Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Ready, get set, grow!

For me, the vegetable growing year begins when I buy seed potatoes. So many to choose from but only so much space I want to put aside to grow them in!

I had to be rational about this . . .
1) I want an early potato with an excellent flavour
2) I want a potato that I know will do well in my garden
3) I want good salad potatoes through the summer
4) I want to try something different
5) I want to grow some old fashioned potatoes

Here's this year's selection, settled into their egg boxes all ready for chitting.

aka Jersey Royal if it's grown on a cliff-side in Jersey. This always does well in our garden, it survives drought well and the foliage is lush and a lovely shade of green. Good potato flavour and a large crop of medium sized smooth tubers.

aka Asparges. The French gourmet salad potato, some years it's hard to track down (I substitute with Charlotte and Pink Fir Apple) so I was thrilled to see it available this year. It has a lovely pale yellow flesh with a waxy texture – the flavour is actually best when eaten just warm or cold.

I've grown this before but not in this garden, so it will be interesting to see how it does. It has been on the 'national potato list' since 1891 and has been a popular choice for allotments and back gardens because it's a great all-rounder for the kitchen, with a great flavour.

This is one of the potatoes I remember from my childhood, I remember dropping the potatoes into the holes my Dad dug. It's named after Charles Sharpe of Sleaford, Lincolnshire who introduced it in 1900. Best boiled whole with the skins left on, I'm hoping for that quintessential 'new potato' flavour.

I bought my seed potatoes from Oakington Garden Centre on the Fen edge just west of Cambridge, where there are 30 varieties to select from – be quick though, they'll sell out pretty fast! If you've read Engleby by Sebastian Faulks, you'll recognise the roads you drive along to get there – and the scenes described in chapter 10 happened hereabouts in the flat muddy fields.

I also bought onion sets: Red Baron and Sturon; shallots: Picasso and Golden Gourmet; and garlic Fokhagyma – a Hungarian variety that has been grown since the 15th century, I'm looking forward to trying this!

Now I really feel the vegetable year is underway and I'm looking forward to sowing seeds, digging the soil and constructing structures to protect and support the crops.

I'm also looking forward to reading a different novel – something to lift me out of the dark fen mists and troubled mind of Engleby. Any suggestions?



  1. I always look forward to chitting potatoes, though our harvest last year was pitiful - we lost a lot to late frost and then lack of rain did for most of the rest.

    I'm reading One Day by David Nicholls and so far it is light and easy reading - a bit like Nick Hornby. I just finished Room for a book club read and needed something cheerful!

  2. Ohh that's lifted the spirits, chitting potatoes and the promise of the season ahead.

  3. Set mine out to chit yesterday too - I bought Arran Pilot and Maris Peer for a first early and a maincrop. Old but reliable (like me!)

  4. Onions and potatoes are definitely my husbands patch but like you I like a variety that will serve different needs. We are itching to get going but having ordered have to wait until they arrive!
    Jo x

  5. Books.... The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs if you are a knitter and in the mood for something light. The London Train by Tessa Hadley for something different, two stories that have a link. The Search by Nora Roberts for a bit of romance and a bit of tension too.

  6. I was looking at seed potatoes yesterday, but as i am a novice veteable grower, I stood there completely baffled! I am after a tattie that is good for baking - any recommendations?

  7. Hi Dottycookie and Maggie - thank you so much for the reading suggestions, very tempting choices.

    Flower Garden and Jamjar - this is a useful link to help you choose a variety http://www.lovepotatoes.co.uk/potato-varieties/


  8. How lovely to be thinking about potatoes already. I must get some. Thanks for the description of the different varieties.

  9. Oh I'm thinking spuds too - this coming weekend, fingers crossed.
    Never ask me about books - I'm reading 'If this is a man' by Primo Levi - not that happy-go-lucky stuff xxx

  10. Celia,
    Some great choices here. We've grown Duke of York for years and it does have a great flavour. After all, if it's been around for over a hundred years it can't be all bad! As a book choice ,no pun intended here, but what about 'the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society'. It's a little gem. light and dark and wonderful. Lesley

  11. Those are all potatoes I've never heard of! Roasted potatoes with butter and salt are my favorite comfort food. Alas, I won't be planting potatoes anytime soon. Another blizzard is predicted for Thursday!

  12. Great selection of seed potatoes, the new season has started. I'm off to the Hampshire Potato Day on Saturday to choose my 'wild card' coloured spud.

  13. This is wierd. Today I bought Duke of York, Rooster, International Kidney, Home Guard and Sharpe's Express. I suddenly thought it was potato time:)

  14. Lesley - What an apt choice! It's gone straight onto my Amazon wish-list ;-)

    Terry - I think that the weather here is lulling us into a false sense of Spring!

    Damo - Potato Days sound like fun - better than a sweetie shop IMO!

    Skybluepinkish - Are we linked by a psychic force? We'll have to compare how they grow. Oh! but you'll know already ;-)


  15. Celia, this is one of those posts of yours that take me deeply into a place far from my city life. Thank you! I have learned that chit might be a verb, and lots of about special potatoes that I might see later this year a local farmers markets.


  16. This sounds like a spoof given your post, but have you read 'The Guernsey Literary and Potato-Peel Pie Society'? It's lovely, very different and leaves you with that feel-good feeling. Penny x


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