(Family Features) Potatoes are the ultimate comfort food, but a few twists on classic side dishes like mashed potatoes, salads and casseroles can take potatoes to a whole new level. With so many delicious types available year-round, it's easy to create exciting and nutritious side dishes that can be the highlight of any meal.
Here's what you need to know about the seven different potato types to help you start experimenting with different colors, textures, cooking methods and flavor additions:
Fingerlings - These small, slender "finger-sized" potatoes range from two to four inches in length. They come in a wide range of skin and flesh colors and most possess a firm, waxy texture, which makes them ideal for potato salads. Pan-frying enhances their robust flavor and showcases their wonderful nutty or buttery tastes.
Petites - Petites share the same flavor and texture as their full-sized cousins, but their flavors are actually more concentrated, and they cook more quickly. Petites can be found in red, white, yellow, brown and purple, and make delicious roasted potatoes and potato salads.
Purples/Blues - Purple/blue potatoes have a deep purple skin with flesh that ranges from purple to almost white. The moist, firm flesh retains its shape and adds rich colors and a mild, yet distinctly nutty flavor to tossed salads. They are also sensational roasted.
Reds - Reds are widely known for their rosy red skin and white flesh. The moist, waxy flesh stays firm and flavorful throughout cooking, making it ideal for roasting. The slightly sweet, always-tender texture complements any dish, and the vibrant red skin adds appealing color and pizzazz to potato salad, soups and stews.
Russets - Russets are characterized by a brown, netted skin and white flesh. The delicate potato flavor and grainy texture of a baked russet creates light and fluffy mashed potatoes and crispy pan-fried potatoes.
Whites - This all-purpose potato has a white flesh and white (sometimes light tan) skin. They are slightly dense and creamy, with a subtly sweet flavor. Their delicate, thin skins add just the right amount of texture to mashed potatoes without the need for peeling. Grilling whites brings out a more full-bodied flavor; or use them in soups and stews.
Yellows - This type boasts golden skin and golden flesh. Grilling gives them a crispy skin, which enhances the dense and buttery texture, and gives them a slightly sweet, caramelized flavor. Their naturally smooth texture also lends itself well to lighter versions of baked or roasted potatoes.
To get more healthy potato recipes and to sign up for the US Potato Board's weekly recipe email, visit www.potatogoodness.com. You can also "like" the USPB on Facebook at www.facebook.com/potatoestatersandspuds to enter contests, sign up for sweepstakes and get new recipes with a community of potato lovers.
A medium size potato (5.3 ounces) with skin is 110 calories, has no fat, sodium or cholesterol, provides 45 percent of the Daily Value of vitamin C, and has more potassium than a banana.