When it comes to growing potatoes, understanding the difference between seed potatoes and regular potatoes can be a bit confusing. But, it’s important to understand their differences to have a successful tuber harvest this season.
The main difference between seed potatoes and regular potatoes is that regular potatoes are treated with a sprout inhibitor to give them a longer shelf life. Seed potatoes do not have this treatment and are also certified disease-free to help prevent the spread of common potato diseases.
I’ll go over these differences in more detail as well as what a true potato seed is. I’ll also share how you can make your own seed potatoes at home!
How are seed potatoes different from regular potatoes?
Although they look similar, seed potatoes are actually quite different from the potatoes you buy at the grocery store for several reasons.
For starters, grocery store potatoes are oftentimes treated with a chemical to keep them from sprouting and to preserve their shelf life. Ever notice how potatoes seem to last forever on the shelf? Well, you can thank the sprout inhibitor for that.
Seed potatoes are not treated with this chemical because obviously, you want the tubers to sprout when you plant them.
Seed potatoes are also certified disease-free. If you plant a regular potato in your garden, you run the risk of introducing new diseases into your soil that can not only ravage your potato crop, but also other crops in the nightshade family like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.
Although seed potatoes are better for production purposes, this does mean their price tends to be a little higher than regular potatoes. To me, it’s worth it though. You get what you paid for.
How to tell if your potatoes are certified disease-free?
Any seed potatoes you buy from a well-known seed provider in the U.S. are required to pass several tests and inspections to prove that they are truly disease free. If any of the potatoes test positive for disease, they are no longer allowed to be sold.
This is why it’s important to purchase seeds from a reputable source as this will ensure that they have passed certification. Some good seed companies that I like include Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Fedco Seeds, and High Mowing Organic Seeds just to name a few.
Can you plant shriveled seed potatoes?
Yes! You can still plant shriveled seed potatoes. As long as you don’t see any signs of rot or mold, you should be good to go.
Sometimes the seed potatoes that seed companies send you will already be a little shriveled anyway. But this isn’t anything to worry about. Just pay attention as you’re planting and toss any questionable potatoes.
We have a great article all about planting shriveled potatoes that you can check out here.
Are true potato seeds and seed potatoes the same thing?
Nope! It’s a little confusing because they sound like pretty much the same thing, but they’re not. Seed potatoes don’t look anything like a seed and just look like regular potatoes.
A true potato seed comes from the fruit of the potato plant. When you grow potatoes, you may notice that they set flowers that can sometimes turn into little tomato-looking fruits. These fruits are not edible and can be toxic if consumed.
Inside this fruit are the tiny potato seeds which, in theory, should grow into a new potato plant.
Why not use actual seeds?
Using true potato seeds isn’t very practical. For starters, they can be a challenge to harvest, and a lot of the time, potato plants won’t even set fruit that can be harvested.
They also take significantly longer to grow into a mature potato plant than common seed potatoes. Unless you have a good indoor space to start seeds, it will be very difficult to get anything to germinate outside in the dead of winter.
Lastly, remember all that stuff I mentioned earlier about seed potatoes being certified disease free? True potato seeds don’t have this certification so there’s no way to tell if you’re introducing new diseases into your garden.
How to make your own seed potatoes?
If you want to do a little experiment and try making your own seed potatoes, there is a way to do it. Just keep in mind that these potatoes will obviously not be certified disease free and may have a lower germination rate than seed potatoes you would buy from a seed company.
To make your own seed potatoes, you first want the tubers to sprout a little bit.
A lot of times, garden potatoes will do this on their own if you leave them on the shelf long enough but if you want them to sprout quicker, you can leave them close to a window where they get a little bit of indirect light.
Once the tubers have small sprouts growing from their eyes, you can cut your potatoes into pieces, leaving one sprout or eye per cut piece. Without a sprout or eye, there’s a good chance that piece won’t grow into anything.
Leave your newly cut tuber pieces somewhere to dry. Eventually, the cut sides will harden and scab over leaving you with a new seed potato!
If you’re not ready to plant right away, store the seed potatoes in a dry, dark place to prevent any mold from growing.
Interested in more potato-growing tips? Check these articles on:
- When to harvest potatoes
- What to grow after potatoes to extend your harvest
- How to avoid growing small potatoes
- How to grow no-dig potatoes
By now, I hope I’ve cleared up any confusion on the difference between seed potatoes, regular potatoes, and also true potato seeds. I know it seems a little convoluted but the distinctions are important. So let’s recap:
True potato seeds: