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Better than gold

Trials in gardens across North Dakota show 'Yukon Gem' is more productive and superior overall compared to 'Yukon Gold'.

Close-up of 'Yukon Gem' with white background‘Yukon Gold’ is one of the most popular spuds in North Dakota. We love its distinctive yellow flesh. It is so flavorful that it seems like it already comes with butter! The thin golden skins of ‘Yukon Gold’ are perfect for cooking, and the potatoes are delicious any way you cook them: baked, grilled or boiled.

Gardeners like ‘Yukon Gold’ because it is one of the first potatoes to mature. You are guaranteed a harvest no matter how cool the summer is. However, its yields are lower than other varieties we grow. 

Potato breeders have challenged themselves to increase the yields of ‘Yukon Gold’. Twenty years ago, breeders at North Dakota State University crossed it with the Scottish variety ‘Brodick’, creating ‘Yukon Gem’. After years of testing, ‘Yukon Gem’ is now appearing in catalogs.

Trials conducted in 47 gardens across the state this year showed ‘Yukon Gem’ is superior to ‘Yukon Gold’. 

Sixty-eight percent of our team preferred ‘Yukon Gem’ over ‘Yukon Gold’. This is remarkable as ‘Yukon Gold’ entered the trial with a strong and positive reputation. Eighty-five percent of our team recommended ‘Yukon Gem’ to other gardeners.

‘Yukon Gem’ vines were healthier and its yields were greater (see table). Gardeners were not asked to weigh their harvest, but four families did. They reported an average yield of 50 pounds for ‘Yukon Gem’ in a 10-foot row, compared to 24 pounds for ‘Yukon Gold’.

‘Yukon Gem’ tubers were slightly smaller but more attractive and uniform. Taste was comparable—gardeners loved the flavor of both varieties. One gardener noted:

“I grow potatoes for flavor. ‘Yukon Gem’ is fabulous. Great texture; wonderful flavor.”

Besides its greater productivity, ‘Yukon Gem’ shows greater resistance to scab and late blight. ‘Yukon Gem’ matures 10 days later than ‘Yukon Gold’, making it a mid-season potato.

Go to Google to find seed sources of these potato varieties.

The full report of this and 54 other trials will be posted at www.ag.ndsu.edu/homegardenvarietytrials/ by December 20. This report includes data and comments from over 400 gardeners.

Performance of potato varieties in side-by-side tests in North Dakota gardens (47 sites).

Trait                            ‘Yukon Gem’       ‘Yukon Gold’              Same
Germinated best                 30 %                    18 %                      52 %
Healthier plants                   44                         7                           49
Higher yields                       55                        23                          23
More attractive tubers         45                        27                          27
Tasted better                      26                        17                          57
Preference                          68                        32
Recommend to others        85                        66
Overall rating1                    8.21                     6.98    

1Rated on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 = poor and 10 = excellent.

Source: Potato Variety Management Institute. Yukon Gem: Yellow flesh with better yields. Bend, OR.

Written by Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. Published in the NDSU Yard & Garden Report, November 15, 2014. Photo courtesy of the Potato Variety Management Institute.

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