Potatoes, an essential food in human nutrition, have two new varieties produced by the Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development, NEIKER-Tecnalia, a not-for-profit Public Corporation that reports to the Department of Economic Development and Competitiveness of the Government of the Basque Autonomous Community (region). They are 'Entzia' and 'Miren', characterised by their great nutritional value and suitability for industrial processing. They are both striking in appearance since 'Miren' has a bright yellow flesh and 'Entzia' a purple one. This unique feature opens up for them an interesting possibility for use in homes and gastronomy in addition to being equally suitable for industrial purposes. The new root crops have been included in the Registry of Commercial Varieties.
The surprising purple colour is just one of the attractions of 'Entzia'. This variety is characterised by a high presence of antioxidant components, which gives it great nutritional value and turns it into a functional food. It also has a considerable quantity of anthocyanins, a pigment with a great bioactive potential and beneficial effects for human health, something that is highly valued in the processing of foods offering high added value.
Owing to its purple flesh and skin, 'Entzia' is destined mainly for the specialised and gastronomic market as well as for the foodstuff industry, as it is highly suitable for creating functional foods, purées and coloured fried potato chips. Its concentration of bioactive compounds -phenols and vitamin C, among others- and its antioxidant capacity are significantly higher than in the rest of the conventional varieties. Specifically, its phenol values are between 4 and 30 times higher than in the rest; and its antioxidant capacity, between 2 and 10 times higher.
'Entzia' also has a high concentration of iron, zinc, potassium and magnesium, four essential minerals for proper human nourishment. A 100g portion of this fresh potato contains about 25% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of iron and zinc plus 17% and 22% of the RDI of potassium and magnesium.
As regards its main culinary properties, the 'Miren' variety performs very well during the cooking process, has a good flavour and a firm, smooth texture. Its concentration of carotenes -an essential chemical element in the diet- is higher than that of the ordinary commercial varieties.
The high output of the 'Miren' potato combined with the fact that it is straightforward to wash, its oval shape, its striking yellow colour and its very superficial eyes make it a variety with great potential from the commercial point of view.
Another feature of 'Entzia' and 'Miren' are their increased resistance to disease, mainly to the 'Y' potato virus and Pectobacterium atrosepticum, respectively. Both diseases weaken the plant and deplete output considerably.
Natural creation process
The NEIKER-Tecnalia procedure for obtaining new varieties is based strictly on natural methods, through the crossing of different varieties with good agronomic characteristics and which offer resistance to the main diseases of this crop. Since 1933, when the Potato Improvement Centre was set up in Iturrieta (Álava), the R&D centre has been developing new varieties through a clonal selection process adapted to the agricultural and climate conditions of the various potato producing areas in Spain and the EU. So far, NEIKER-Tecnalia has registered over thirty varieties, some of which have been successful on national and international markets.
The production of high quality pre-base potatoes which are later distributed to production companies, is another of NEIKER-Tecnalia's functions, in addition to conducting quality analysis for fresh consumption and for industrial purposes.
The varieties obtained are destined to be consumed fresh or processed industrially: chips, pre-fried frozen, purées and the starch industry. The advantages of these local varieties include greater yield, cost cutting, greater resistance to a range of diseases, apart from not having to rely on externally acquired varieties.