Sunday 22 April 2012

Spuds you like

For the last few years, I've been very conservative about growing potatoes. Having found an early new potato, Lady Christl (left), which for me matches a superb nutty flavour with beautiful unblemished creamy skin, I've stuck with that for harvesting from June to September, and have grown Pink Fir Apple as a maincrop for harvesting from September onwards. I've occasionally tried out some other earlies, such as Charlotte (nice but too similar to Lady Christl), and International Kidney, which I disliked at the time because the potatoes fell apart in the pan when I tried to boil them. I'm now not so sure that this is the fault of the potato and is more likely to be down to the growing conditions (too dry), so perhaps I should give the International Kidneys another go.

Having tried out a number of heritage potatoes in preparation for our Secret Garden Club Potato Masterclass, I've cleared some extra space on the plot in order to experimenting with growing some new varieties.

Recommended by a number of people as a great baking and chipping potato, it's also apparently fairly drought-resistant. I find I rarely have to water potatoes specifically, but if we do have a dry summer under the hosepipe ban, hopefully the Caras will come through unaffected.

Shetland Black
With skins of a deep midnight blue, the flesh is creamy-yellow with a dark blue vascular ring. Like Cara, above, these are best baked or chipped, or roasted.

Pink fir apple potatoes
Pink Fir Apple I'm sticking with Pink Fir Apple for this year at least, as it usually rewards me with a high yielding, long lasting crop. I can dig up beautiful Pink Fir Apples throughout the winter. It's great boiled or steamed in salads, but they're also good sauteed and I love baking them whole as well.

Salad Blue
"Are they dyed?" our Garden Club attendees wanted to know. These potatoes are puzzling as no-one expects potatoes to be a dark indigo colour all the way through the flesh - and yet they still taste like potato. They make a distinctive mash and great chips. Roasted, the colour loses a lot of its impact as the potatoes brown in the fat.

Mayan Gold
Mayan Gold is a variety developed comparatively recently from the Phureja potatoes of Peru, so you can say that this is a close approximation of the first potatoes brought back from the New World. They are a distinctive buttery-yellow colour, a shade I associate with potatoes served in the Mediterranean, as opposed to the creamy-white of many British varieties. The taste is very like a new potato, but the texture is more floury: they're good for mash, roasting, and beautiful, pillowy chips.

 Examples of heritage potatoes, clockwise from top: Highland Burgundy, Salad Blue, Mayan Gold, Golden Wonder and Pink Fir Apple
 I've managed to retain space for my beloved Lady Christls, but one heritage potato which I would have liked to have included for its looks failed the taste test: Highland Burgundy is a hugely attractive spud, with dark red skin and bright crimson flesh all the way through. Unfortunately, I found it bland in flavour and with an almost fudgy texture. It looks great mixed with 'normal' potato in a mash, but the flavour didn't stand out on its own.

Salad blue, Highland Burgundy, Mayan Gold potatoes supplied by Carroll's Heritage Potatoes - seed and eating potatoes both available. Lady Christls supplied by Marshalls Seeds. Pink Fir Apples supplied by Victoriana Nursery. Cara, Shetland Black potatoes supplied by Thompson & Morgan.

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