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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.

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What a lot of spuds you will have S.gran what do you do with yours when cooking?? Mash, roast etc. do you have any spuddy recipes?

7 Apr, 2011


Better than that Grandmage I have a diet sheet I was given at the hospital which says I can eat as many potatoes as I want. We love potatoes and find different varieties cook better for one thing rather than another. I often make more thanI need for the two of us and they are popped in the freezer to use when I am busy. The simplest potato dishes that I make quite often are a Spanish omelette using eggs, chopped boiled potato, cheese, a chopped onion and peppers and any thing else which comes to hand.We also love a baked potato with a filling of chopped mushrooms cooked in a little knob of butter, add some lemon juice and chopped crispy bacon to make a filling and tasty lunch. Instead of fattening fish cakes, I line individual souffle dishes with smoked salmon, fill up with mashed potato, fold over the excess salmon and bake in the microwave until the salmon starts changing to pink. Serve on a bed of leaves with a wedge of lemon and toasted fingers. Fish pie would not be fish pie without potato topping and cauliflower and chopped cooked ham in a cheese sauce in a piedish with a topping of sliced potato or mash if you prefer it is good even in the warmer months. We love our potatoes. Home grown you do not need to peel them. A quick scrub and cook. Being Scottish we like Stovies. Melt the roast dripping from the Sunday roast lamb, fry sliced onions in it, add sliced raw potato, add some seasoned stock made from the roast bones and cook long and gently until cooked. Any left over lamb can be chopped in bite size pieces and added to the mixture. Cullen skink Potato and fish soup is another firm favourite.

7 Apr, 2011


I grew desiree last year. I grew them in big pots. They were all right but needed a lot of watering. They weren not floury though, and I like floury potatoes.
Good luck with your potatoes. You have lots :)

8 Apr, 2011


Fab. recipies there Gran. thanks so much, will copy and paste them and try some!!! On the diet I follow I also can eat tatties ! :~))

8 Apr, 2011


Thank you Grandmage I like to rustle something up as quickly as possible unless we are having visitors then I like to cook somethingmore elaborate. Thank you Hywel. I DK why your Desiree was not floury. It is a floury potato.

8 Apr, 2011


? I don't know then ? but I don't remember them being floury :( Never mind. I may try again next year.

9 Apr, 2011


Lots of useful potato information for GoY in this blog.
... good luck with your potato-growing :o)

13 Apr, 2011


Thank you.

13 Apr, 2011



13 Apr, 2011


Excellent blog. Really interesting. Have planted International Kidneys and 'Apache'. Bought apache as I'd never heard of them and liked the name, so thought I'd give them a go. I've got 'Vales Emerald' ready to plant, just waiting for them to chit. Never had these before either. Thompson and Morgan had an offer on, for £4.50 get 5 seed pots, growing sack and 6 packets of veg seeds, so thought I'd give them a try. Happy potato harvesting. :o)

13 Apr, 2011


And you Lindalooloo. We will need to compare notes at the end of the season. maybe do a blog about yields and growing methods. Last year i thought i had watered my pots well but when i emptied one to see what resultsI had I found only the top 2" were really wetthe rest was as dry as a bone. This year I have used soil from the garden where I dug out a bed of perennials which were overgrown with both Bishop weed and convolvulus. I expect the potatoes might have scab on them because there was a lot of dead lime in the soil which came from the church which we knocked down.

13 Apr, 2011


I found last year the ants made their homes in my buckets, so much so, that it turned my stomach to sift through the potatoes. My husband had to do it, as there were what looked like eggs or little cocoons all in amongst the soil. but the spuds themselves were fine.

14 Apr, 2011


Nasty. I'm glad I did not have anything like that. Did you know that you can leave the International Kidney and they grow big enough to use as Baking Potatoes. They are a lot drier and more floury then too. I have not tried the others you mention.

14 Apr, 2011


The Apache potatoes are Red. Other than that don't know anything about them. Didn't know the Kidneys would grow that big either. All mine are in buckets, I have no room in the garden, but have planted them this way for a couple of years, and they seem to grow ok, except for the Ant invasion. Thing is, you can't beat a homegrown spud. hahaha. :o))

16 Apr, 2011


I have had a look at the Albert Bartlett website where they show a photograph of Apache. It is very attractive, being red with white blotches. They recommend blaching in the skin before roasting. They say it has an excellent, almost sweet, buttery chestnut flavour.Sounds very nice.

16 Apr, 2011


Made my mouth water reading your comment Grandmage. hahaha. :o))

18 Apr, 2011


Thank you Lindalooloo. I am writing a blog to update the results I got from my potato growing if you want to see what happened once they were in the pots.

12 Feb, 2012

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