Which Seed Potatoes to Grow
Which seed potatoes to grow in your garden is a question foremost in many gardeners minds at the moment and so I thought that I’d give a bit of guidance.
With so much rain this winter I know that gardeners are champing at the bit to get growing again!
For vegetable growers and allotmenteers, buying seed potatoes is the first real growing task of the growing year!
Some will have a few tubers of seed potatoes saved from last year’s crop and that’s fine if they were squeaky clean and free of any diseases.
But potatoes succumb to a lot of diseases unless you replenish your ‘seed’ by buying certified seed potatoes regularly. There’s also the undeniable thrill of trying something new, another variety, colour or taste.
So if now is the time to buy seed potatoes, and it is, which seed potatoes to grow – that is which variety?
My humble opinion
I’m an advocate of growing a variety that isn’t regular on sale in the supermarket. However there is an argument that if farmers are growing a variety it is going to be a good performer.
So you might still opt to grow Maris Piper, Wilja, Cara or Estima but grow them organically so that you know exactly how they are grown.
Many gardeners like to grow a variety that they – and perhaps their parents – always grow.
It is claimed that some varieties taste better on certain soils than on others. That might just explain the local popularity of the old variety Arran Pilot which in my experience is prone to disease.
Choose the ones that are good for you
You know, potatoes are very good for you!
They have a great nutritional profile and are a good source of fibre.
They are naturally salt and fat free, have a low sugar content and are a good source of potassium!
Perhaps it is better to approach this variety dilemma from the other end!
How about narrowing down the often bewildering choice [most retailers sell over 25 varieties] by choosing varieties for how they perform in the kitchen and how tasty they are?
Recommended Varieties of Seed Potatoes
Great for roasting – Desiree, King Edward, Maris Piper, Kestrel.
Good for chips – King Edward, Maris Piper, Kestrel, Maris Bard.
Recommended for baking – Estima, King Edward, Marfona, Cara, Nadine.
Best for boiling – Charlotte, King Edward, Red Duke of York, Pentland Javelin, Nadine, Wilja, Cara, Pentland Crown, Foremost.
Good for mash – Desiree, King Edward, Maris Piper, Estima, Kestrel, Nadine.
Tasty salad varieties – Belle de Fontenay, Charlotte, Ratte, Pink Fir Apple.
Tasty and early ‘new’ potatoes – Rocket, Lady Christl, Pentland Javelin,
Good for growing in containers – International Kidney, Rocket, Lady Christl
You’ll notice that some varieties feature in several lists so are a good compromise.
There’s more useful information on the BBC Food website here.
Get them started
Having made your choice of which seed potatoes you are going to grow this year, set the tubers up in a coolish but bright windowsill. This is to encourage short, fat and dark green coloured shoots to grow. This is called ‘chitting’ and this coaxing on of new growth on your seed potatoes will result in much earlier crops. It’s debatable whether it is necessary for main crop and late maturing varieties but as I see it, it can’t do any harm and if your spud has some nice fat dark shoots on top when you plant them, they are going to hit the ground running aren’t they?
Planting time will vary from area to area and also how eager you are to take a bit of a risk for that earliest crop! Generally, early March is when I plant my early varieties of seed potatoes but I wait until late March to put the main crop and salad varieties in the ground.
Potatoes have lots of jargon words surrounding them which can be a bit off putting to newcomers to growing an easy vegetable. So here I’ll try to explain those that you might meet along the way! –
‘Seed’ potatoes – well actually, these are swollen stems and not seeds at all!
‘Tubers’ – the swollen stem which is just a food storage organ with buds at one end.
‘Chitting’ – to encourage dumpy shoots to develop at one end of the tuber.
‘Eyes’ – these are dormant buds clustered around the end of the tuber furthest from where it was once attached to mum! You can often see where the tuber was attached to the mother plant as remnants of the stem attachment can be seen.
‘Haulm’ – this is just a fancy name for leaves and shoots.
More Reading from Alan Down
So armed with this info I hope that you’re all set and ready to get your seed potatoes. After all it’s the first veg crop of 2020!