Friday, 18 February 2011

Spud U Like

At the end of january garden centres having cleared heir shelves of the leftovers from christmas start to look forward to the coming spring with flower bulbs, seeds and propagation equipment being thrust to the fore. Growing vegetables is increasing in popularity and it's at this time of year that seed potatoes are bought. This allows them some time to sprout (or chit in gardening terms) before being planted out after the last frosts.
In most places seed potatoes are sold in either 1.5 or 2Kg net bags which is quite a lot of potatoes and only the most popular varieties are sold. Increasingly the seed companies realise that this is too many for people who don't have a large garden or allotment to grow in and now you can buy smaller packs, 6 or 10 of the potato tubers to grow in a small space or containers.
For some even this is too many, or the selection is not of the varieties they want to grow. For those growers there are events like Potato Day organised by Garden Organic at their display garden and base near Coventry. In a marquee you can buy potatoes by the tuber, paying just for those you buy, so you get the number you want. There were over 100 varieties from heritage spuds claiming to be one of the oldest cultivars still available to some of new on the market this year with all sorts in between. First early, second early, early maincrop, maincrop, late maincrop, when do you want your potatoes to be ready? Slug resistance, blight resistance, eelworm resistance, what problems do you suffer from we have the spud for you! Waxy, floury, salad, general purpose. Red skin, blue flesh, white flesh, golden skin, smooth or knobbly you can choose.
Along with this myriad of choice of potatoes to grow there were talks given by potato experts on cooking potatoes, the problem of blight and what is being done about breeding resistant varieties and more.

This year we weren't so phased by seeing the large number of potatoes on offer and had an idea of the kind of potatoes we wanted to buy. This is unlike the first time we went a few years ago where we were overwhelmed by sheer numbers but then we did ask for some help from the many volunteers and got some very good advice then. A selection of first earlies (Casablanca), maincrop (Pentland Squire) and salad (International Kidney) potatoes were bought and should give us a good range of time from when the first potatoes are dug to when we finally finish eating them from storage next winter.