The Walrus: Inside Canada's Secret Potato Laboratory

Inside Canada's Secret Potato Laboratory for The Walrus


Inside Canada's Secret Potato Laboratory

The Walrus | April 2017

This cover story follows the science and history of potato breeding at one of Canada's leading research stations, focusing on the development of the Shepody, a potato that revolutionized the French fry industry.

In a windowless basement lab in Fredericton, New Brunswick, three white-coated researchers solemnly face a row of steaming boiled potatoes resting on numbered plates.

At first glance, the tubers are identical, but closer inspection reveals variations: their exteriors range from crumbly to smooth, their tints from snowy to golden; on some, dark spots mar the creamy flesh.

The scientists pick and prod the specimens with stainless-steel forks and assign each variety a score based on its colour, flavour, texture, and appearance. The researchers taste and smell as if they were sommeliers—and then scrape the leftovers into a plastic garbage bag.