A recent radio panel show asked its guests to name their loved ones’ favourite potato dish. Hmmm. Classic roasties in goose fat? Dauphinoise or a full-on Raclette maybe?T
he humble new potato may be far less adorned with saturated fat but is equally delicious, harvested from your vegetable garden, gently boiled and garnished with a sprig of mint. No need to add butter as they seem to ooze butteriness all on their own.
I don’t bother with main crop potatoes because they take up a lot of room and they are cheap and plentiful in the supermarket. I do keep half a raised bed for salad potatoes though because you just can’t beat them.
I have tried many varieties in the quest for the perfect waxy-fleshed tuber. Last year we grew Vanessa which was very successful. This year we are trying a second early called Jazzy. It’s a new variety but gets a good write-up.
First and second early potatoes are the smaller new potatoes, sometimes called salad potatoes but designed to mature quickly and to be cooked whole. First earlies can be planted from late February onwards if your soil is not too heavy, cold and wet. They will be ready for harvest in 10 weeks. Second earlies can be planted from late March and will be ready in around 13 weeks. I didn’t plant mine until last week.
Seed potatoes are tubers saved from last year that will sprout and grow into new plants this year. They benefit from chitting which encourages them to sprout before they’re planted in the ground. In February I put them in egg boxes on the cellar windowsill where it is cool and bright.
When I came to plant them they had lots of dark purple little shoots. The accepted method for planting potatoes is to dig a trench about 8 inches (20cm) deep, fill with compost or manure and pop your potatoes, with the shoots pointing up, about 15 inches (40cm) apart. The rows should be 30 inches (75cm) apart.
I’m afraid I ignore all that. One year Monty Don tried just digging a hole and popping the potato in. Anything that avoids too much digging is OK with me and we’ve used that method for a couple of years now. I still incorporate plenty of compost and the bed was mulched with compost in February. I also plant my potatoes closer together which encourages smaller potatoes but also means I can get more plants in a limited space.
They’re all tucked up under ground now – we eagerly await the first shoots