Potatoes (Pommes de Terre)

What kind of potatoes are best for cooking in France, a familiar French expression using potato, what’s the healthiest potato, and all about them in cooking.

French Charlotte potatoes

Potato Season

For new potatoes (pomme de terre primeur/nouvelle): Spring; Summer (May-August);
Generally for all other potatoes, available all year round.

Random French Potato Facts

  • Originated in America but came to France in 1785, thanks to Antoine Parmentier who introduced them to King Louis XVI at Versailles. He has them planted in 1786 first in les Sablons (Neuilly) then in Grenelle, the current Champ de Mars at the Eiffel Tower;
  • Hachis Parmentier is the name given to the French classic equivalent of cottage pie;
  • According to the French Ministry of Agriculture, France is the 3rd biggest producer of potatoes in Europe and 10th biggest in the world;
  • Which is correct? Potatos or potatoes? It’s Potatoes.
  • Potatoes are always cooked. Most of France’s crops are transformed into potato chips (UK: crisps), frites (French fries, UK: chips), dried purée flakes, and potato starch for thickening soups, sauces & patisserie;
  • Most popular varieties in France are: la Charlotte, Ratte, l’Amandine, Belle de Fontenay, Monalisa, Roseval, Annabelle, Franceline and Vitelotte (purple);
  • For top quality potatoes, look for the Label Rouge, certifying good quality: you’ll find them with Pompadour, Belle de Fontenay, Manon, Merville (Bintje);
  • Are potatoes gluten free? Yes. Just be careful how you cook them. If you add wheat grains in their preparation, this will change them but potatoes cooked in their natural state without any wheat or grains will keep them gluten-free;
  • What is the healthiest potato? New potatoes (pomme de terre primeur) from the Île de Noirmoutier are reputed for their sweetness and contain double amounts of Vitamin C as regular potatoes. About 25 producers from the ‘island’ harvest potatoes from mid-April after only 90 days following plantation (compared to 120 for other varieties) and sold within 72 hours.
  • What is bad for potatoes? Storage! Store potatoes in a cool, dry and dark place, never in the fridge. According to a BBC report, avoid storing near onions or in metal containers, as this will discolour them.

Fun French Expression Using Potatoes

J’ai une de ces patates” or “j’ai la patate”
is a familiar expression meaning I’m full of energy, full of beans (literally translated, I’ve one of these potatoes or I’ve a potato).

What French Potatoes are Best for Cooking?

  • What are best for stews and gratins?
    Firm potatoes such as Charlotte (THE multi-purpose potato), Ratte, l’Amandine, Belle de Fontenay, Monalisa, Roseval (red potatoes), Annabelle, Franceline are all good for gratins, stews (daubes, ragoûts) and also in salads
    Equivalent all-rounder potato like Charlotte is Yellow or Yukon Gold;
  • Best for soups, purées, French fries/frites, baked potatoes and patties?
    Floury, high starch potatoes such as Bintje – produced in the north of France since 1935 is the most floury potato and ideal for purées, blending in soups, and in patties such as these fishcakes.
    Other floury potatoes: Manon, l’Artemis, Marabel in France
    – otherwise Russet, Desiree, King Edward, Maris Piper, Estima.
  • New Potatoes (pommes de terre primeur), such as those from l’Île de Ré and Noirmoutier, are best cooked as soon as possible after buying them – with their thin skins left on (cleaned). Depending on their size, cook for about 20 minutes in just a little water with the lid on and, as soon as cooked through, toss in a large knob of butter, salt, pepper and fresh parsley.

More Recipes with Potatoes

Paris Food Guide

From the market

From the kitchen