Potato Sarpo Mira

Never has a vegetable caused so much delight and such pain as the humble potato. Its introduction to Europe enabled massive population increases being a fairly easy to grow, balanced and cheap source of nutrition, especially in Ireland which became almost completely reliant on the potato as a staple crop. Therefore when blight (a fungus) hit Europe in 1845, decimating crops and rotting them in the fields and spread rapidly towards Ireland, it had one deadly outcome….famine.

Combined with a negligent British Government who acted too little and too late to step in and even continued to import food to England when the Irish were starving it is estimated that the potato famine killed between 300k and 1.5m million in Ireland and another million or more emigrated to seek a better life. The Irish population shrunk by 20%.

Although a solution to blight, in the form of Bordeaux mixture (another fascinating discovery) was found, most home growers have no wish to cover their potatoes in noxious chemicals and in-fact most are banned now for all but commercial growers, therefore the development of a truly resistant potato was eagerly awaited.

Therefore it is no surprise that the potato to cause the biggest stir around the world since blight was first spotted was the Sarpo Mira. A Hungarian potato, technically written Sárpo Mira and pronounced Sharpo was established in 1994 and is a cross of wild Mexican and South American potatoes with Hungarian stock. It took a further 6 years for it to be commercially released however it has never really been grown in the UK as a commercial variety, (it isn’t the prettiest of potatoes) instead you are most likely to see it in allotments and kitchen gardens where organic growing is key.

When first released the Sarpo Mira wasn’t universally loved. Mine looked a bit like dragon eggs and they have a very tough skin and very dry matter so need lashings of butter or oil to make them palatable and they are not the strongest tasting potato….however who doesn’t like lashings of butter and the thick skin makes for a wonderfully crunchy jacket potato and the thick skin means no slugs which means this is the first potato I have comfortably make in to a jacket potato without hoping that there would be no additional protein hiding inside!

Potato Sarpo Mira ©lucysaunders2021

In the Kitchen

Sarpo Mira is a large potato with a thick skin and very floury flesh. It is best for baking, roasting, chips or mashed potato.

Yield and plant health

It’s blight resistant means that Sarpo Mira will continue bulking up until very late in the season and the foliage may only be killed by frost. Therefore you will need to cut the foliage two weeks before you want to lift for storage. Its thick skin means that Sarpo is almost immune to slugs however I did find it has issues with scab and cracking, although the independent potato database suggests that scab is not an issue. Its an unsightly looking potato but I found it still stored very well with little sprouting even in to March the following year.

Potato Sarpo Mira ©lucysaunders2021

Supplier

DT Brown

Thompson & Morgan

Mr Fothergills

Suttons

Potato Sarpo Mira ©lucysaunders2021

Growing

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.

Potato Sarpo Miro ©lucysaunders2021

Alternatives

Rocket 1st early

Lady Christl 1st early

Casablanca 1st early

Swift 1st early

Anya 2nd early

Jazzy 2nd early

Charlotte 2nd Early

Mayan Gold Main crop

Potato Sarpo Miro ©lucysaunders2021

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