A potato billed as the first entirely new variety to arrive in the UK for 400 years has been launched by UK grower Greenvale.

It is a very close relative of the spud first brought to England during the reign of Elizabeth I, which is popularly credited to explorer Sir Walter Raleigh.

Greenvale says it had to follow in the footsteps of Raleigh's expedition to Peru to find the tuber, which is being called Mayan Gold.

It then took 15 years of research by agronomists to develop it into a plant capable of thriving in European climates.

Greenvale chairman Alan Owens said: "No one in Britain will have tasted a potato like this since Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne. We're looking at history on a plate. This is the biggest change we've seen to the potato industry since commercial cultivation in Britain began."

Mayan Gold boasts golden-coloured flesh and a buttery flavour not found in any other variety. It takes half the time of normal potatoes to cook, and is better steamed than boiled.

The new variety, which is already being used in some restaurants, is going into Tesco and Sainsbury's today (7 October) and is expected to cost about £2/kg.

Greenvale reckons the variety could create a market worth £1bn a year within five years.

Another advantage of the spud is that it is less thirsty than traditional varieties, said Owens, allowing it to perform better in drier years. But it falls short of the huge yields of modern varieties, with about half the crop per hectare of Maris Piper. At present it is grown commercially only in Shropshire.

In a replay of the legendary occasion when Raleigh first presented the potato to his Queen, Greenvale is hoping to present a Mayan Gold to HRH Elizabeth II.

The company expects the variety to be popular among European growers.

Sainsbury's senior buyer John Maylam said: "Mayan Gold provides a great opportunity for our customers to try something new."