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The humble potato: Canada’s most valuable vegetable
A staple in Canadian cupboards, the potato is an incredibly versatile food. Whether boiled, fried or roasted, mashed, hashed or diced, it adds a hearty and nutritious touch to countless meals. For nearly 20 years, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) has been working hard to ensure Canadian potato growers and consumers alike have access to the best spuds on the market. Under the Accelerated Release Program (established in 1998), the AAFC releases 10 to 15 new potato selections each year featuring an assortment of colours, sizes and other valued characteristics. Potato industry entrepreneurs across the country then evaluate each crop and pinpoint front-runners that meet the needs of Canadian consumers and producers in matters of flavour, quality and hardiness. Thanks to a combination of traditional crop breeding techniques and cutting-edge technology, scientists can boost the aesthetic and nutritional value of potatoes. For example, researchers have isolated a variety with a low glycemic index that could help consumers with everything from weight loss to diabetes management. With names like Poppy, Glossy and Red Viola, today’s marketplace for spuds is more diverse than ever! But developing new varieties is no easy feat. According to the AAFC’s head potato breeder, Dr. Benoit Bizimungu, it takes years to crack the formula for a nutrient-rich potato that’s resistant to drought and disease while possessing a high yielding power. One thing’s for certain: Canada’s potatoes stand up to the nutrition test — especially new, colourful varieties packed with powerful, disease-fighting antioxidants. A true dietary powerhouse, the potato is great as a side dish, in salads and dipped in ketchup. How do you prefer your spuds?