Finally a decent crop of potatoes! If you’ve been keeping up with my potato efforts of late you would have seen that I have been rather unsuccessful when it comes to harvesting my spuds – in short they were too few and too small and this didn’t fill me with confidence when it comes to harvesting my main crop potatoes.
I originally decided to grow Desiree potatoes because of the video below. Gordon Ramsay makes homemade fish fingers and he said that the secret to a great chip is in the potato and he uses Desiree potatoes to make his chips with a paprika twist. Watch it, it’s awesome!
Anyway, at this point I’m going to make a little bit of confession, I wasn’t going to harvest my Desiree potatoes – I was prepared to just let them rot into the ground. But! As is always the way with allotments I decided to dig them because I thought I have nothing to lose and I’m glad that I did!
I must admit, there were a few marbles among them – but overall there were some decent spuds among them and for that I am truly grateful.
Desiree are great potatoes, they’ve mashed up superbly and they’re really good for roasting and chipping. I’m definitely going to grow these again next year and I would recommend them in a heartbeat.
I’ve got a few small ones left over so I’ll update you with a cracking potato salad I’ve made.
Have you grown Desiree potatoes before? What’s your opinion? I for one would love to know what it is.
Planting potatoes for Christmas is something I’ve always wanted to try and do. I’ve been fortunate enough to plant International Kidney, but not entirely out of design.
Don’t you just love those mistakes that wind up being a blessing in disguise? Back in April I had a bit of a potato splurge and I ended up with one too many main crop potatoes. I had purchased International Kidney potatoes and for one reason or another I didn’t end up planting them… they stayed in the cold frame chitting away and not given a second thought.
Well, as you may have read – I’m in the process of changing the layout of the plot so that I’ve got more growing space and one of the things I like to do with a new bed is to grow potatoes in it. Potatoes are great for cleaning the ground as the mounding and digging you do to the ground really does it give it a good once over.
I knew in the back of my mind that I’d had these potatoes chitting away and I thought, perfect – nothing lost, nothing gained – stick them into the ground and hope for the best.
Then I found myself on the computer, looking up a brief history of International Kidney potatoes and what do my wondering eyes discover? International Kidney potatoes are in fact of the same variety grown in Jersey, making them the Jersey Royal! I’ve always wanted to grow this particular variety, but I always thought that Jersey Royals were exclusive to Jersey – which is true because they’re covered by a Protected designation of origin (PDO).
I guess when I give some to family and friends I’ll have to tell them that they’re “International Kidney potatoes, ***Cough*** JERSEY ROYALS!***Cough*** “
History of International Kidney potaotes
Gather round… In 1878, potato farmer Hugh de la Haye discovered a new variety of spud, it was the shape of a kidney and had numerous eyes to which he and his fellow potato farmers then cut into pieces, and planted into the a steeply sloping fields above the Bellozanne valley in Jersey.
The crop result was a bunch of potatoes with paper like skin, dug up in the early spring. They nurtured and developed into potatoes that we see in our supermarkets the country over. In the end, they were given the name Jersey Royal Fluke, which was shortened to ‘Jersey Royal’.
Hugh de la Haye was honoured for his efforts by his fellow Jersey islanders at a formal gathering and presented with purse of gold sovereigns.
Check out www.jerseyroyals.co.uk for some really interesting reading on the potato that brings a smile to hundreds of thousands of people every year.
Planting potatoes for Christmas
The tubers had shrivelled significantly, and they weren’t as attractive as when I first purchased them – that said this didn’t deter me much because I was glad to see that the shoots were well and truly established.
I’d already prepared a bed and I decided to take a cue from a fellow allotment holder which is to plant the potatoes in trenches, and then as they grow, slowly mound the shoots from the soil dug out sooner.
I was also keen to give allow plenty of space between tubers. I’d recently discovered from my last foray with potatoes that spacing and decent access to water really does determine your yield. In the end I was able to prepare three decent sized trenches.
The aim here is to get some lovely potatoes for Christmas, however – I think if I’m honest, I think I’ll be happy with these no matter what time I end up digging these up – but in the meantime let’s hope that Planting potatoes for Christmas plan works out none the less.
This time last year I found a Gordon Ramsay video showing you how to make a classic fish finger butty and homemade chips. In the video he quotes, “The secret to the chip is in the potato – these are Desiree potatoes.” (or something along those lines – check out the video below to see the full recipe.)
Ever since I’ve watched that video I’ve always wanted to grow Desiree potatoes – to see if I can cook the perfect chip. I also though this is the perfect opportunity to grow another well established variety of potato in the Victory Garden.
Desiree potatoes were bred in The Netherlands in the early 60’s by the chaps at HZPC. OK, so not exactly the kind of potato you’d find in a World War 2 Victory Garden -however, we’re letting this one go as rationing was still a fresh memory of those living in the 60’s.
This particular varitery has good resistance to dry conditions and a high resistance to potato virus Yo and powdery scab – so that’s an added bonus!
Desiree potatoes are a red skinned variety are said to not only be good for chips but also Dauphinoise potatoes. Thinking ahead, I think I’d like to try growing rooster potatoes to see how they compare with these.
It’s best to chit your potatoes before you plant them into the ground – chitting is just another word for sprouting. To chit your potatoes, all you have to do is leave them in a tray in a sunny place and they’ll soon start to sprout. The trick is to not let them get to spaghetti like as these sprouts tend to fall off when you plant them into the ground.
I will say one thing, what with my first early potatoes, second early potatoes and now these – I won’t be buying a potato from a supermarket at any time soon. Growing up as a child, my mother would make a point of saying she was using Maris Piper potatoes if she was a putting together a roast dinner – which left the impression that Maris Piper potatoes are farmers choice of spud. She’s not wrong.
Maris Piper have to my favourite type of potato – which is a weird thing to say about a spud because you wouldn’t think there’s much of a difference between the types of potato that are available in your local supermarket. There totally is a difference and each variety of potato is better for one job or another.
Maris Pipers are my favourite because they’re good for everything, they’re excellent mashed, roasted or chipped. The small ones will make for great new potatoes as well. Along with usage, they’re so reliable growing wise and have needed minimal care over the last few months. I think I weeded the patch once over the last seven months and even then it was to get rid of the bind weed and the larger of the weeds.
Digging up potatoes is easy as planting them. Even though at this time of year the tops of the plant has died off, you’ll still notice where the plants were in the patch.
Using a fork, you need to start digging about a foot or half a foot away from where you think the plant resided, this is to ensure that you don’t put your fork through a spud. Alas, it’s inevitable that you’ll do this, and it’s a real pet hate of mine, but the spud will still be good to use – just be sure to wash and use this casualty as soon as you can to avoid rotting.
After I’ve dug out my potatoes, I tend to not wash them and leave them in a tray to dry out. I’ve read that the mud when dried, will help with storage. I’m currently storing my potatoes in the shed, and I have very little worries now that the temperature has dropped for the winter. Try to keep your potatoes away from the light as you run the risk of them turning green, I usually keep mine covered with some black horticultural felt.
Hopefully, if we don’t experience a warmish winter, these potatoes will be good for the Christmas!
No matter what variety of potato you’re growing, the chances are, at some point, you’re going to need to mound up your potatoes. What that means is that you cover the shoots that are poking through the ground with soil. People call this process different things – so you may hear people refer to this as “earthing up”, “covering over” or simply “burying”, but they all mean exactly the same thing.
Mounding up the potato plant helps to encourage as much growth of potatoes along the stem of the plant while also protecting the potatoes from being exposed to light. Nobody wants green potatoes! If your potatoes are exposed to sunlight, the bulb will start to produce a chemical called solanine and become inedible. When potatoes are left out in the sun too long they also produce chlorophyll, as a way to turn the energy from the sun into food.
This year, I’ve started earthing up my potatoes a little bit earlier because of the unpredictable weather, one minute we’re getting frost, hail, sleet and in the next we’re basking in glorious sunshine. The tops of the plant are around 12″-15″ tall, and this is about the time that you want to start earthing potatoes. I try not to cover the entire plant, and leaving some of the foliage exposed to the sun so that they can photosynthesize. Depending on how productive they are, I’ll look to repeat this every couple of weeks. In the past, my potato mounds have crept up to about one and a half feet high.
As I’ve mentioned before, mounding up or covering the potatoes also helps to protect to the shoots from the harshness of the frost. You can tell if your potatoes have been the subject to the cold conditions because the tops of the plant will look brownish and crinkly – if you see that, earth them up fast! I’ve seen people at the allotment over the tops with grass cuttings, newspaper clippings and even plastic – whatever you decide to use, make sure that you don’t compromise the plants access to water.
If you’ve read my article about chitting main crop potatoes, you’ll probably see that they have well and truly sprouted. Just after storm Katie hit we were blessed with a fantastic bout of sunshine – no better time to get the main crop potatoes in.
I had 28 potatoes to plant in total, which means that when I planted them 10cm deep and 25cm apart, I had enough for 4 rows, spaced around 60cm apart – much like the first early potatoes I planted a couple of weeks back. Maris Piper potatoes are the nation’s favourite potato and I’ve put together a little bit of a brief history on them here.
When the shoots start to poke through, I’ll cover these with sifted soil to protect them from the frost. I’ll have to Weed between the rows and keep the potato plants well watered over the next 15 weeks.
Early maincrop varieties can be harvested approximately 15 weeks from planting, which is around the time when the foliage begins to turn yellow and die back – ready for those all important roast dinners in the winter.
Talking of which, if you need advice on how to create the perfect roast spud that is lovely and soft on the inside and golden and crunchy on the outside, then click here. Potatoes are generally a great thing to plant at an allotment as they clean the ground – what I mean about that is, they’re a good crop to have in a spot that hasn’t been dug over for a while, as you plant potatoes and dig over the land, you’ll inevitably pick out and dispose of any materials that shouldn’t be there.
Main Crop Potatoes also store well once they’ve been properly dried out.
The man we have to thank for the Maris Piper potato is none other than John Clarke who hails from Northern Island. John Clarke was responsible for 33 potato varieties with 30 of those carrying the Ulster prefix (such as the Ulster Monarch potato)
The Maris Piper is actually a ‘grandson’ of one his varieties and they’re grown more than any other type of potato in the UK. In 2012 19,000 hectares of potatoes were grown.
Maris Piper cropped up in the UK in 1966 (a particularly good year!) and was the result of a massive potato breeding initiative at the Plant Breeding Institute (PBI) in Cambridge.
This particular variety was produced because of the need to find a variety that was resistant to Potato Cyst Nematode (Globodera rostochiensis) commonly known as eelworm – thankfully it has kept that resistance throughout its lifetime.
The Belfast Telegraph published a great article on the history of John Clarke and the Maris Piper which you can read here.