Nothing really beats the flavour and taste of freshly dug potatoes. The humble spud has been a mainstay of vegetable growing for over a century. Economically, it was a vital staple of industrial nations. The infamous potato blights of the 19th Century literally caused economies to collapse with migration. The Irish for example, who relied on the potato for sustenance suffered blight attacks which wiped out their crops. Nowadays, the Chinese are the biggest producers and they are set to increase supply where they prefer it fried to boiled, even in the face of national advice. In October 1995, the potato became the first vegetable to be grown in space.
Potatoes are rich in vitamin C, iron, potassium, fibre and much more.
Grow at least a couple of rows in the garden of favourite varieties so you don’t miss out on their fine flavour.
We can base our choice on the types that ripen for want of a better word at different times in the season. We have the extra earlies, first early, second early and maincrop. Those of us who attempt to extend the season will try and grow cultivars that fit each of these categories.
One of the worst diseases to afflict potato crops is blight. It is the scourge of any home gardener. It attacks the leaves and stems which is the first sign of damage. It will also attack the tubers. The issue arises from wet weather. Avoid this problem by avoiding varieties with a long season like main crop. Treatment is hit and miss and costly but there are varieties which show resistance to blight which forms a good form of defence.
One type known as ‘Sarpo’ was first bred in Hungary and showed high resistance to the disease. The strain of blight-resistant varieties has developed further with the generation of varieties with good flavour and cooking potential. Please see the list below of specific blight-resistant varieties.
Another method is to be aware of blight appearance. Cover the plant with fleece during a Smiths Period. Earthing up protects spuds to some extent.
A type of roundworm that lives on the roots of the plant and is also found in tomatoes as well. Causes severe growth stunting and hinders tuber formation by damaging the roots. Crop rotation is one way to defeat the nematode or just do not grow potatoes in that area for at least seven years. The nematode population can be reduced to thresholds below which it can cause meaningful damage and so reduce any problems. In addition, use an effective method of slug control so as to limit their damage further. Do not leave tubers in the ground after harvest time any longer than necessary.
Varieties: (N.B. AGM means Award Of Garden Merit in Royal Horticulture Society [UK])
Extra Early Potatoes (Plant in late February to May; harvest tubers after 10 to 13 weeks)
cv. ‘Casablanca’. Considered the perfect the kitchen all-rounder with small golf-ball sized, round to oval tubers. White skin and cream flesh Harvest from late May. Uses: full flavoured boiling potato. Good for baking and chips when grown larger. Resistant to blackleg and eelworm and tolerance to common scab.
First Early Potatoes (Plant in late February to May; harvest tubers after 10 to 13 weeks.Lift in June and July)
cv. ‘Accent’. A popular variety famed for its firm, pale yellow flesh which is great for boiling. Harvest from June.
cv. ‘Amorosa‘. Beautiful red salad potato. Known for being smooth when small and becoming rougher during the maturing stages. Harvests boast high yields and maintains good flavour throughout its growing season.
cv. ‘Arran Pilot’. Bred in 1930 it has retained its position as a favoured variety. It has kept its popularity due to its excellent taste. Produces high yields of medium sized, white skinned and fleshed tubers with shallow eyes that are among the best for boiling and chipping available. Arran Pilot is successful in all soil conditions including light soils. It is slug resistant and highly resistant to common scab, as well as showing great resistance to all other forms of scab and scoring highly for spraing resistance. Moderate resistance to blight.
cv. ‘Carlingford‘. This salad potato gives Anya a run for its money in the flavour stakes. High yielding round and oval tubers. Also grown as a second cropping variety and planted in early August for harvesting before Christmas. White skin and creamy coloured waxy flesh. Resistant to scab, potato virus Y and skin spot. Excellent all-rounder.
cv. Lady Christ. AGM. a firm favourite for its firm, oval and smooth appearance. Good flavour and excellent disease resistance.
Second Early Potatoes (Plant from March to May; Lift in July and August)
cv. ‘Anya’. A great salad type with a distinctive nutty flavour which is widely regarded and lauded. Harvest from July. Developed from the Pink Fir Apple and Desiree in 1995. Pale pink skin with white flesh. Boiled in its skin. Susceptible to eelworm but good scab resistance and reasonable resistance to blight.
cv. ‘British Queen’. AGM. Over 100 years old and highly recognised for its yield, shape, floury texture. Has soft flesh making it excellent for roasting and general purpose.
cv. ‘Charlotte‘. Possibly the best salad potato even compared to ‘Nicola’. Tremendous flavour, delicious hot and cold. Stays firm when cooked and can be sauted and even roasted in its skin. Pear/oval shaped with yellow skin and pale yellow waxy flesh. About 50% bigger than other salad potatoes. High resistance to the viral disease spraing and reasonable resistance to blackleg and blight.
cv. ‘International Kidney’. This is the infamous ‘Jersey Royal’ which is exceptional for salads. Harvest from early July.
cv. ‘Jazzy‘. Produces long oval, pale yellow skin and flesh. Ideal for salads, great flavour both hot and cold. Thompson & Morgan’s trials showed it to have the best yields of all. One of the best varieties for growing in bags or containers on the patio. Produces lots of delicious small potatoes.
cv. Kestrel. Smooth skin and purple eyes. Variety with good slug resistance, golden eelworm an partial white eelworm resistance. The soft flesh is good for chips, fries and roasts.
cv. ‘Nicola‘. A potato mainly for salads, soups and broths having yellow flesh. Extremely tasty potatoes especially when served cold.
cv. ‘Vivaldi‘. A new variety known as the ‘butterless baker’ or ‘weight watchers potato’. Has a creamy texture with exceptional flavour as a baked potato. Doesn’t need butter ! Versatile enough for boiling, mashing and roasting. Considered lower in calories and carbohydrates than most other popular potato varieties. Has a thin, light yellow skin and flesh with a unique velvety texture. Resistant to scab but not yet certain about blight. Vivaldi received a gold award in the Fresh Produce category at the National Quality Food Awards.
cv. ‘Wilja‘. Introduced in 1967. The most popular second early in UK growing. An oval potato with pale yellow/cream skin and flesh. It produces high yields of large tubers and has good boiling qualities. Stays firm and doesn’t discolour. Moderate blight resistance and excellent scab resistance but susceptible to eelworm.
Maincrop Potatoes (Lift in late August to October)
cv. ‘Arran Victory’. Vibrant blue-purple tubers with extremely white flesh. Mash and steam for best results.
cv. ‘Cara’. Identified in 1976. Well known as a really late maincropper and often raised by allotment growers. It produces heavy yields of round, white smooth-skinned potatoes with pink/red eyes. The flesh is moist, waxy and soft which is good for mashing, baking and boiling and doesn’t discolour. Mild flavour. Harvest from September. Reasonable resistance to late blight and the foliage covers weeds. Good yields in most soils and growing conditions. The variety ‘Red Cara‘ is also worth seeking out and was discovered as a sport in 1976.
cv. ‘Desirée’. A red-skinned variety that performs well in any soil. Has waxy, yellow flesh with good flavour. Harvest from late August onwards.
cv. ‘King Edward’. Bred in 1902. A floury type regarded as the best for producing light fluffy roasties (roast potatoes). It also produces a smooth creamy mash and chips. It has white skin, creamy coloured flesh with very distinctive pink colouration. Moderately firm with excellent flavour and texture. Poor blight resistance but good against scab. Susceptible to eelworm.
cv. ‘Melody‘. An early maincrop type which yields oval yellow-skinned tubers with pale yellow flesh. Shows good disease resistance. Bred by the same growers of ‘Jazzy’.
cv. Picasso. A creamy skinned variety with pink eyes. very heavy cropping and good disease resistance to scab. Produces high yields but is attractive to slugs so watch out for these.
cv. Pink Fir Apple. AGM. Great for salads. A favourite amongst chefs as it has a nutty flavour. The crop emerges pink and knobbly from the earth, marking it out as an iconic and famous variety for its unique appearance.
cv. ‘Record‘. An early maincrop type used in the snacks and crisps industry. Produces tubers with pale yellow flesh and yellow-skins. It is superb when fried, roasted, steamed and mashed.
cv. ‘Roseval‘. The red salad potato. Long, oval tubers. Need to source from France.
cv. ‘Rooster‘. A popular Irish cultivar now in the UK. Red skinned with pale yellow-straw floury flesh. General purpose and good for baking, boiling, steaming, mashing and chips. It is a remarkably versatile potato. High yielding and good resistance to most diseases (blight and scab).
cv. ‘Blue Danube’. The ‘blue sarpo’ has a dry’ floury texture which is ideal for creating mouth- watering roasties. These are roasties that are crispy on the outside but light and fluffy on the inside.
cv. ‘Kifli’. A salad type with creamy, waxy-fleshed tubers and a new potato to try.
cv. ‘Sarpo Mira’. Hungarian bred. All the Sarpo types have superb blight resistance. Apparently the haulms can get infected but the potato tubers remain free of this disease. Harvest in early October. White, pale cream flesh. Tubers are oval shaped and floury textured so suited to chips, fries, baking and roasting. Good scab resistance.
cv. ‘Axona’. A pink-skinned, creamy-fleshed potato and a heavy cropper to boot. The large tubers make it ideal for baking.