St. Patrick’s Day is almost here, which means you’re possibly thinking about corned beef, cabbage, soda bread, and, of course, potatoes. It’s hard to extricate our vision of Irish cuisine from the starchy tuber (even though it’s actually native to the South American Andes and wasn’t introduced to Europe until the 16th century). According to the Lima, Peru-based International Potato Center (yes, there’s an International Potato Center) there are over 4,000 varieties of edible potato. With so many options—more than 100 available in the US—how do you choose the right one? Well thankfully, most of the potatoes we buy fit into 1 of 3 categories: high starch, medium starch, and low starch. Each type is good for some uses and not so good for others. Here’s your guide to all three, including a few side dish recipe ideas for each variety.
1. Starchy potatoes (aka baking potatoes):
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These potatoes, which include russets, are relatively dry with a somewhat mealy texture. This makes them perfect for fluffy mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, and crispy french fries. Their lack of moisture also means they take on water if long-cooked in liquid, and disintegrate in soups and stews, which can be desirable if you’re using them as a thickener (as opposed to wanting them in chunks).