Showing posts with label potatoes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label potatoes. Show all posts

7 Sept 2013

The eyes have it

Harvest crop

Earlier this year I wrote about my day out at the Garden Museum's Potato Day and which spuds I'd chosen to grow. (Arran Victory, Foremost, Vitelotte, Linzer Delikatess and Cherie.) This year I decided to grow my tubers in potato sacks as I'd tired of finding moochers (tubers left in the soil) popping up all over the place. (There's always one or two tiny potatoes that get left behind!)

Last week, I emptied all of my potato bags after a summer without sufficient water, either from rain or tap. A few of them hadn't even had sufficient depth as I didn't get round to earthing them all up in time.  (Shocking.) Even with my optimistic tendencies, I wasn't hopeful of finding anything usefully edible.

But what joy! Lots and lots of small to medium sized potatoes! Emptying potato sacks (or digging up potatoes) is a job I really delight in - it's a magical moment to find dozens of (hopefully) perfect potatoes where only one went in months before. I was watched by a two year old and, frankly, I couldn't have done better if I'd been Harry Potter himself. She stood transfixed and wide-eyed as I pulled one purple potato after another from the sack, only moving to gasp in amazement or silently mouth "Wow"! Love it!

One of the downsides to gardening in a community space is that the garden is at the mercy of whoever wanders by. I quickly realised that some mischievous tike had swopped all the potato labels over but I was able to identify them by referring back to my original post. The Arran Victory spuds were the easiest to spot being purple, with the Vitelotte potatoes a close second being almost black skinned with purple flesh.

To cook these little spuds, I simply boiled a selection of each one, throwing a knob of butter and sprinkling of salt over when drained. So, which potato won the taste test?  Arran Victory - the "rare blue-skinned, white-fleshed tuber of superb flavour". Never a truer word was said.

All of Pennard's descriptions were accurate and, undoubtedly, my little taste trial would have had truer results from well-watered plants but I found that the other varieties were nice but not outstanding. The Arran Victory had a flavour and creaminess that I haven't found in any shop bought varieties - and that's the qualifier that means I'll be looking out for these to grow exclusively next year. I don't have enough to know how well they'll store (as in, they'll all be eaten before the end of the week!! So delicious!) but next year I'll grow enough to last a good while longer.

Harvest trugHere's the fuller harvest picture, a sun-warmed tomato, a few physalis (tart but delicious) and a Braeburn apple.  The trees are loaded with fruit this year but I've noticed that people are picking the fruit already because they look so nice.  Surely they should still be on the tart side for a few more weeks? The two year old happily munched her way through two apples, declaring them to be yummy! I thought I'd better try one and ... hmm, and she's right! Apple pie ahoy!

14 Mar 2013

My Cherie Amour - Potato Day at the Garden Museum

Bill and Ben potatoes
I'd show you my spuds but, really, they all look the same. 

Last year's potato harvest was a bit pathetic (Charlottes, Roosters and Blue Danube moochers) and, given that I'm content to eat Vivaldi potatoes from Sainsbury's, I decided not to grow potatoes this year ... then I read Anna Pavord's article 'Ace of Spuds', one of the chapters in her book 'The Curious Gardener' (an excellent read, btw). Her descriptions of 'old potatoes' piqued my interest; to quote:
"As well as tasting better than you had ever imagined a potato could ever taste, many old varieties have blessedly strong constitutions. In the slap-happy, spray-happy post-war years, this was not valued as much as it perhaps is now, when the effects of eating poisons for lunch are beginning to be more clearly understood."
"Tasting better than you had ever imagined a potato could ever taste ..."  Hmmm.  As I read on, I started mentally to clear a space in the veg patch for some heritage varieties. There's nothing wrong with supermarket potatoes but I was enticed by the thought of growing the right potato to fit the recipe - and with superior (hopefully) flavour.

I'd been handed a Pennard Plants leaflet at the recent RHS Plant and Design Show; it described their 87 varieties of heritage potatoes and their forthcoming appearance at Potato Day.  I'd also noted that Potato Day coincided with Mothers Day; I reasoned that constituted a good enough reason to go out and treat myself to a few tubers if ever there was one.  The 87 varieties on the leaflet were reduced to about 50 on the day; even so, I deliberated over my choices as I like potatoes to be mashed, roasted or baked. I'm not keen on boiled, unless they're the little salad potatoes.  I finally opted for two old British spuds:
  • Arran Victory - 1918:  A rare, blue-skinned, maincrop potato with superb flavour. I'll use this one for roasting and mashing.
  • Foremost - 1954. A first Early with waxy flesh and excellent flavour. Use for salads, baking, roasting.
Plus two more that I'd not heard of before but sounded very interesting:
  • Linzer Delikatess  - an Austrian second early; recommended to me by Pennards.  Like a Charlotte but longer, thinner, smoother. Keeps well.
  • Vitelotte - 1850. A potato with dark purple skin and purple flesh that keeps its colour after cooking. Although I'm a bit hesitant about the idea of eating purple mash, I thought this would go nicely with my purple Cosmic carrots! A main crop potato, grown in France as a gourmet delicacy but originally from Peru and Bolivia. Full bodied flavour reminiscent of chestnut.  Will make very interesting chips or salads.
The potato that I absolutely had to have was this one:
  • Cherie. Allegedly a very pretty deep rose pink salad variety from France; a First Early which gives exceptional crops of oval yellow fleshed tubers with a wonderful flavour.  Now doesn't that sound delightful?
So much for not growing potatoes! I came home with a several tubers of each of the above varieties - at 20p per tuber, it seemed a taste challenge not to be missed.  Although, in hindsight, I may have picked my spuds following my (largely unsuccessful) method of backing a horse in the Grand National, i.e. it has a nice name.

Pennard's stand
Pennard's stand, sited under an art installation of 3,000 hand-wired roses.

20 Apr 2012

Sunshine, Rain and Perennial Cauliflowers

Perennial cauliflower
~ Perennial Cauliflower, looking good (and tasty) ~
I've heard so many people bemoaning the "dreadful weather" this last week: wind, rain, sunshine, as well as thunderstorms today. Welcome to April in the UK.  (I think it's great.)  There's a hosepipe ban in the south so all this rain is sending deep reserves of water into the ground and the veg and fruit will be fully refreshed.  Luckily I was able to find time to go down to the veg garden on Monday where I got quite a lot done.  I stayed really focused as I thought it might rain at any moment!

I earthed up my bag grown potatoes for the first time as they'd put on a good 4 inches of growth.  I sowed Italian parsley, coriander and 3 types of carrot seeds: purple cosmic (for fun), Amsterdam 3 (my usual) and a new one (to me) called Little Fingers as it's supposed to be harvestable (is that a word?) in only 8 weeks!  I'm growing these in deep tubs to see if it makes a difference; previously I've interplanted carrots between the onions and garlic which seems to have thwarted any carrot fly.  Let's see how the tubs do. (The theory is to grow a few at a time and re-sow at monthly-ish intervals so that I don't end up overwhelmed with carrots.  Or anything else for that matter.)

The pink broad beans are all doing really well - I sowed them in a raised bed that had been manured last autumn and I've left a space to plant beans or peas (not sure which yet) at the north-east end of the bed where they'll get plenty of sun without shading the broad beans. The sacrificial nasturtiums planted at the same time have yet to make a showing; I want them there to tempt any aphids or blackfly away from the broad beans... )

Meanwhile, back upstairs in my flat-turned-greenhouse, the artichokes, dill, borage and melon seeds have all germinated and been potted on successfully. They'll stay upstairs for a few weeks until they're strong enough to fend for themselves in the veg garden. I sowed a tray of 12 Jiffy 7s with bell peppers (purple and orange), capsicums and chillis and the seed saved from my Yellow Banana chilli grown last year (the one still fruiting at Christmas). I reckon the son of that plant deserves a space on the windowsill this year if I can successfully nurture it to maturity. I suspect it's not really called Yellow Banana but the plant came from Homebase when the fungus gnats munched my own chillis into oblivion and that was the name conferred on it there. The seeds went into the modules at the beginning of April and are over an inch high already.  I hope this bodes well for raising mature plants as I may have left sowing them a bit late.

The best part of the week is that I've enjoyed the first of my perennial cauliflowers! The main cauli head was quite large so I cut just a few chunky stalks.  It was cooked with the sprouting stalks from the bolted Brussel Sprouts plants and both were utterly delicious. (Served up with just butter, salt and pepper. Yum.) I wondered in my previous post whether the sprout stalks would be edible and now I know that they are. They were not unlike PSB so it's good know that the sprout tops and stalks can still be eaten even after the plant has bolted.  Lesson learned: don't be hasty in chucking your bolted winter veg onto the compost heap.  I can honestly say I enjoyed every mouthful of that particular lunch.

Tomorrow I'm off early for a long drive to Bristol.  Jekka McVicar's herb farm hosts occasional Open Days with talks by Jekka and farm tours around the herbs.  I'm booked onto the workshop "How to Design a Herb Garden" which I treated myself to for my birthday last month.  I'm really excited to be going, even though the weather forecast is not good, and I'll hopefully be able to post all about it when I get back.

Have a good weekend everyone!

29 Jul 2011

Buried Treasure

Potato harvest July 2011

Clearing the long walled border last Friday meant tackling not only the insidious weeds and ivy roots but also digging up the potatoes which had magically appeared from tubers overlooked at the end of last year.  Frank was the spade man for the day and he was charged with going very carefully around the fruit trees and self-seeded sunflowers - no mean feat as the sunflowers were being propped up by the potato haulms.  He did a smashing job, although I did have a jug of sunflowers to enjoy indoors at the end of the day.

The main treat though was the sheer amount of beautifully coloured potatoes that he found in the soil. Purples (Blue Danube), pinks (possibly red Cara)  and creamy golds were revealed with every forkful.  I took them home and washed them carefully; half way through the operation, I thought I'd better weigh them. So, with the mud removed and dried off, I popped them on the kitchen scales: 6.4 kilos, almost 14 lbs!  Not bad for a free harvest, eh?  Plenty to share amongst friends - and I've still got my Vivaldi, Charlotte and Pink Fir potatoes to uncover! Three cheers for summer!

See you tomorrow for the Saturday Snap!

Caro x

A spud rainbow

19 Apr 2010

One Potato, Two Potato? More!

We have a gardening competition here at York Rise and, in past years, I've entered the Best Balcony category - not, I must say, because I believe my balcony is worthy of the title but because I feel the need to counter the entrants who buy swathes of bedding plants with which to impress the judges.  I feel that the competition should be about more than just the ice cream at the end of the pier.

Last year I grew an eclectic, edible mix of herbs, lavender, peppers, tomatoes and a few flowers among the ivy and mesembryanthemum (it took me months to learn that name!). It didn't quite do it for the judges (they actually commented on the muted colours of my planting! - What's wrong with green?) so no rosettes for me.

This year, the battle continues and I'd already ordered some potatoes from Dobies ("The Keen Gardener's Choice") to grow in planters on the balcony, when the Gardening Guru pitched up with a few seed potatoes for us.  This turned out to number about 120.  So, my order to Dobies was cancelled as no longer needed and my money refunded.  Spool forward a few days and my Postie hands me a large box labelled: 'Live Plants'.  Ah.  Let's open the box, shall we?


Oh, what joy!  More potatoes!  from Dobies!

I rang them to put them in the picture and they have generously donated them to the Veg Patch.  For which, I thank you.

So… VoilĂ  my bedroom chitters - Swift (floury), Charlotte (salad), Vivaldi (creamy, smooth, yum) :


And this is (half of) our greenhouse chitters:


… all labelled up so that we know what we're growing and when they'll be ready.  (A process which made me feel tremendously organised and with the bonus that I've learned an awful lot about spuds.)

Dobies: Have been awarded Best Seed Supplier by Which? magazine and I found them to be very nice people to do business with - friendly, efficient, quick to answer the phone and a real person to speak to! Recommended. (The link under their name will take you through to their website which has a fantastic range of plants, seeds and special offers.)
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