Potatoes are humble yes, but more importantly, delicious and versatile. I would be hard pressed to think of another vegetable that can be turned into so many delightful and satisfying dishes. All cultures love the spud; from gnocchi to aloo, dauphinoise, colcannon and not forgetting the perfect chip, potatoes are an essential ingredient.

But, most importantly, what makes a good spud? Bags of pre-washed generic multi-purpose potatoes just don't cut it. Different varieties need to be cooked in different ways.

Freshly dug new potatoes need only a gentle boil with sprigs of mint and then to be served with butter, flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

If you want to make the perfect mash, use Agria. It's a fluffy potato, which can also become crisp on the outside if cooked for a long time so is also perfect for sauteeing in duck fat, stuffing, baking, or using to make the perfect chip.

Waxy varieties are good for throwing into a casserole or soup or boiling for delicious summer potato salads. The first summer barbecues can't be too far away.

Look out for different varieties of Maori potatoes. Peruperu and Urenika have fantastic flavour and are delicious roasted or boiled in a salad. These varieties are becoming more widely available from gourmet food stores and supermarkets, but don't forget to check out local markets to learn more about these treasures, and to talk to the growers themselves. Try the Otara market for gorgeous produce plus interesting and entertaining history lessons that can make us all aware of the particular characteristics of the special spud.

CHEF'S TIP
Keep potatoes in a cool and dark place. Prolonged exposure to light makes the skin turn green - any green tinge indicates a bitter flavour and can also cause illness. Storing in a brown paper bag, not in plastic is all that is needed.