Top of the potatoes

I have to say I’m enjoying being able to harvest stuff as part of the general allotment toiling. I’d been growing bored of exclusively weeding, but now I can say ‘I’ll just get rid of the acres of weeds on this patch, then I’ll see how the strawberries are doing’. It acts as a kind of motivation, I suppose. As does the fact that the wildflower patches are looking especially nice at the moment:

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(complete with bonus plastic cup)

I know in some allotments, you’re meant to give over a certain percentage of it exclusively to vegetable growing, and excessive wildflower patches would be frowned upon. As I’ve said before, rules only apply loosely to our allotment site. I’d estimate 30% of my allotment is totally untouched (future plans for this land involve possibly putting a shed on it if I ever get my act together), 10% is wildflowers I’ve planted from seed, 30% is potatoes and the rest is everything else I’m trying to grow, with varying degrees of success. I picked up some bargains at Wilkos today too:

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They’re clearly trying to get rid of all their seed packets so bagged them up more or less at random and sold the bags for 25p each. I was quite restrained and only bought two, and even then held off buying vegetable seeds. I haven’t properly planned what I’m growing next year yet.

One of the main things I’m doing in my life at the moment, aside from my slightly manic interest in the Labour leadership election, is digging and eating potatoes. This year I’ve tried out five different varieties, and due to my fondness for potatoes in all their forms, I think it’s time I assessed and evaluated them.

Shetland Black

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I grew these mostly for the novelty value, because who doesn’t find purple potatoes fantastic? The colour does make them a pain to harvest because they blend in so well with the soil (I’d scrubbed the potatoes pictured above with some enthusiasm, but they look a lot like stones when in the ground). The flavour wasn’t bad but was perhaps a bit on the floury side, and of course the colour’s lost when you cook the potatoes.

The main drawback, alas, was BLIGHT. This is my first experience with potato blight and it’s been the opposite of fun. I know blight sometimes happens to all varieties and it’s nobody’s fault (unless you’ve created an economic system whereby as a colonial power, you’ve made one of your sovereign territories dependent on a sole crop and exported everything else, of course. Oops, don’t know what came over me there), but I fear all my Shetland Blacks are ruined as of about a week ago.

Potato rating (potating): 3/10. Not planning to grow this again next year but don’t regret giving it a go.

Ratte

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These are posh potatoes that I decided to grow after googling ‘best-tasting potatoes’. And indeed, while they’re a bit weird and knobbly-looking, they taste fantastic, and slightly different from any potato I’ve had before. Slightly nutty and quite distinctive.

Potating: 9/10. Plan to grow again without a doubt.

Cara

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I grew these as my ‘standard, go-to potatoes’. I didn’t have especially high expectations of them in terms of flavour or quantity, but I’ve found them very pleasant. I wouldn’t rave about them (any more than I tend to rave about potatoes, which is probably more than I should, to be fair), but they were more than acceptable and very suitable for chips.

Potating: 7/10. Would probably grow again.

Pink Fir Apple

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I have a soft spot for these as their colour and shape amuses me. The taste is nice and light, and very good for salads. One drawback seems to be that the quantity so far hasn’t been massive compared with, say, the Cara potatoes, but I think the taste more than makes up for it.

Potating: 8/10. Plan to grow again, maybe as soon as next year if time and space allow.

Carolus

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I bought the Carolus tubers on Facebook after having been out for cocktails, because that’s sometimes what happens. Unfortunately the parcel company lost the tubers for several weeks, meaning I’d given up hope of actually getting potatoes from them. But a couple of smallish plants have grown, and I gingerly dug one up today and was very happy with the results. These are the biggest potatoes I’ve ever grown – almost as big as jacket potatoes you’d buy in supermarkets. The flavour, as far as I can tell, is virtually identical to Cara potatoes, which is to say slightly floury but still pleasantly light. I have a feeling they’re related to Cara potatoes – Carolus potatoes are quite a new variety and I wonder if they’ve been crossed with them somewhere along the way. My research is so far inconclusive.

Potating: 8/10. Would be my first choice for making jacket potatoes.

That concludes ‘Top of the Potatoes’ for this season. I still have about 70% of my potato crop in the ground, meaning I’m hoping quite fervently that I don’t get sick of potatoes over the next couple of months. I’m not really sure what I’ll attempt next year, potato-wise. I think between 4-5 varieties was a vaguely sensible number given the (stupidly large) proportions of my allotment. I’ve been toying with the idea of attempting sweet potatoes, but that seems like a different art entirely (plus I’m not sure how well they’d do in Northumberland). I will probably try it, though, as one thing I’ve learnt about allotmenteering is that trial and error is the best way of learning. And finally, allow me to brag about my tea, like a true product of my generation:

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I’m not responsible for the ginger beer/whiskey combo, the tomatoes, the halloumi or the bread, but I grew all the rest! Such triumph! The meal even features the very first onion I’ve ever grown (huge with a very mild flavour). I feel content.

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