7 Sep 2013

The eyes have it

Harvest crop

Earlier this year I wrote about my day out at the Garden Museum's Potato Day and which spuds I'd chosen to grow. (Arran Victory, Foremost, Vitelotte, Linzer Delikatess and Cherie.) This year I decided to grow my tubers in potato sacks as I'd tired of finding moochers (tubers left in the soil) popping up all over the place. (There's always one or two tiny potatoes that get left behind!)

Last week, I emptied all of my potato bags after a summer without sufficient water, either from rain or tap. A few of them hadn't even had sufficient depth as I didn't get round to earthing them all up in time.  (Shocking.) Even with my optimistic tendencies, I wasn't hopeful of finding anything usefully edible.

But what joy! Lots and lots of small to medium sized potatoes! Emptying potato sacks (or digging up potatoes) is a job I really delight in - it's a magical moment to find dozens of (hopefully) perfect potatoes where only one went in months before. I was watched by a two year old and, frankly, I couldn't have done better if I'd been Harry Potter himself. She stood transfixed and wide-eyed as I pulled one purple potato after another from the sack, only moving to gasp in amazement or silently mouth "Wow"! Love it!

One of the downsides to gardening in a community space is that the garden is at the mercy of whoever wanders by. I quickly realised that some mischievous tike had swopped all the potato labels over but I was able to identify them by referring back to my original post. The Arran Victory spuds were the easiest to spot being purple, with the Vitelotte potatoes a close second being almost black skinned with purple flesh.

To cook these little spuds, I simply boiled a selection of each one, throwing a knob of butter and sprinkling of salt over when drained. So, which potato won the taste test?  Arran Victory - the "rare blue-skinned, white-fleshed tuber of superb flavour". Never a truer word was said.

All of Pennard's descriptions were accurate and, undoubtedly, my little taste trial would have had truer results from well-watered plants but I found that the other varieties were nice but not outstanding. The Arran Victory had a flavour and creaminess that I haven't found in any shop bought varieties - and that's the qualifier that means I'll be looking out for these to grow exclusively next year. I don't have enough to know how well they'll store (as in, they'll all be eaten before the end of the week!! So delicious!) but next year I'll grow enough to last a good while longer.

Harvest trugHere's the fuller harvest picture, a sun-warmed tomato, a few physalis (tart but delicious) and a Braeburn apple.  The trees are loaded with fruit this year but I've noticed that people are picking the fruit already because they look so nice.  Surely they should still be on the tart side for a few more weeks? The two year old happily munched her way through two apples, declaring them to be yummy! I thought I'd better try one and ... hmm, and she's right! Apple pie ahoy!

24 comments:

  1. I hope they leave fruit for you!

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    1. Mostly the community here ask before picking but it's the kids that lurk and just have to fiddle with things, thereby twisting apples/cherries/beans off their stems or chucking rubbish around. I have been tempted to put up signs that say "The Little Red Hen says don't pick if you didn't work!" Not sure about the literacy levels these days, though. ;)

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    2. Maybe they will understand if you put These apples have been sparyed with a deadly poison! :)

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    3. Haha! Excellent idea!! A skull and crossbones picture just to make sure. Or I could mention the number of bugs in the garden - off-putting for sure!

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  2. "Moochers" - what a fine phrase Caro - your own or is that the proper term for those little spuds that hide away and then come through the ground the following year? A most colourful haul and most interesting to hear your taste test verdict. I've only grown 'Pink Fir Apple' this year which have been delicious as usual.

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    1. Hi Anna! Isn't moochers a fabulous word! Not mine, I hasten to add - I first learned of the term 'moochers' in Anna Pavord's book 'The Curious Gardener' in her chapter called 'Ace of Spuds' (an excellent read btw) and it's stayed in my head since! It was her mother's phrase and perfectly describes those spuds that come back in the middle of next year's non-potato crop! I grew Pink Fir Apple a couple of years ago; very delicious but very knobbly! Have you noticed that Morrisons supermarket are starting to sell unusual varieties of potatoes? Pink Fir among them and some purple potatoes! We shall be driven to try more exotic varieties to stay unique!!

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    2. Thanks for the information on the origin of moochers Caro. Funnily enough 'The Curious Gardener' is one of the first books I downloaded onto my Kindle but have still to read. Must remedy that. Another word too add to my potato vocabulary along with furtle :) I've noticed that our Morrisons advises that it sells some unusual potato varieties but the same notice says that if they are not available it means that they are not at their best. So far I have not seen anything out of the ordinary. However there are yellow courgettes, stripey aubergines, rosé garlic and a magical misting unit :)

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    3. Haha! Excellent Morrisons's cop-out! Being London based, the large Camden based store offers a huge range of exotic veg from lands far and wide - sometimes it's hard to find the ordinary veg that I know and love! I'll have to look out for rosé garlic (ours offers smoked garlic, not sure I'm fussed about that!) but it all makes for a much more interesting shopping experience! Check out AP's book on your Kindle, I like that I can read it in bite sized chunks, perfect for a sit down with a cup of tea or on the tube! (And stuffed full of her gardening wisdom on all aspects of our obsession!) Cx

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  3. I wondered what significance the 'red nose' had in the picture until I read your post, which made me smile. It's certainly been a good year for potatoes, and looks like being just as good for apples. Flighty xx

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    1. Haha! Yes, a bit early for Red Nose Day!! Sounds like you've had a good harvest yourself, Flighty - pleased that my post made you smile; it's lovely to spread a bit of happiness!! xx

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  4. A really good informative post. I think I shall look out for Arran Victory to try next year. I didn't grow any at all this year - I don't like moochers either - but I think I might try some next year, they do sound wonderful.

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    1. Hello CJ! Thanks, I'm pleased that you've enjoyed this post! Definitely look out for these potatoes, see my answer to rusty duck, below, on where I got them. I've just had some more with my dinner tonight and can confirm that they're a truly delicious potato - creamy but don't break up when boiled. I think even your boys would come back for more!

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  5. Arran Victory it is then!
    My tatties have suffered from slug damage this year. Would the potato sacks be a better bet do you think?

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    1. Definitely worth a try, Rusty Duck! I had woodlice damage to potatoes a few years ago - it was so off putting that I've favoured sacks ever since! Even in last year's slug infested rainfall, my potatoes were unscathed. If we have another year of downpours, it's a good idea to raise the potato sacks off the ground (onto pallets, for example) for better drainage and that will also help keep slugs at bay. I had bargain sacks from Poundstretcher this year and they worked as well as the more expensive ones! And definitely look out for Arran Victory - mine came from Pennard plants in Devon, check their website for local horticultural shows they attend or order online. I'll look forward to reading how you get on!

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  6. Had good spuds too - bar the scab - and will certainly look out for Arran Victory for next year! I also use bags - 17L polypots - which I find so much easier - saves the back from all that digging!

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    1. Hi Damo!! Seems it was a good year for a lot of fruit and veg - long may it continue!! Bags are great aren't they! So much easier to find all the spuds at the end of the year and the soil can be reused; this year I've tipped the sack soil onto my raised beds with a sprinkling of poultry manure to feed the winter veg but I could just as easily have popped a few carrots in. I also poke bamboo sticks into my sacks - it keeps the foxes/cats from getting too curious!!

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  7. Great post Caro - I'm always on the lookout for tasty potatoes must try and remember Arran Victory for next year. I only grew Charlotte this year the first lot were tasty but as they grew older they were kinda dry so I need a re-think. Previously I have grown Foremost but couldn't find any at my usual outlets - the container potatoes did best (florists buckets) - the sakc seem to take too much compost for very little return.

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    1. Thanks, Elaine! Cherie and Linzer Delikatess are like Charlotte, lovely flavour but there's an aftertaste with all these that I didn't get with the Arran Victory. Good to know that you had success with florist buckets, I wondered if they would be big enough for a good yield. I agree that the sacks use a lot of compost (probably why some of mine didn't get 'earthed up' ) plus the sacks have to be emptied somewhere. Will give buckets a try next year! Thanks for the tip!

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  8. I love rummaging around for the potato harvest, always a surprise what you find in the earth. I grow most of my potatoes in containers, even though I have an allotment, as they come out damage free and nice and clean. I use the compost for growing carrots before finally tipping it all on the beds to improve the soil, so no waste.

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    1. Great ideas in there, Jo! I agree it's worth growing in containers so that the spuds are nice and undamaged. I'm wondering now if I have time to pop a few winter carrots in ... It's certainly worth a try!!

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  9. Oh how interesting! I love the word "moochers" - and what a pretty selection of spuds. I like growing a few potatoes in pots because I can rummage into the compost and gently remove one or two from each plant, then water the rest and leave them to develop. Obviously this is not sound horticultural advice, but the naughtiness of it pleases me.

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    1. I like a bit of horticultural naughtiness myself, Gardening Shoe! It hadn't occurred to me to rootle around for one or two spuds (although my spud bags have a 'side door'), I'll have to remember your tip for next year! Thanks for commenting!

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  10. A lovely haul there Caro. :) No spuds for me this year. Like you I find growing them in the ground a bit of a pain. It's so hard to get them all up and inevitably some are stabbed by fthe fork. I grew them in compost bags years ago when we lived in a rented place and they were the best we have grown. Maybe I'll try them again next year.

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    1. Thanks, Welly! At least I have something from this year's veg garden! With your forthcoming book taking up your time, I really not surprised that you haven't had time for growing spuds - they're not really a veg you can plant and forget about! In the past I haven't thought it worth the effort but I'm getting into this taste testing lark and will definitely grow my own spuds again next year, especially if I can choose from a wide range as I did at this year's Potato Day!

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Caro x

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