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As the season progresses a potato changes e.g. an Ilam Hardy early in the season (October) is quite waxy. A mid season Ilam Hardy is a good general purpose potato, while towards the end of the season a lot more of the natural sugars have converted to starch, so it tends to be floury.

Source: https://potatoesnz.co.nz/updates/education-comms-and-mktg-updates/seasonal-changes-and-potato-varieties/

I like my potatoes really starchy (fluffy). I've found that soft potatoes are always very waxy. So I'm wanting to know whether the hardness-softness of a potato can tell you anything about starch levels?

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3 Answers 3

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If anything, the relationship will go in the other direction. But it's not significant in practice anyway - as Moscafj said, you should simply buy mealy potatoes, instead of trying to divine which ones could be probably mealy.

The hardness of a potato is mostly related to age, both in the sense of the plant's maturity, and in the sense of length of storage. Young plants have firmer parts with more turgor. So, according to the text you cited, the early-in-the-season potato will be waxier, but it will also be firmer. The other factor is storage time after the tuber has been separated from the plant. The longer it's stored, the more moisture it loses and becomes softer. So, you could touch the potato and feel its firmness, but it won't tell you much about how it cooks up.

This is not to be confused with the language matter where other languages divide potatoes into "hard-boiling" for waxy and "soft-boiling" for mealy. The words there refer to the state of the potato after it has been cooked, and logically, the fluffy cooked potatoes are named "soft". This is a straightforward description of the quality you're looking for, but it's not especially well correlated with a hardness or softness you might feel before cooking.

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    "starchy" is a more attractive term than "mealy".
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 22:31
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    @FuzzyChef I can't comment on the attractiveness, as I'm not a native speaker. "Mealy" is the established term used in the literature. I understand that the terms aren't printed on potato bags in the UK or the US, so there probably isn't that much awareness of them among AE and BE speakers.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 8:50
  • "Young plants have firmer parts with more turgor" I don't know where you got this idea from, I've certainly never come across it in the potato scientific literature. AFAIK, turgor is completely unrelated to maturity and tuber turgor is important to manage at harvest as it can influence susceptibility to bruising horticulture.ahdb.org.uk/… also per that " tuber turgor ... changes approximately equivalent to the range encountered across the season can occur within one day if the evapotranspiration demand is high."
    – smartse
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 16:12
  • @smartse it's a personal observation gained from harvesting potatoes of different maturity, and also many other edible plants. For me it's as commonsense as saying that the day is usually colder in the morning than at noon. I've never encountered a potato that would wilt while still in the earth.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 21:14
  • It's sad nothing is printed on potato bags. Fluffy vs waxy are almost two different vegetables. Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 22:51
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Do you mean whether it feels hard when you touch it? I've never felt much of a difference between a fresh Idaho (starchy) and Red Bliss (waxy) potato. Potatoes shouldn't really be soft, so I am perhaps not clear what you are asking. It's probably more effective to just learn the varieties available to you in your area, and choose on that basis.

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    IME storage conditions/time determine hard/soft. Keeping a potato for a while at room temperature makes it softer (and sprouty).
    – Sneftel
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 11:11
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I've found that it's the size of the potatoes you should look for.

Large Moonlight potatoes can be really starchy. Small moonlight are usually very waxy. This is because large=late-season, small=early-season

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