Yukon Gold is arguably one of the most successful potatoes in the world. It is a true culinary star. Hybridizers Garnet “Gary” Johnston and Jeff Rowberry dug the first hill of legendary spuds at Agriculture Canada’s Cambridge Research Station in 1980. It took many years of research. A short time before his death Johnston observed that “potato hybridizers are a patient lot”
Yukon Gold was the first Canadian-bred potato cultivar to be marketed with its name on the packaging when two Ontario growers began printing “Yukon Gold” on the side of the bags. It didn’t take long before chefs and consumers began to demand the potato by asking for it by name. Not much wonder, it’s not only delicious, it’s versatile. You can bake it, boil it, scallop it and even deep fry it and it answered the market’s demand for a disease-resistant, yellow-fleshed potato that could be easily grown in North America.
At the time Professor Johnson was working as the University of Guelph’s potato breeder and had a graduate student from Lima, Peru. It was tasting his Peruvian potatoes that spurred on Johnson’s breeding for a yellow potato that stayed yellow and cream coloured upon cooking. He bred in disease resistance and the rest is happy, culinary history.
Yukon Gold was named Seed of the Year – East for 2011, an annual competition honouring publicly developed Canadian cultivars that are judged for innovation, industry impact, value chain presence, sustainability and marketability. It is also a wonderful example of collaboration between the federal Agriculture & Agri-food Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
Photo taken by author at the Elora Research Station, University of Guelph.