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.
Occasionally you find a variety of vegetable that in one mouthful reminds you exactly why, despite the graft and occasional disappointments you started growing your own in the first place, This vegetable for me last year was Foremost. First earlies can sometimes be a little lacking in flavour but Foremost taste exactly like you would hope that a potato would taste.
f you were to ask an allotmenteer what their favourite potatoes are then you might see a few stapels, 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.
In my last post I had a bit of a grumble about a variety of bean Sprite that I just didn’t feel lived up to the RHS award of garden merit it had been given. The second early salad/waxy potato Jazzy however is the complete opposite. I rarely get blown away by a new variety but Jazzy knocked my socks off.
There are two potatoes that vie for the earliest which is Rocket and Swift. For growing in pots under cover for potatoes in June they are the ones to try, producing smallish salad potatoes. However they both seriously loose out in the speed versus flavour competition so for that reason you might want to sow…
Growing your own has certain advantages, the sweetness of sweetcorn taken straight from the plant and plunged in to boiling water, peas eaten straight from the pod. A third is choosing plant varieties, many of which have superior eating qualities but do not store well so are not stocked by supermarkets. Arran pilot is one of those. First developed in the 1930’s it was never commercially a success but is a favourite among allotmenteers. It is a first early potato so one of the earliest to be harvested, from about mid June but starts to deteriorate in flavour and texture within about 2 weeks of harvesting so the only way you will try it is if you grow your own.
I’ve just dug up the last of my first early potatoes and will soon be moving on to the second earlies. This year my most successful first earlies were Lady Christl. Slice Lady Christl open and you will see a buttery yellow interior. This butteriness is carried on in to the flavour. It’s reminiscent of the nations favourite Charlotte but not as sweet, instead there are slight parsley notes.
There is something very satisfying about scraping back the soil to reveal your first potato harvest. If you just can’t wait to try your homegrown potatoes then a small sowing of Rocket may be for you. Rocket is a first early and is one of the earliest potato crops in the UK. It probably just pips Swift to the crown of earliest potatoes. Rock can be lifted, in warmer parts of the UK where frost protection has been given as early as late May, for most it will be about 10-12 weeks after planting.
Those of you who are not Sainsbury’s customers might never have heard of the potato Anya.
Anya was bred in 1996 by a collaboration between the Scottish Crop Research Institute and the Sainsbury’s family and was named after the former ballerina Lady Sainsbury. I’m not too sure how I would feel about having a potato named after me but she must have loved it as Sainsbury’s have been selling it ever since.
The potato growing aficionados among you will probably already have scores of egg boxes sitting on your windowsills with potatoes “chitting” in the sunlight in preparation for this years planting.
Now is the time, if you haven’t already to buy potatoes. Leave them much longer and they will begin to sprout in the store bags and it then becomes a complicated entanglement to get them out of the netting that most are packaged in.
One of the more traditional varieties you can pick up still is Red Duke of York which was bred in the 1940’s as a sport from it’s older parent Duke of York. Red Duke of York is a first early and should start to be ready from mid to late July although they can be left longer to get to a baking size..
Having been a bit sniffy about deconstruct foods like deconstructed apple pie being blobs of apple, crumble and custard on a plate I’m going to give you today a deconstructed patatas bravas only so that you can use it as a canape. Pop a cocktail stick in to the potato to save your guests sticky fingers and use the tomato sauce as a relish, for this reason I’ve made it a bit more chunky than the traditional Madrid recipe which is more like a pouring sauce. For that reason I don’t think you can really call this Patatas Bravas but it’s really good, trust me!
Here’s looking at you spud! Of all the allotments in all the world, you had to walk in to this one! Cook it Sam, if you can cook it for her, you can cook it for me!
I spent some time trying to find a little about this darling modern variety of potato including how it got its exotic name. Is it named in honour of the film, the city? Does it originate from Casablanca (unlikely)? If anyone finds out then do let me know.
Sometimes a trendy vegetable comes along that everyone is talking about but often when you try it you are left a little bemused as to what all the fuss is about. This is not the case with Mayan Gold potatoes. These potatoes are a recent introduction bred from the Peruvian Phureja potatoes.
You would be forgiven for thinking these crisps are beetroot. In fact they are a purple potato called purple majesty.
I’ve not had much success growing first earlies that get to a large enough size to be bakers.