I’m a big fan of the Kitchen Garden magazine; I always have it firmly placed on the side table in the lounge ready for me to read it with a good afternoon brew. It’s full of great tips and ideas; some of which I would never have thought of myself. So when I turned the page to ‘Tried and tasted ... potatoes’ I was interested to find out what expert advice would be offered and what varieties would be recommended. ‘Blue Belle’ spuds have always provided my family with good all-rounder yields, but I wanted to find out what else is worth growing on the allotment.
In the article Joe Maiden, a BBC Radio Leeds presenter took on Kitchen Garden’s challenge to see how some favourite potato varieties performed on his allotment. To begin with Joe chose some old and new varieties from earlies (Red Duke of York), second earlies (Nadine), maincrops (Blue Belle) and salads (Anya and Pink Fir Apple). He selected an area of the land that had never before grown potatoes and dug the area in November while adding in some well-rotted farmyard manure. There were some large clods in the soil, but as the winter weather would naturally break them down, Joe simply let nature take its course.
The potato sets were well chitted and the tubes were planted 35cm apart in rows 60 cm apart.
Tip: During the course of winter have a cloche, fleece or upturned bucket ready to cover the plants in case of light frosts.
Red Duke of York (early variety) – These were lifted after 12 weeks and averaged 12 tubers per plant. The Red Duke of York provided lots of small potatoes, appeared to have very little slug damage and were easily lifted as they were close to the parent plant. However, the plant formed many seed pods, which should be removed as they’re poisonous if eaten.
These are a good variety to grow as many flowers are also formed, which set seeds very quickly.
Nadine (second early variety) – these yields were lifted after 16 weeks and provided 20 tubers per plant. There was little slug damage on the spuds, there weren’t any signs of blight and they were easily lifted when placed close to the parent plant.
Joe Maiden’s notes: “A heavy cropper that stored well. Excellent show bench type in the class for white potatoes.”
Anya (salad variety) – Joe found that this variety gave excellent yields; 40-50 tubers were formed on each per plant. However, many were small in size and they did suffer from blight, but slug damage didn’t seem to be a problem.
Excellent crops for storing.
Pink Fir Apple (late maincrop, often used as a salad potato) – these red-skinned plants produced 30-40 tubers per plant. However, they did suffer from blight and there was visible slug damage. The disadvantages of growing this variety didn’t stop either; Joe found that the tubers were spread out in the soil and so were harder to find than most.
Joe Maiden’s notes: “Whenever this variety is displayed on our stand at shows it stops people in their tracks as they want to know what it is and how to prepare it.”
Blue Belle (late maincrop) – In appearance the ‘Blue Belle’ variety produces tubers that look familiarly like ‘Kestrel’, which is one of the reasons why Joe wanted to grow it in his trial. ‘Blue Belle’ produced 15 tubers per plant, but they weren’t as even as the tubers produced by the ‘Kestrel’ variety. It gets worse, there was no sign of any slug damage, but in August the dreaded blight hit.
Joe Maiden’s notes: “Since tuber size was variable it made them harder to match for the show bench. On my soil ‘Kestrel’ was better.
Purely on flavour, Joe and his family concluded that the ‘Nadine’ variety he grew provided the best taste, with the ‘Amorosa’ variety failing to impress.
Joe Maiden’s article can be found in the July issue of the Kitchen Garden magazine