…six potato, seven potato, eight potato, more

March 27, 2010 at 1:22 pm 18 comments

Choosing which seed potatoes to grow when faced with well over a hundred different varieties is an overwhelming task.  Unless you hitch your wagon to an expert like Andy McQueen, and just buy the spuds he names.  Which is what I did.  In previous years my choice has been limited to 3 or 4 varieties and I’ve planted them in one great sowing-fest at the start of the summer (don’t ask me why the first weekend in June; just a habit that formed the first year of  our bumper Robinta crop!).  This year I’ll be growing a handful of each of the varieties below and staggering my sowing from April to June.

Andy’s favourite First Earlies

Epicure
A heritage variety (1897) making a comeback.  Produces a good crop of round white skinned potatoes with floury white flesh.  Slug resistant and recovers well from an early cold snap.

Red Duke of York
A heritage variety (1942).  Red skinned oval tubers with a dry yellow flesh making it a popular choice for boiling and chipping (don’t disintegrate).

Vales Emerald – a new Maris Peer/Charlotte cross producing early salad potatoes.  Round, white skinned tubers with firm creamy flesh.  Produces a high yield with good resistance to blight and scab.

Andy’s favourite Second Earlies

British Queen
A rare heritage variety (1894) becoming more popular.  Produces high yields of oval white skinned tubers.  Dry, floury white flesh packed with flavour when boiled, baked or roasted.  Excellent dry rot resistance.

Mona Lisa
A Dutch variety producing large oval (almost pear shaped) white tubers with a creamy, almost buttery flesh.  A good all rounder in the kitchen with moderate resistance to disease.

Wilja
A Dutch bred variety cultivated to produce high yields of light yellow skinned tubers in a shorter time period.  Firm yellow waxy flesh with a floury taste.  Good flavour and excellent boiling qualities.

Andy’s favourite Main Crops

Sarpo
Sarpo varieties are prized for their resistance to blight and slugs. I bought Sarpo Mira – red skinned oval shaped tubers with yellow, floury flesh.  Grows well in a variety of soil types and has vigorous weed suppressing foliage (if blight symptoms appear on the leaves it doesn’t transfer to the tuber). Sarpo Axona also available.

Arran Victory
A heritage variety first introduced around 1918.  Bluish/purple tubers with brilliant white flesh.  Very floury and need to be simmered gently to to avoid disintegration.  Particularly well suited to mashing, roasting and baking.  Good blight resistance.  I thought I must have misheard Andy’s ‘Victory’ as I picked through the ‘Victoria’ tubers but it turns out I should have been searching under ‘A’.  Never mind I can look forward to high yields of large yellow fleshed tubers with an excellent flavour and outstanding natural pest and disease resistance instead!

Blue Danube
This variety wasn’t available loose so I won’t be growing it this year.  Apparently it’s a stunning blue/purple skinned variety with bright white flesh. Produces large oval shaped tubers that bake well.

Valor
Evenly sized white skinned round tubers with creamy white flesh. Good flavour and tolerance to blight and eelworm.  Dave at out allotment is a fan of Valor potatoes and he gave me some last year.  They have a grainy texture and are particularly good in dishes where you want the potato to break down.  I’m going to give Valor a miss this year and stick with…

My two favourites …

Robinta
Round red skinned potato with cream flesh.  They’re blight resistant and seem to cope well with drought and downpours in equal measure.  We adore baked Robinta potatoes so lift these at the end of the summer and store them for autumn.

Nicola
Oval tubers with smooth yellow skin and deep yellow flesh.  We love these salad potatoes – they’re firm and keep their shape when boiled.  It appears I’m not the only one to have started growing a variety because it shared my name (a couple next to me at the Potato Day admitted to choosing them because their daughter’s a Nicola too ).

… and some ‘not-heard-of-that-before’ varieties

Gloucester Black Kidney
Kindly donated by Andy (every year a couple from Gloucestershire attend the Potato Day event and give him 2 egg boxes of this unusual variety).  How happy was I to have  been in just the right place at the right time!  It’s a main crop heritage potato (date unknown) with good resistance to blight apparently.  The  only mention I found on the net about growing Gloucester Black Kidney potatoes is a post from fellow growers at The Rococo Gardens in Painswick

Peruvian Purples
These purple skinned potatoes will certainly lend an interesting color to mashed potatoes or potato salads.   They get their color from anthocyanins, the same antioxidants found in blueberries apparently.  And they’re not just purple-skinned, but purple through-and-through, and they’ll stay that way even after they’re cooked.

Red Emma
Excellent tasting potato according to the Irish Potato Marketing board.  Emma combines earliness with good resistance to the most common potato diseases and good skin finish.

I’m lucky enough to have some Peruvian Purples and Red Emma’s thanks to a spud swap with Choclette.  If you’re interested in trying some of the more unusual varieties you may still be able to buy them loose from Dundry Nurseries (apologies for not posting sooner if you find the early varieties are sold out). Unsure how many tubers to get?  For two people to be kept in spuds throughout the growing season Andy suggested: 8-10 first early tubers, 10-15 second early tubers and 15-20 main crop tubers.

For information on other Heritage varieties you might like to check out Tracey’s post at I Grow Veg.

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Entry filed under: allotment tales.

the ‘Ministry of Food’ exhibition part 3: thrifty wartime ways to feed your family making bootees for tiny toes

18 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Peggy  |  March 27, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    I was amazed at the variety of seed potatoes available here this year, usually there were abotu 5 types and all sold out very quickly.This year the garden centres got in loads due I think to the continued interest in growing your own.I have Colleen and one you mentioned Wilja,why I picked that one I dont know but delighted to read it is one of your recommended!

    Reply
  • 2. miss m  |  March 27, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    A-ha ! The varieties are finally revealed ! Fabulous selection, Nic. You’ll have spuds coming out of your ears ! I really dig the purple ones.

    Reply
  • 3. Tracey  |  March 27, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Great post and thanks for the link. Great pictures of the closeups of the spuds especially the red emma’s, their shoots look like coral or some kind of sea creature. I’m loving the Peruvian purples especially as their colour lasts when cooking.

    I’ve given in and bought Highland Burgundy Red potatoes at the garden centre which have the red centres, so I’m looking forward to growing them. Good luck with all your potatoes!

    Reply
  • 4. Ann  |  March 28, 2010 at 11:27 am

    That’s a big variety you are planting Nic. I’m putting my first lot in today, just five tubers of Kestrel. Wish I’d bought Rocket, think the huge variety available is a bit overwhelming!

    Reply
  • 5. Choclette  |  March 28, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Good Luck Nic – may your spuds thrive and proliferate.

    Reply
  • 6. Anne Maundrell  |  March 29, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    It makes my mouth water to see that wonderful variety of potatoes, I can’t even begin to think about growing my own here in Brunei and the variety available here in the local supermarkets is extremely limited. We do get some good red skinned ones from Australia and at their best they have a lovely flavour almost like chestnuts.

    Reply
  • 7. reapwhatyougrow  |  March 29, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Ooh, fantastic Nic, thanks for the photos and the info. I did a taste trial on potatoes the year before last, but was very disappointed with my results. Last year I went for a tried and tested variety recommended by all our neighbours on the allotment site. Sure enough, I was rewarded with a nice yield of large, tasty potatoes. I think that type must do well on our soil.

    I was fascinated to read your choices this year, and have to wholeheartedly agree with following an expert choice. I loved your heritage ones which look fascinating and fabulous colours. How tempting it is to try and google that Peruvian Purple one. Amazing and lovely post, thanks.

    Reply
  • 8. Mal's Allotment  |  March 30, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    You’re bound to get some good and some not so good out of that lot!
    I tried Sarpo Mira last year and was a bit underwhelmed. Curiously flattened tubors that succumbed to spraing. Robinta didn’t set the heather alight and Red Duke of York had me running back to the white variety. Arran Victory’s a stalwart. This year I’m adjusting my rotation and instead of growing 1/3rd of my plot as spuds it’s down to 1/5th so it’s got to be the trusties this time – Epicure, Ballydoon, Rooster + a row of Pink Fir Apple – Oh and some Roseval that I picked up at the supermarket and sprouted away in my coal cellar. It’ll be a bit of a squeeze.
    Want to hear all about your results in due course – as different climes/times/soils suit different spuds.

    Reply
  • 9. Nip it in the bud  |  March 30, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    Peggy – spoilt for choice that’s for sure. I hadn’t realised so many varieties were girls names – fancy being named after a spud!

    Miss M – out my ears and every corner of the cellar I should think! I can’t wait for purple mash.

    Tracey – I was thinking ‘sea urchin’. Let’s hope they keep growing as well now they’re in the ground (and been rained on ferociously ever since I planted them!

    Ann – it is, it is. That’s why I cheated – copying is the highest form of praise don’t they say?

    Choclette – thanks and may my spuds in your garden and your spuds in my garden :o)

    Ann – what a shame but at least the ones you do have sound fab (and I’d take quality over quantity any day when it comes to flavourful pickings)

    Moy – it’s such a delight trying something out of the ordinary. I’m hoping to save and store some of each and become sustainable with my potato growing. I’ll let you know if I have any interesting spares. Have fun in your new garden.

    Mal – half the joy of gardening is difference of opinion when it comes to favourites and working out whether it’s personal preference of growing conditions that turn people on or off. I’ve not heard of Ballydoon but Rooster is a very popular choice available in the supermarket. I like that you’ve planted some that have sprouted so I shall be looking out to see how you fair with your potato harvest this year. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Mal.

    Reply
  • 10. Mal's Allotment  |  March 30, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Ballydoon – Another reputedly popular potato in Ireland (best for champ) but seed grown on the other side of the Irish Sea – in Argyle. Our strain came from a Borders potato day about a decade ago! Might have been Alan Roman. I wrote about it a year ago on my blog.

    http://malsallotment.blogspot.com/2009/02/ballydoon.html

    Reply
  • 11. Johanna GGG  |  April 6, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    great photos and those names are pure poetry – I love those purple potatoes but I once tried to roast purple potatoes and they were very disappointing – need to find more and spend time mashing them – or baking them in bread again!

    Reply
  • 12. kyandra smith  |  April 29, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    I like the pictures

    Reply
  • 14. first harvests « Nip it in the bud  |  July 23, 2010 at 11:06 am

    […] lifted all of our first early potatoes and there’s a whole other story’s worth about how we’ve rated them.  For now […]

    Reply
  • 15. amy manning  |  September 13, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Thanks for the info on these seed varieties and for checking out my review on the purple peruvians. Stay tuned for more reviews!
    http://amysoddities.blogspot.com/2010/09/purple-peruvian-potatoes.html

    Reply
  • 16. Potato Varieties « Gardora.net  |  March 7, 2011 at 10:39 am

    […] Did you already choose potato varieties for planting? Some suggestions for earlies and maincrop: http://j.mp/dYkm17 […]

    Reply
  • 17. Denise  |  March 21, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Wey hey! What do you know – there was I looking for advice on planting up my chitting potatoes and I find myself here! Armed with the information I need I am off to plant up! Cheers! Dxx

    Reply
  • 18. Nip it in the bud  |  March 23, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    Hi Denise, I never did get round to reviewing harvests in the Autumn. The results? Nicola and Robinta are still our favourites! The early varieties had low yields due to unseasonably warm early summer but flavour wise the first earlies were the best, especially the Vales. Sarpo were a great main crop and the GBKs were a nice salad potato once I got over the disappointment of their loss of colour. Such a shame the PPs are somewhat powdery and flavourless – redeemed by their colour though I’ll keep growing them because they’re just so striking.
    All the best with your planting. It’s time I wrote my post for this year. I have some very odd looking chitted potatoes lurking in my cellar from last years stock!

    Reply

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