Food glossary



Potatoes were first introduced to Ireland, and then to Britain, from America in the late 16th century and are now one of the most popular staple foods in the world. They are a valuable source of nutrition, particularly for their vitamin C, carbohydrate and fibre content, especially when they are cooked and eaten in their skins. Varieties such as King Edward and Maris Piper are best eaten this way. Varieties such as Desiree, Wilja and Estima are good all-round cooking potatoes.

Potatoes are generally divided into two categories - waxy or floury (see below), if you are unsure of the variety of potato you have and want to know before cooking, mix one part salt to 11 parts water in a measuring jug and add the potato. A floury one will almost always sink to the bottom of the jug, while a waxy one will float. When it comes to seasonal availability, different varieties are available at different times of the year.

Uses: Potatoes are extremely versatile and can be boiled, steamed, baked, roasted, fried and mashed.

To store: It is essential that potatoes are stored in a cool, dark area away from sunlight and in a frost-free, airy place preferably in a brown paper sack. If potatoes are exposed to light they may turn green (which can be poisonous) or start sprouting. Small amounts of green can be removed but very green potatoes should be discarded. Do take potatoes out of the plastic bag that they are usually sold in - the potatoes are likely to go mouldy if kept in plastic. Potatoes should not be stored in the fridge. New potatoes should be eaten within 2-3 days of purchase, while old potatoes can, if stored correctly be kept for several months.


These long oval potatoes have a firm waxy texture and a subtle nutty flavour. They have a light yellow skin and a yellow flesh.

Uses: Suitable for boiling, baking or salads.

To prepare: Scrub thoroughly under cold running water or peel.


One of the most popular red-skinned potatoes Desirees have a smooth skin and a creamy yellow flesh. They have a firm texture.

Uses: Especially good cooked as wedges or roasted, because they hold their shape. Also suitable for boiling, mashing and chipping.

To prepare: Scrub thoroughly under cold running water or peel.


A light yellow-skinned potato with a firm, moist texture and a mild flavour. They are usually oval-shaped with a yellowy flesh.

Uses: Boiling, mashing and especially good for baking.

To prepare: Peel and chop for boiling and chipping or scrub thoroughly for baking.

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A type rather than a variety, floury potatoes are especially popular in Britain. They are suitable for baking, mashing and chipping as they have a soft, dry texture when cooked. They are not suitable for boiling, however because they tend to disintegrate. Popular varieties of floury potato include King Edward and Maris Piper.

King Edward

King Edwards have pinky red skins and distinctively flavoured creamy white flesh that's packed with carbohydrates, fibre, iron and vitamins, including folate. Cooking them in their skins provides the most nutritional value.

Uses: Good for boiling, baking, chipping or roasting.

To prepare: Rinse in cold water and peel for boiling, chipping and roasting. If necessary, cut out any bruises or green parts.

New potatoes

These are available all year round and the different varieties encompass a range of skin and flesh colours. They are small, waxy, oval-shaped potatoes. Buy little and often for the best flavour.

Uses: Best boiled whole in their skins and delicious served warm or cold, with spring lamb, salmon and salads.

To prepare: Rinse in cold water and cook whole or sliced. To obtain the most nutritional value, leave their skins on. If preferred, remove the skin by gently rubbing it away with your fingers.

To cook: Place in a pan, add enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, cover, and simmer gently for 20 minutes for whole potatoes, 15 minutes for sliced potatoes. Drain, add a knob of butter and serve.

Red Duke of York

With a light yellow flesh and a distinctive red skin these potatoes have a firm cooked texture.

Uses: Duke of York potatoes are best for boiling.

To prepare: Peel and rinse thoroughly in cold water before boiling.


A round to oval red skinned potato with a creamy coloured flesh and a soft, dry texture. Romano potatoes have a mild nutty flavour. The red skin tends to fade during cooking to an attractive pale rusty beige shade.Seasonal availability: All year.

Uses: Romanos are suitable for baking, roasting and mashing.

To prepare: Rinse thoroughly in cold water and scrub or peel before cooking.

Sweet potatoes

They have a sweet flavour similar to that of roast chestnuts or squash. Although not related to ordinary potatoes, they can be prepared in similar ways. There are two types: the pale variety has a thin, light yellow skin and flesh while the darker one has thicker, dark orange skin and bright orange flesh.

Uses: Bake, mash or roast.

To store: Store in a cool, dark place and use within a week.

To prepare: Scrub, peel and slice or cut into chunks.

To cook: Cook in boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes until tender. Sweet potatoes can also be mashed or cooked as chips. Alternatively scrub the skins and bake them in their jackets.

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