Celebrating the humble spud

The humble potato comes in varieties big and small, and in colours ranging from creamy white, to orange, blue and purple. Jazzy, Vivaldi and Yukon Gold to name a few, the names of the types of potatoes available today are as varied as their uses, but in the 1960s, a more fundamental problem faced Britain’s potato growers.

Globodera Rostochiensis, a crop-­destroying potato pest was laying waste to the country’s favourite side dish. Enter Sir Roland Biffen and University of Cambridge Department of Agriculture’s Plant Breeding Institution (PBI). Since 1912, the PBI has been growing and breeding plants and crops to improve their yield and make them more resistant to disease.

Sir Roland Biffen, PBI director

After plenty of experimentation, in 1966, the PBI introduced the Maris Piper, which turned out to be not only resistant to the most common potato pests, but also one of the most delicious and versatile tubers around.

Perfectly fluffy and creamy, the Maris Piper was quickly filling stores as the country’s favourite.

The Maris Piper Profile

Over 19,000 hectares of Maris Piper potatoes were grown in the UK in 2012, making it the most popular potato of any variety on sale today.

A golden, crunchy outside and a perfectly fluffy, creamy middle, make the Maris Piper ideal for chips, mash, roast and jacket potatoes.

The Plant Breeding Institution sadly no longer exists, but along with strains of other disease-resistant crops, this often­unsung group can be thanked for the introduction of a staple now enjoyed by millions on a daily basis.

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