Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Spuds

Charlottes and Kestrels laid out to dry.
Boris is helping.
Back in the spring I planted 24 each of 7 varieties of potato. As long as we don't have a disaster, I know that this is plenty enough to last Sue and I for a year and that the last maincrops will see us through until the first earlies come out of the polytunnel

They were:

Earlies
Red Duke of York - an early which is great for chips and roasting.
Arran Pilot - a bulk standard for nice new potatoes. Performs well and seems to stay in the ground well too.

Second Earlies
Charlotte - Another proven performer and so expensive in the shops!
Kestrel - A new variety for me.

Mains
Romano - a descendant of Desiree. I like a red potato and this gives great bakers.
King Edward - a good, honest basic maincrop spud.
Pink Fir Apple - Another 'luxury potato'. If only people knew how easy it is to grow and how nice it tastes. Allegedly prone to blight, as it is very late, but mine are more than ready now and last year, when blight struck early, I got a better crop from this than from many other varieties.

I have pretty much settled on these varieties now, after a few years of experimentation. There is a lot of talk of the blight-free varieties these days, especially with warmer, damper summers. However, the ones I tried tasted pretty insipid, so I won't be converting just yet. I have to admit, in a bad blight year they did come through better than the others. I've found though that if I'm ready for blight and take the tops off before it gets into the plants, that I get a good crop anyway, even when blight comes as early as it did last year.

We have been harvesting the earlies for a good while now, but there are still about half of them left in the ground. One of the Arran Pilots the other day was so big it did for a meal for two of us. It still tasted great though.

The tops have died down on the Second Earlies and I cut them off a couple of weeks ago, so with a dry day yesterday, even verging on sunny, I decided to dig them up. I like to cut off the haulms a couple of weeks before digging potatoes up if I aim to store them, as this gives the skins time to set in the ground. There is no point leaving them in for longer as this just makes them prone to slug damage and rotting in wet ground.
A reasonable crop of Charlottes.
Plenty for the two of us,
plus the geese enjoyed the smaller ones
 and any that didn't pass the quality test.
Digging potatoes is a magical job. You just sink the fork in and lift the soil to reveal clusters of swollen tubers. I dig thoroughly to make sure there are none left in the ground, as any 'volunteers' will grow next year and can harbour diseases through the winter. Some always slip through the net though!
I then leave the spuds on the surface of the soil for a good few hours if I can, before gathering them up and storing them in thick paper bags specially designed for potatoes. Any spudlets or damaged tubers get thrown to the geese who are very appreciative. The best spuds then go into a dark wardrobe in the garage. This keeps them in the dark so they don't turn green. It also keeps them not so warm that they try to sprout but above freezing, for if the frost gets to them in the winter they are ruined.

The potatoes I've dug so far this year are a good size, undoubtedly helped by summer's plentiful rain. The yield is not massive (a bit more sunshine and warmth might have helped) but there will be more than enough for our needs. The cost of a few extra tubers is minimal and once you're planting a few dozen, you might as well plant a few more. Better to have too many than not enough. Plus any extras don't go to waste. Potatoes are very popular with most of the animals.




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