The Yukon Gold Potato

The general trend in the Canadian diet has been for more fruits and vegetables and in particular, potato consumption is rising; Canadians now eat about 71 kg each per year. It is the number one vegetable crop grown in Canada. But stop for a minute and think about one of the key people behind the mashed potatoes you have with your turkey dinner.

Gary Johnston was born in Ontario in 1916. He was originally a teacher but enlisted in the RCAF in 1941. After the war he went back school, eventually getting his M.S.A degree and going to work for the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph and then the Canada Department of Agriculture (CDA). While with the CDA, he took over the potato breeding work. Gary helped develop over a dozen varieties of potatoes (of the 150+ that are grown in Canada) but Yukon Gold is certainly one of his most successful. He took a yellow-fleshed potato from Peru and crossed it about 66 times before getting viable seeds. Now the Yukon Gold potato is celebrating its 50 anniversary.

Oddly, one of the reasons it has been successful is the marketing aspect! This variety was the first Canadian-bred potato variety to be promoted, packaged and marketed with its name right on the pack. This lowly potato pays homage to the Yukon gold rush, both in it colour and in its rough and ready attitude towards life. It’s a versatile little tuber that is equally at home in the boiling pot, the oven or the deep fryer. And here’s a little known fact about potatoes in general: they have enough healthy bits in them, in the form of vitamins and minerals and protein to be considered a singular food source.

Be sure to visit How Does Your Garden Grow? the new hallway exhibit about gardening at the Galt Museum & Archives on display February 18 to June 24. Admission to the hallway and lower level exhibits is free.