Do you know the difference between seed potatoes and regular potatoes?
No? Don’t feel bad. The average person assumes all potatoes are similar. But, smart gardeners use seed potatoes to grow crops for their advantages over store-bought potatoes or ones you have grown yourself.
In this guide, I quickly detail what makes a seed potato different, whether they are safe to eat, and the pros and cons of using seed potatoes vs. regular potatoes for gardening.
By the end, you’ll be “in the know” about seed potatoes and see the benefits they bring to your next vegetable crop!
Seed Potatoes vs Regular Potatoes
What is the difference? Regular potatoes are typically found at the grocery store and have been grown by large commercial farming operations that often use sprout inhibitors. In contrast, seed potatoes are usually found for sale at garden centers or online and often carry a certified label for growing.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of each type, to see just how different these two potatoes are.
- Affordable price-per-pound
- Stores well for long periods
- Easily attainable any time of year from any local supermarket
- Treated with sprout-inhibitors to prevent growth during shipping and while on supermarket shelves
- Treated with a variety of other chemicals that can be harmful to humans
- Can carry diseases or pests that can transfer to your vegetable garden if planted for seed
- Should be free of diseases and pests that can ruin a potato crop
- Not sprayed with harmful chemicals that leech into the tuber
- Not treated with a sprout inhibitor which detracts from vigorous growth
- More expensive to purchase per-pound
- May be difficult to locate locally, which means you may have a long wait for shipping from a commercial seller
I will admit that many hobby gardeners use supermarket potatoes for seed, and the potatoes will grow. Just don’t expect them to grow as well as a true certified seed potato will.
The eventual harvest will also be smaller, which means you have spent a whole season tending to a low-producing crop, which is a complete waste of energy.
What Is A Seed Potato?
A seed potato is a potato explicitly grown for cutting into sections or planted whole, which will, in turn, develop and produce a new potato crop.
While home gardeners often set aside a portion of potatoes “for seed” to plant the next crop, they do not commonly sell them as an actual seed potato.
Seed potatoes are also not true potato seeds (TPS) but rather a “clone” of the mother plant.
What makes a potato a seed potato is that it is grown in a different environment than typical potatoes. Most USDA certified seed potatoes come from 15 northern states, eight in the East and Midwest, and seven in the West.
Since growing conditions are ideal in these regions for potato crops, the success rate of spuds that pass inspection and are clear for sale as USDA certified seed potatoes is high.
After harvest, growers do not spray the spuds with any type of sprout inhibitor or chemicals, which is commonplace for store-bought vegetables.
Another difference is that growers cultivate seed potatoes to be disease-free, which means they should grow with vigor when planted in your home garden.
The eyes on a seed potato are natural growing points, that when planted in soil or even left in storage too long, will begin to sprout a new plant. Each eye is capable of starting a new potato plant, and every potato typically averages about five eyes.
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Can You Eat Seed Potatoes?
Sure, you can eat seed potatoes, but they are best for use to grow new crops.
Why? Because commercial sellers of certified seed potatoes go through a rigorous testing process to ensure the potatoes are free from potential crop-destroying diseases or pests such as leafroll virus and Phytophthora infestans, better known as late blight.
It is common for small growers to unknowingly transfer diseases or viruses from one crop to the next when reusing potatoes from last season’s harvest for seed, so it’s understandable why there are strict standards for commercial seed potato sellers.
Homegrown seed potatoes are also safe to eat since gardeners rarely choose to spray them with any harmful substances before storage. These potatoes will look and taste just like any other potato as long as they haven’t already sprouted or have green flesh.
When you want delicious mashed potatoes, go ahead and pick up a bag of regular potatoes from your local market.
When you want to grow potatoes at home, don’t take any chances with weak growth, pests, or disease and only use certified seed potatoes. The final harvest will be much more abundant, and the tubers will be extra tasty!