My Potato Growing 2011
I have decided this year, because of all that is going on in my life, that I will grow only potatoes, in the veg department. When the first ones, set to chit, were ready to be planted it was too cold for me to go in to the garden. I did mean to spray the tubers with seaweed extract to keep them in good condition, until I had the opportunity to plant them. I had to go away unexpectedly and I did not do it.
In the past few years all of my veg growing has been in pots to make for easier harvesting. I get less return but the potatoes are just as tasty. I came across “Potato Days” at a Garden Centre in Wantage several years ago and the beauty of them is that individual seed potatoes are sold at very reasonable prices making it easy to plant a selection. Most domestic gardeners do not have the space to plant more than a few kilos of potatoes and as they are traditionally sold in sacks of 1kg or 3kg there is no room for variety. I have been able to sample varieties previously unknown to me. Heritage potatoes which cannot be sold because of their disease history were able to be rescued for us by a clever chap named Alan Romans. He had the idea that the diseases could be bred out of these varieties by planting them in laboratory conditions and eventually he was able to sell microplants. I was brought up in a rural family where one did not plant ones own seed but swapped with other gardeners each year to ensure the dreaded blight etc did not visit your garden. I have successfully planted left over supermarket spuds but often they have been treated with a growth retardant to ensure their keeping qualities and the growers income. Last year I grew 75 potatoes in 75 pots of various sizes. This year, following a talk at our gardening group by an East Lothian compost maker, I am experimenting with 2 or 3 seed potatoes in my larger pots.
I often wondered why most books say rub off excess eyes before planting. Apparently this is because you get a bigger crop of small potatoes if you leave the eyes on and less but bigger tubers from less eyes. The weight yield should be about the same. If you are showing, this can be tricky, because you need to know which variety is supposed to be for baking etc. The judges recognise most of the potatoes on show and will take in to account the size according to the variety. I need to know what is in each pot because last year the labels faded into oblivion and I was totally flummoxed as to what was where. This year I have made labels using photos of the crop and catalogue descriptions which I laminated and stapled on to recycled blind slats. The seed were mainly bought from Alan Romans but those marked * were bought at Marshfield Potato Day from Pennard Plants.
Here is what I am growing this year.
Vanessa (1st Early) is very like an early Desiree but the tubers tend to be smoother and more suitable for exhibition use. Even the foliage is very Desiree like.
Vanessa – 1973 , Potatoes (Tubers)
International Kidney (1st Early) This is actually a Victorian early maincrop, a strain of which when grown in Jersey is treated as an early and is harvested small and not fully grown and sold under the trade mark “Jersey Royals” – see also Early Maincrop category.
International Kidney – 1879 , Potatoes (Tubers)
British Queen (2nd Early). “Queens” were bred by Archibald Findlay in 1893 and quickly became the UK’s most popular second early. They are rare now in the UK but still dominate summer production in Ireland. Their great flavour and dry, floury texture are legendary. The variety received a Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit recently – almost exactly 100 years after it and some of its synonyms did the same thing! Yields are surprisingly high.
British Queen – 1894 AGM 1998 , Potatoes (Tubers)
*Charlotte (2nd Early) Our best seller. This is a reliable, high yielding, waxy, salad type. Good flavour has made this a standard reference variety in the taste tests which are used to judge the flood of new salad varieties. Many of these have Charlotte as a parent yet most are struggling to have anything like the quality. I have been surprised at how large Charlotte can grow in heavy flinty soils in the south of England.
Charlotte – 1981 AGM 1998 & 2003 , Potatoes (Tubers)
Lord Rosebery (2nd Early)was formerly in our Conservation Potato section. It is a red second early, probably bred by the garden staff of the Dalmeny Estate (owned by Lord Rosebery) near South Queensferry, west of Edinburgh, sometime before 1920. The flesh is white and floury and the eyes are deep.
Blue Danube (2nd Early) This is a “new” Sarpo variety although they don’t use the prefix on a variety they don’t regard as blight resistant – it is still more resistant than any other non-Sarpo variety!- particularly if the very high tuber blight resistance is considered. Beautiful blue skin with pale flesh. It has full yellow eelworm resistance. When first trialled as “Adam’s Blue” this was well received both for flavour and appearance – it even featured in Medwyn Williams last gold medal display at Chelsea.
Blue Danube (New release) , Potatoes (Tubers)
Dark Red Norland was formerly in our Conservation Potato section. It is an attractive dark red early maincrop from North Dakota Agricultural College which is in the UK National Collection. It is of recent origin (c1999) and has been brought over because someone liked the colour and cooking characteristics. My picture does not do full justice to the colouration when mature. Only available in 0.5kg trial packs as supplied by the grower.
Highland Burgundy Red (Early Maincrop) Formerly in our Conservation Potato section,this is an almost all red, long tubered, early maincrop variety very like some old types still grown in S. America. The central pith tissue is a burgundy colour with a very narrow white cortex band surrounding it. The skin is bright red when freshly dug but becomes more russet with underlying burgundy when it sets. Much of the colour remains when tubers are cooked, particularly if they are steamed or fried. The cooked potato is fluffy in texture and can have a slightly sweet flavour. HBR looks as if it should be suitable for salad use but the variety has high dry matter and makes good novelty crisps, chips and mash. Gordon and Sue Baldam gave me my first tuber at the East Anglian Potato Event. I arranged for it to be micropropagated and cleaned of its heavy virus content. It was placed in the disease free in vitro part of the National Collection. Red Salad which is probably the same variety had come and gone, possible more than once, in the field grown part of the National Collection.
Highland Burgundy Red pre 1936 (Organic) , Potatoes (Tubers)
Madeleine (Early Maincrop) is exciting Agrico, the largest potato company in Europe, who predict it will be the next “big” variety in Europe. They have only a tiny Scottish production of this new variety which they are expanding. It gives record yields of uniform, attractive, yellow, general purpose tubers with a good early yield of waxy tubers. Disease resistance is fair to good for almost all diseases and it is resistant to yellow eelworm. Eating and cooking qualities are claimed to be “first class”.
*New high yielding general purpose red with white flesh. Initial flavour assessment good. Some disease resistance including to virus, tuber blight and yellow eelworm.
Rudolph – 2000 , Potatoes (Tubers)
Salad Blue was formerly in our Conservation Potato section. It is a vigorous early maincrop which produces lots of useful looking, all blue, oval tubers. It is much more productive than the other well known all blue variety, Congo. It is not a salad for it has high dry matter and produces excellent deep blue novelty crisps, chips and mash. The red, purple and blue pigments in potatoes are anthocyanins which are antioxidants. They are completely tasteless but have strong anticarcinogen properties. I sometimes wonder if the colour in novelty crisps balances the harm that the frying process does! The Salad Blue flowers are very distinctive. They are strong with white and blue/ purple petals and yellow anthers which turn black, presumably when the unusually dark pollen is released. Only “tops” left -fairly large tubers from the seed crop – we will send 8 tubers as “1kg”
Salad Blue – 1900 , Potatoes (Tubers)
Arran Victory – 1918 (Organic) , Potatoes (Tubers) Late Maincrop)This is the oldest Arran still available and is rare. It is high yielding given a long growing season. The vivid blue/ purple skin contrasts with the bright white flesh. It is floury, very tasty and makes wonderful mash. The foliage is vigorous and weed suppressing. It was kept going in Northern Ireland and a corner of S.W. Scotland until it was picked up in recent times by some of the seed catalogue companies. Sourced from an organic farm but we are not licensed to repack and label as “organic”. Only large tubers from this crop left – will send 8 tubers per “kilo” ordered.
Bred in Northern Ireland from Maris Piper – it does have the much liked Piper flavour and texture. It is still sought after, particularly in Ulster, for the high yield and high dry matter combined with disease resistance, including to yellow eelworm . Fries very well
Sarpo Axona – 2003 , Potatoes (Tubers) (Late Maincrop) Officially just Axona but it is better known with the prefix. The two available red Sarpos are similar, coming from the same cross produced, after decades of work, by the Sarvari family in Hungary. They produce high food value crops in varying conditions and in a wide range of soils. Blight resistance is exceptional – only Sarpo Mira is better in my opinion. This variety is capable of growing new leaves at least as fast as old leaves slowly succumb to the infection. Tuber blight resistance is so high that I recommend not cutting the foliage when initial infection is spotted. Cut down say towards the end of August to prevent the continuously developing tubers from getting too large and too starchy. I think Axona has the better flavour over Mira by a small margin but I am a “floury” person and opinions vary.
*Mr. Littles Yetholm Gypsy – 1899 , Potatoes (Tubers(Available Early Feb 2011) From the Scottish lowlands, named for the late Mr Little of Yetholm, a shepherd who kept it for 50 yrs. He was given the tubers at a horse fair in the 1940s, & told it was an old variety even then, Uniquely these cream-white fleshed spuds have a really unusual swirl of cream, purple & pink skin, all on the same potato. Floury with an excellent, strong, rich, old-fashioned flavour can be harvested from around late August.
I hope this has not bored you.I will attempt to weigh and display the proceeds as we go through the year.
- 7 Apr, 2011
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