This week the ultimate roasting potato is available once again for the festive season. Inca Bella is known as the ultimate roasting potato because it’s one of the fastest and tastiest around. Traditional roasting varieties like Maris Piper and King Edward have a high level of dry matter, hence the floury texture that makes a lovely crispy roast on the outside that’s smooth and fluffy on the inside. Inca Bella has this too, but when examined under a microscope you can see that those floury starch molecules are naturally configured into a more ordered cellular structure. That means that when heat is applied the cells break down more quickly allowing the starch grains to swell and soften. And that’s the key to a faster cooking time. It only needs minimal par-boiling before roasting and is also ideal for making quicker wedges or oven chips.
Inca Bella is one of the recent successes from Branston’s potato variety development programme, and it was whittled down from over 1,500 potential new varieties. The development process began at the Scottish Crop Research Institute (now the James Hutton Institute) back in 2000 as part of the company’s ongoing mission to improve the range of potato varieties on offer. Branston’s variety development is market-led, and follows extensive research into the attributes that consumers would like to see in potatoes. Inca Bella is the result of crossing a variety from the Solanum phureja family, the indigenous potato species of the Andes, with our standard Solanum tuberosum species, which is fully acclimatised to our environment and grows well in the UK. It incorporates the best features from both ‘parents’.
The key attributes that the phureja brings are a golden coloured flesh which has a slightly sweet, nutty flavour and that much quicker cooking time. It’s got quite a distinctive look about it too, compared to a standard UK white potato. It tends to be quite long, oval in shape and has pink splashes on a golden skin. While under development it had the variety code 00.H14.A3. By 2008 testing was looking very positive so it was time to find a suitable name. Branston asked visitors at the Eden Project’s Festival of Food & Farming to help name it and the result was Inca Bella.
With each growing season Branston has been working on multiplying up stocks of Inca Bella so that it can meet the growing demand from consumers. Inca Bella is currently available in selected Waitrose branches but it is still a seasonal line with limited availability. When it was launched in November 2014 sales increased week on week and it proved so popular that it sold out within six weeks. In 2015 the variety was awarded a Waitrose Supplier Award for Product Innovation and was featured on the BBC’s One Show, winning in a taste test against traditional roasting varieties. Based on feedback from Waitrose shoppers its arrival has been eagerly anticipated, so sales are expected to be brisk.