Last year's potato harvest was a bit pathetic (Charlottes, Roosters and Blue Danube moochers) and, given that I'm content to eat Vivaldi potatoes from Sainsbury's, I decided not to grow potatoes this year ... then I read Anna Pavord's article 'Ace of Spuds', one of the chapters in her book 'The Curious Gardener' (an excellent read, btw). Her descriptions of 'old potatoes' piqued my interest; to quote:
"As well as tasting better than you had ever imagined a potato could ever taste, many old varieties have blessedly strong constitutions. In the slap-happy, spray-happy post-war years, this was not valued as much as it perhaps is now, when the effects of eating poisons for lunch are beginning to be more clearly understood.""Tasting better than you had ever imagined a potato could ever taste ..." Hmmm. As I read on, I started mentally to clear a space in the veg patch for some heritage varieties. There's nothing wrong with supermarket potatoes but I was enticed by the thought of growing the right potato to fit the recipe - and with superior (hopefully) flavour.
I'd been handed a Pennard Plants leaflet at the recent RHS Plant and Design Show; it described their 87 varieties of heritage potatoes and their forthcoming appearance at Potato Day. I'd also noted that Potato Day coincided with Mothers Day; I reasoned that constituted a good enough reason to go out and treat myself to a few tubers if ever there was one. The 87 varieties on the leaflet were reduced to about 50 on the day; even so, I deliberated over my choices as I like potatoes to be mashed, roasted or baked. I'm not keen on boiled, unless they're the little salad potatoes. I finally opted for two old British spuds:
- Arran Victory - 1918: A rare, blue-skinned, maincrop potato with superb flavour. I'll use this one for roasting and mashing.
- Foremost - 1954. A first Early with waxy flesh and excellent flavour. Use for salads, baking, roasting.
- Linzer Delikatess - an Austrian second early; recommended to me by Pennards. Like a Charlotte but longer, thinner, smoother. Keeps well.
- Vitelotte - 1850. A potato with dark purple skin and purple flesh that keeps its colour after cooking. Although I'm a bit hesitant about the idea of eating purple mash, I thought this would go nicely with my purple Cosmic carrots! A main crop potato, grown in France as a gourmet delicacy but originally from Peru and Bolivia. Full bodied flavour reminiscent of chestnut. Will make very interesting chips or salads.
- Cherie. Allegedly a very pretty deep rose pink salad variety from France; a First Early which gives exceptional crops of oval yellow fleshed tubers with a wonderful flavour. Now doesn't that sound delightful?