Potatoes

Potatoes are a staple of most kitchens, but they were rarely on the menu in our house until these past few years, as we tended towards the rice and pasta end of the carb spectrum, partly because the flat we rented didn’t have an oven, which reduced our potato cooking options considerably. Ever since growing our own vegetables, however, spuds have been enjoyed for their variety and versatility in our cooking.

Potato Growing Notes

VarietyTypeSownHarvested
Sharpe’s Express1st Early
Rocket1st Early
Estima2nd Early
Nicola2nd Early
Caledonian RoseMaincrop
CaraMaincrop
Heidi RedMaincrop
Wilja2nd Early2023
Anya2nd Early20237th June
Salad BlueEarly Maincrop202326th July
DesireeMaincrop2023
King EdwardMaincrop20235th July
Pink Fir AppleLate Maincrop2023
Jazzy2nd Early22nd Mar ’2213th Jul – 14th Aug
Charlotte2nd Early10th Apr ’2110th – 21st Jul

Potato Diary

2021

In 2021 I had to rush to source and plant potatoes, as by the time we’d moved in in February, taken stock of what needed doing in the house and started to look at the garden, the growing season was under way. I found some inexpensive Charlotte seed potatoes and decided to start with those, as they were a variety I had used often in the kitchen.

The 2021 potatoes were a success by my beginner’s standards, and I harvested three big bags of perfect, unblemished young potatoes

2022

For the 2022 growing season I picked up a bag of Jazzy seed potatoes from the local B&Q store. They were inexpensive and the seed potatoes looked really healthy. I also got a few Charlottes because the previous season’s Charlottes had done well and I felt like they might be familiar territory to revisit.

I needn’t have worried too much because the Jazzys outperformed the Charlottes in every way. They grew well and they grew strong, and they grew quickly and to a great size.

2023

This year I am breaking out of the simple potatoes comfort zone and experimenting a little. I am still going to be growing potatoes in bags (five bags worth – a similar number to last year) but with a different variety in each. This has been made possible as I have finally found a seed potato supplier that stocks loose seed potatoes.

Four paper bags full of seed potatoes from Dobies.

I had hopes that local independent garden centres might sell loose seed potatoes, but after two years I found that it was one of the big chain sellers that stock them. Dobies had a large display of seed potatoes where you could select your own, filling a little paper bag for £2.49. A bag holds 6-9 seed potatoes (depending on the variety chosen), which is about double the number needed when growing potatoes in bags, so I bought five different varieties to share between myself and Ma.

Simple & Strange

I’ve gone for a combination of unpretentious potatoes and some more tantalising tubers.

Wilja potatoes

Wilja (second early)

Firm, uniform round/oval potato with yellow-brown skin. Medium-dry, good for roasting, chips, etc.

Anya potatoes

Anya (second early)

Long, knobbly form, great for wedges. Slightly sweet, nutty flavour with a waxy finish.

Salad Blue potatoes

Salad Blue (early maincrop)

Deep purple/blue skins and flesh. High in anthocyanin. On the floury side, good for wedges, etc.

Desiree potatoes

Desiree (maincrop)

Large, uniform red skinned potatoes with firm yellow flesh. Good for everything except boiling.

King Edward potatoes

King Edward (maincrop)

Cream skin with pink blush patches. Medium-dry. Good for chips, roasting, mash, etc.

Potato types and harvest timings

When I was selecting potatoes to buy, there weren’t any descriptions present for me to select based on which were earlies and maincrop varieties, so it was almost ‘luck of the draw’ when choosing.


2023 Potato Growing Plans

For two years I found the timings for growing potatoes quite confusing. There were quite a few references to when to harvest the various types (first early, second early, maincrop) potatoes, but no information on the differences in planting time. It is only in the last few weeks that I have finally conformed that they are all planted at the same time, and it is only the harvest dates that will differ. The maincrop potatoes are simply in the ground a lot longer than the earlies, giving them more time to grow. Some maincrop potatoes can be harvested as ‘early maincrop’, and are ready to eat, albeit with a less developed flavour and smaller size.

My 2023 potato growing timeline looks like this:

  • February: Chit all potatoes.
  • 4th Wk March: Plant out all potatoes.
  • April – May: Earth up when foliage shows about compost.
  • June – July: Harvest first earlies.
  • July – August: Harvest second earlies.
  • August – September: Harvest early maincrop.
  • September – October: Harvest maincrop.

I’m looking forwards to experimenting with different varieties and seeing what yields they give. I also have some learnings from the past two years to keep in mind when making my plans:

Protect Potato Plants From Wind

The first year I grew potatoes the plants did not grow for as long as they otherwise might have as they broke in the wind. I have a very open, exposed garden and we have a lot of very windy weather. Last year I used some half-circle plant supports to support the foliage, but I found that they slipped down into the potato growing bags and so did not stay high enough in the bags. This year I will insert 4-5 long canes around the perimeter of the bag when I plant to seed potatoes, and use string to create a support.

Prepare Freezer Potatoes

Though I hope to use the majority of our potatoes fresh, there are days when I just want to grab something from the freezer. I batch cook and store a lot of garden vegetables in the freezer, but never use potatoes, and often harvest more than my family can eat (especially with the shorter-lived new potato harvests). I plan to make the absolute most of my potato harvest by ensuring that I have some grab and go potatoes in the freezer (such as potato wedges) that I can finish in the air fryer.

2024
January, Week 3

The potato varieties that we have chosen this year are Sharpe’s Express, Rocket, Estimate, Nicola, Caledonian Rose, and Cara.

These are all new varieties for our growing space, so I’m looking forwards to seeing how well each of them perform. Below is the information listed by the shop, but I’m going to be doing a bit more reading up on these before it gets to potato chitting time.

BoilingChippingBaking
Sharpe’s Express1st Early★★★★★★★★
Rocket1st Early★★★★★★
Estima2nd Early★★★★★★★★★★★
Nicola2nd Early★★★★★★★★★
Caledonian RoseMain Crop★★★★★★★★★★
CaraMain Crop★★★★★★★★★

Potato Pick n’ Mix

In my calendar, there’s an important date that must not go unnoticed: The Potato Weekend. It’s the time of year when we put on our big coats for a trip to the big, far-away garden centre — which we’ve handily saved as ‘Dobbies (Potatoes)’ in the address book.

Whilst the loose seed potatoes are available it’s like Halloween for spud enthusiasts. I like to rummage through the big jute bags of the potato pick ‘n’ mix, hunting for the perfect potatoes.

I have picked up a few tips along with my potatoes. Firstly, bring a pen. There are never any available for you to make a note of which varieties you are putting into your bags. Secondly, (and I must thank an old couple for this idea) bring a few sheets of paper kitchen towel to separate the varieties of potato in your paper bag. The spuds are sold by volume (fill a bag for £2.99) rather than weight, so it makes sense that if you want only a few of each variety that you put more than one variety in each bag. The sheets of kitchen towel are a handy way of separating the layers of potato varieties as you gather them, and you can write on them too, if needs be.