Vegetable growing

Potato types: a review

So all of our Spring planted potatoes have now been harvested and we have sampled some of each variety so I thought it would be a good time to look back at the varieties we grew and see which ones we would grow again and which ones we wouldn’t. 


As a reminder for everyone our six varieties were: Red Duke of York, Charlotte, Maris Peer, Maris Piper, Purple Majesty and King Edward. The Purple Majesty were an individual pack of seed potatoes and the other five varieties were all together as a beginners potato growing pack. They were all planted in lazy beds in the field and ended up all being planted at the same time but were harvested at slightly different stages. Let’s look at each one in turn.

Red Duke of York:

These were my favourites I think. Our only first earlies they went in a little late and we left them in for about 11 or 12 weeks in the end and they were amazing. This variety produces red skinned potatoes that actually grew to an incredible size. We found they made great baked potatoes and also did well as roasties or mash. In fact there wasn’t anything we did with them that we didn’t enjoy. They also seemed to have been one of the varieties which were less damaged by slugs or other pests. These are a definite must for next year. 


Charlotte

These are second earlies and a very well known supermarket variety of new potatoes. These turned out pretty well as well, a good job as we have these as our Autumn planted (or Christmas) potatoes. They were a good size for Charlotte’s and had beautiful yellow flesh. There was some damage by pests but not too much thankfully. I think we will probably do these next summer as well. 


Maris Peer

Now these were one of our least successful varieties. Lots were attacked by slugs and we lost a significant amount of our crop to them. They have a more white flesh and just in general didn’t look as appetising as the others. The taste was okay but nothing special. These are not going to be repeated next year.


Maris Piper

Again this is a well known variety so I was expecting great things. This was another crop which was hit pretty bad by the slugs and other pests. The taste wasn’t bad, but nothing special and a bit disappointing for such a well known variety. I think we probably won’t be doing these again next year and will try something different.


Purple Majesty

Now J had really wanted to grow these as he had once had them served boiled at a posh restaurant and wanted repeat the experience at home. They turned out very well and gave us a good yield. However, some people were a bit put off by the colour. C wouldn’t try them and we served them a couple of times for Sunday Roast (in combination with other varieties) when we had guests over and a couple of people weren’t keen on sampling them. They were also remarkably difficult when it came to spotting any defects until they were peeled so they weren’t going to be great to store. So probably not a one for next year. 


King Edward

Again another well known potato variety and what should have been a reliable maincrop potato. However, we had quite low yields (although this may have been that they needed earthing up more) and they ended up being nibbled on by some kind of rodent (my money is on a vole). And actually taste-wise they weren’t as good as other varieties, we were very disappointed in the roasties we made with them. So probably not ones to repeat next year.


So we would grow the Charlottes, the Red Duke of York and would recommend the Purple Majesty but probably won’t grow ourselves next year. The Maris Peer, Maris Piper and King Edwards don’t have a place in our growing schedule for next year. Some interesting points to note here are that apparently it is a bad year in general for potatoes (according to smallholders we know) so we might have had less slug damage and better yields if the weather had been different. And we probably should have earthed up a bit more but actually the lazy beds weren’t as easy to keep weed free as we might have hoped. 

Next job on the agenda – work out what different varieties to try next year! Any recommendations? 

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Lazy beds · Vegetable growing

Potato storage and preserving

Now because of timings in creating our lazy beds we ended up planting all of our potatoes at the same time. We had six varieties: red duke of York (first earlies), Charlotte (second earlies), Maris Peer (second earlies), Maris Piper (early maincrop), Purple Majesty (maincrop) and King Edward (large maincrop). Now the theory is that they should be ready in sequence, which they haven’t all been, and even if they do spread themselves out a bit more, we had 1kg of seed potatoes of each variety so we’re going to end up with a lot of potatoes. An awful lot. We started pulling them up the other week but to be honest we didn’t really think it through and just started pulling up those where the foliage was dying back. We did stop but not before we had a vast haul. My wonderful husband then proceeded to help out (as good husband always do) and started cleaning them ready for use. 


It wasn’t until later when I did a bit of reading about homegrown potatoes that I realised we probably hadn’t done the right thing with our harvest if we were wanting a good storage period. The best thing to do is to pull up the plant and harvest any potatoes that are attached. 


Then ensure any potatoes still in the ground are still well covered with soil and leave for a couple of weeks for the skins to set. This will make them firmer and better able to withstand storage. Instead, some people, will harvest and let them dry out in the sun. I’ve opted to leave them in the ground. 


Now you can, in theory, harvest just what is needed when it’s needed. Or, if you are concerned about possible pest damage, then harvest and store in a dark, cool place. Most people opt for brown paper bags or hessian sacks for this purpose. Then only wash when you are ready to use. 

When it comes to preserving potatoes then the freezer is your best friend. Potatoes can’t be frozen raw so they need to be processed in some way first. I’m a big fan of my freezer and tend to do lots of batch cooking for my freezer. So far with our first harvest of potatoes I have done some roast potatoes: parboiled and tossed in flour and lard, then open frozen before bagging, they can then be popped straight into the oven from frozen to crisp up. They make delicious roasties and it’s easy to just take out the number you need. 


We’ve also tried doing a potato bake: sliced potato and onion in layers in a dish, then covered in stock (I prefer chicken stock for the taste), season (I use salt, pepper and a little thyme from the garden) then bake until the potatoes are cooked (about 40 minutes). We used purple majesty potatoes for this and have frozen in the dish and covered with foil. When we’re going to use it we will take it out the day before use (or on the day, but then it will take longer to cook) and cover with a sprinkling of cheese and bake for 15 mins. It doesn’t look particularly appetising now, but I promise it is delicious and fairly healthy (without the cheese). 


I also love to do a few baked potatoes in the oven when I have space then they can be frozen in foil and either defrosted in the microwave (remove the foil) or the oven relatively quickly for a proper baked potato taste in a rush. What does anyone else do to use up potatoes? I need some more inspiring ideas. 

Lazy beds

Harvesting our first spuds

So this weekend we pulled up our first potatoes. I’d been itching to do so for a while, but had been trying to hold off and wait until they were ready. It’s not been helped by the fact that on my gardening groups on Facebook people have been putting up pictures of their harvests for a good few weeks now. But our seed potatoes had gone in a bit late so I knew we’d have to wait a little while. As much as the seed potato packets give instructions about them taking 8/10/12/14 weeks the best way to tell is by the flowers and foliage. Once the flowers appear then that means the tubers are starting to form. And then once the flowers and then  the foliage start to die back then they are ready to be harvested. You can cut back the foliage and leave them in the ground for a few weeks but we were desperate to harvest some. As you may remember we have six different varieties in this year: Red Duke of York, Charlotte, Maris Peer, Maris Piper, Purple Majesty and King Edward. So we decided to harvest some of the individual plants where the foliage was turning yellow and dying back. We started on row five and at first I thought they had gone bad as they looked black. But low and behold, they were the purple majesty ones. We harvested from one purple majesty plant and got these beauties.

Not sure how we’ll cook them yet to ensure we make the most of their colour. 

We also harvested a whole row of Maris Peer as a good number had started to die back and when we started to harvest we found they had been hit pretty hard by the slugs so we decided to get them all up. They gave us a good haul and although there were a few which had to be binned we still have all these left.


We also harvested a few Red Duke of York and a few Charlotte’s. 


I’m going to parboil some to go in the freezer as ready prepared roasties and we’re having some for dinner this evening. So excited to taste them!

Lazy beds

Potato flowers

So we have planted six different varieties of potato in the field: red duke of York, Charlotte, Maris peer, Maris piper, King Edward and Purple Majesty. We ended up planting them all at the same time as we were very late doing our lazy beds. But we have a mix of types (first early, second early, main crop and late main crop) so we were expecting to at least have some time lag between harvesting. But now four different varieties are starting to get flowers on. For those that aren’t potato growing savvy, once the flowers start to die back is generally when you begin to harvest. So this means that we now have potentially four different varieties looking at about the same stage of growth. Which means we are going to end up with a hell of a lot of potatoes all at once. And it only seems to be the odd one or two plants from the different varieties, which would suggest we could be harvesting bits and pieces of different varieties at once. Very confusing and it doesn’t really help with my planning and organisation! I guess now I need to start looking at ways to store potatoes as I don’t want my amazing crops (well I’m presuming they will be amazing) to go to waste. The flowers are really pretty though which is good as the potato plants themselves seem quite ugly!