments, yet people are still missing a trick when it comes to making it at home.

"Adding hot or warm milk gives a much lighter melt in the mouth feel and it's best to use a floury potato variety such as King Edward, wilja or desiree. They are very versatile and can also be used for fluffy chips or for roast potatoes that are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside."

So why not try and grow your own selection of potato varieties this year?

Availability at garden centres will be at its peak for the next month or so but don't leave it any longer as many of the favourites will sell out quickly. Simply store them in a cool but frost free place at home until you're ready to start them off.

And if you haven't got space for a veg plot, don't despair. You will find a variety of containers that are suitable for growing potatoes in.

For more information about choosing the best potato varieties go to britishpotatocouncil.co.uk

Julian Ranson is Notcutts garden centre manager, Stratford Road, Shirley, Solihull.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 9, 2008
Words:447
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