You say potayto, I say potahto…

A potato is a potato is a potato right? Well not in my world! Each variety has differing diseases resistance, eating properties, skin colours, flesh colours, maturity stages…the list goes on!

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Image credit: Charlton Park

I recently went to the Hampshire potato day where I picked up my seed spuds for this coming year courtesy of Charlton Park. They had an astonishing 120 varieties up for grabs (and 17p for individual tubers and between £2.50-£3.50 for a 2.5kg bag)!

It is quite a busy place and I don’t like crowds so decided to do some research on what spuds to get so I could be in and out as quick as possible. After three years of growing my own potatoes I have started to understand the problems that we suffer with when it comes to growing this food staple!

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Potato Blight (Image credit: RHS)

Firstly, we get blight! Every year without fail! No maincrop potato is safe unless you happen to be a Sarpo potato!

Secondly, we get scab! The longer the potato is in the ground, the more likely it will come up scabby! Second earlies tend to get minor scab but the maincrop are so scabby that I wouldn’t be happy eating them as baked spuds (because I like to eat the skin too!) and they are just not pretty!

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Potato scab (Image credit: University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Thirdly, we have wireworm and slugs. The wireworm is still a problem but it has reduced over the last two years. I hope that as cultivation continues the wireworm problem will disappear. The slugs however are just a nuisance. I am formulating my own plans against the slugs that I plan to share with you soon!

I also know that when I cook potatoes, I like chips, roasties and jacket potatoes. I love the taste of fresh boiled new potatoes but I don’t like mash!

So armed with all the above information, I did a bit of research in a few databases to make sure the potatoes I chose this year would be able to survive the problems I have. I wasn’t too fussed about the wireworm and the slugs as I have other plans for them but I did want to avoid blight and scab where possible!

I first turned to the ADHB database on potato varieties. This is an excellent database where you can search for potato varieties according to a particular characteristic that you require. For example, I wanted to find potatoes that had resistance to scab so you can select that characteristic and then select how resistant you want on a scale of 1-9.

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This then selects the varieties that have scab resistance  6 or higher (according to my search terms). You can also add a second characteristic, such as maturity, and then you can select based on first early, second early or main crop.

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Clicking on the variety will take you to a page which has more details such as resistance to other diseases and other useful information on the potato variety.

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From these potential lists I then cross checked them with a potato selector on Thompson and Morgan to make sure the varieties I am choosing are good for chipping, roasting etc. Not all the varieties are available on Thompson and Morgan but a quick google search of those that weren’t and I was able to find the information I needed.

tm-potato-selector

From this process I was able to select a few potato varieties to try this year which will hopefully be more suited to my growing conditions as well as going back to some old favourites:

First Early:

  • Annabelle – we tried this variety last year and it was very lovely! It also scores a 6 on the resistance to scab scale so we thought we would stick with it this year too! (Bought 8 tubers)
  • Casablanca – We have not tried this variety before and it also scores a 6 against common scab. It apparently is good for chips as well as new potatoes although I am unlikely to use them for this. (Bought 6 tubers)
  • Rocket – This wasn’t one i would normally have gone for but it was recommended  as it cropped quite early. It still measures 5  against common scab. (Bought 6 tubers)
  • Winston – This one will be grown in a potato bag so I am less worried about scab but the database describes it as a very early variety which hopefully will help extend the season a little bit. (Bought 6 tubers)

Second Early:

  • Charlotte – This is a a favourite of mine and Sam’s as it has always produced well and often produces big baking tubers. This was the only variety that we have stuck with over the last four years as it has always done well – so don’t fix what ain’t broke! (Bought 2.5kg bag ~ 36 tubers)
  • Nicola – We tried this one last year and also found it to produce lovely tubers. A quick check on the database showed me that it scored a 6 against scab so decided to do it again this year. (This was out of stock at the potato day but found out that the suppliers for the potato day are a garden nursery down the road from where I worked so took a trip especially to pick some up – bought 10 tubers)
  • Nadine – This variety scores a 7 against scab and is generally good against many diseases. It is also a good general purpose spud! (This was also out of stock so haven’t managed to buy any yet but will take another trip this week to find them. I can get them at Wyevale but they are expensive there!)
  • Saxon – Again this only scores 5 against scab but it is apparently a very good chipper! I do like my chips! (Bought 5 tubers)

Maincrop:

  • Sarpo Axona – This has good blight resistance and I grew it last year as a second early and we got a good crop that didn’t suffer too much from scab. The database says it is only a 4 against scab but it was a nicer potato for us than the Sarpo Mira which we grew last year so decided to try it as an early maincrop this year. I like having a maincrop as these store the best over winter. (Bought a 2.5kg bag ~36 tubers)

All our potatoes (except Nadine which I still need to buy) are chitting away nicely on our windowsill and I am looking forward to the seasons first new potatoes!

Also, an update on storing potatoes:

In a previous post about freezing produce I had said that I had difficulty freezing potatoes as chips using the blanching method because they went black upon cooking. I have since tried again freezing both chips and roasties and have had much better success! I am not sure what went wrong last time  – maybe a bad potato?

I had so many potatoes last year that I have been unable to get through them. They have sat in hessian sacks throughout the winter and now many of the earlier harvested potatoes have sprouted very long shoots. When it came to using them they were all wrinkly and dried out and just not suitable for cooking so had to throw them away. The remaining later harvested potatoes are still OK for cooking and are routinely being chopped up, blanched and frozen as chips and roasties so I don’t have to throw anymore away and I still get to enjoy home grown potatoes until the next harvest!

I hope you are having fun choosing and chitting your potatoes for this growing season!

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