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.
DUKE OF YORK
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?