If you were to ask an allotmenteer what their favourite potatoes are then you might see a few staples, Pink Fir apple perhaps for its flavour, Cara for its reliability. If you talk to someone in a supermarket it might be the Jersey Royal for new season flavour, Maris Piper, a good allrounder or King Edward for its roasties. Probably the one which might be on both peoples lists however is Charlotte.
Charlotte is an attractive light yellow fleshed, French bred salad variety. It is on the border between first and second early but is normally described as a second early. This means it will be ready 12 -16 weeks after planting so July-early August if planted in late March or early April. Its popularity is due to its fantastic buttery flavour, good looks and its reliability for the organic grower. It holds an RHS award of garden merit at the time of writing.
In the kitchen
Charlotte is an extremely well flavoured, slightly sweet salad potato. It is slightly waxy and therefore does not break up when boiled or steamed. Boiling or steaming is the usual way to use this potato but it does have a fair amount of dry matter so it would work as saute or crushed and even roasted or wedges although it will not be as good as mayan gold in that respect. It is a nice looking potato and can normally be served in its skins although you might want to peel older ones.
Yield and Plant Health
Expect upwards of ten hen egg sized potatoes per plant. Below is the harvest from one plant this year. Each plant should be enough to serve 2-4 portions.
In general charlotte are trouble free. Although their foliage is susceptible to blight their tubers are fairly resistant. They also have resistance to blackleg and some resistance to scab and slugs. The RHS have given them an award of garden merit which are given to the best varieties in their class.
Charlottes do not have great storage potential. Many will say they will only store for 1-2 weeks, however stored in a cool dark place in paper bags or hessian sacks I have kept them until December/Janurary. They will get more floury over time.
Very widely available in UK and Europe but also available at
There seems to be very limited suppliers in USA which is a shame. The one supplier I could find was
Wood Prarie Family Farm
When your seed potatoes arrive, remove them from the packaging and lay eye side up in egg boxes or on paper in a light, cool but frost free place. This is called chitting.
In late march – early April dig a narrow trench about 10cm deep. To improve yield you can line with compost or well rotted manure but it will make the potatoes more prone to slugs. You can water in some nematodes if it is warm enough who will infect any nearby slugs and will offer some protection for 6 weeks. You can repeat by watering them in when earthing up but make sure you are watering the soil not the foliage.
Space the seed potatoes 40cm apart in rows 30cm apart. Cover the potatoes with the soil from the trench. When the halms appear above the surface you will need to cover them with earth if there is sign of a frost coming. When they are about 20cm high you will want to draw soil about 15cm up the stems in to a flat topped ridge. This will reduce the likelihood of getting green potatoes due to light exposure as these are toxic. You can also earth up with a mulch of compost or straw.
Potatoes will not need much watering except in the driest of weathers when you would want to water well once a week. As a rule more water will lead to larger, but also more watery potatoes.
You can buy specialist potato fertiliser but a sprinkling of organic bone meal dug lightly in to the soil is all they will need, especially if you have dug in compost or manure on planting or have earthed up with compost.
Pests and diseases
Slugs – You can reduce the slugs by using nematodes watered in to the soil before planting.
Scab – Causes rough scabby patches on the potato skin and the flesh underneath. It is unsightly and can affect storage potential. Any potatoes with scab should be used quickly.
Blight – Fungal infection that can devastate any potato crop that has no resistance. Leaves will show browning patches, which get more and more prolific, including on the stems until the entire plant is covered. The foliage of any potato showing signs of blight should be cut down to the stems and removed. The potatoes left in the ground for a week before being dug up. If not caught early, blight can infect tubers, which will rot in storage but some are more resistant that others. There is no non chemical cure but some varieties are resistant.
Blackleg – Not very common in non commercial crops. A rot that withers the stems and travels down in to the tubers.
Rocket 1st early
Lady Christl 1st early
Casablanca 1st early
Swift 1st early
Anya 2nd early
Jazzy 2nd early
Mayan Gold Main crop