How to choose the perfect potatoes to grow

Is it worth growing your own potatoes?

This is an important question and one I think you should ask of any crop before you decide to grow it.

Potatoes are like onions in the sense they are cheap as chips and readily available in the supermarkets. Why would you bother growing your own?

Whenever I confront this question it always comes down to one of the most beneficial factors of growing your own fruit and veg – variety.

Away from the supermarket shelves and into the world of growing your own, the variety of fruit and vegetables is incredible. I think this is especially important when it comes to staples like potatoes which we pop into our shopping baskets on a weekly basis.

You can grow, very easily, the exact variety of potato you want for flavour, colour and purpose. It’s true, potatoes can take up a lot of room, but you can grow a few plants in the smallest of places – the yield is still impressive even when grown in a sack or a bin.

If you want to see how impressive the yield of pot grown potatoes can be, just take a look at experienced veg grower Dan’s (Allotment Diary) video below:

When it comes to variety, you’re spoilt for choice. There are over 4,000 edible varieties of potato.

Potatoes have been cultivated on our own Isles since the 15 Century and we tend to regard the humble spud as one of our own.

However, it’s origins lie in South-America. In fact, genetic testing proved a single origin for potatoes in the area of present-day Southern Peru and Northwestern Bolivia.

Amazingly, of the 4,000 potato varieties worldwide, 3,000 of them can be found in the Andes alone.

How to choose the varieties of potatoes you would like to grow?

Start with what you know. What potatoes do you enjoy eating?

Maris Piper is one we are likely all used to eating. Usually deep-fried and covered in salt and vinegar. If you like your mash, then the red-skinned Desiree is another relatively well-known potato with the perfect texture to make that creamy smooth mash. If it’s mouth-watering, ruffled up roasties piled up on the Sunday lunch plate, then it’s likely you’ve been using the fluffy King Edward.

These varieties of potatoes are commercially available in the supermarkets, but understanding the type of spud you enjoy eating is a great starting point when looking for other varieties with similar qualities to grow your own.

Get recommendations

If you have an allotment, ask your neighbours. Not only will they be able to suggest some varieties but they will also understand what performs well in your growing conditions.

If you’re active on social media, there’s an army of gardeners and veg growers who are only too pleased to share their experience of the types of potatoes they’ve grown on their own plots. It’s a great way to get some recommended varieties and discover others experience of those that taste particularly good as well as pests and problems that potatoes suffer from.

Jack Wallington used the power of the Twittersphere to ask for recommended potatoes to grow on his allotment. Inundated with suggestions from experienced growers, he listed the clear winners.

Potatoes

The AHDB Potato Variety Database

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

The AHDB potato database provides independent data on GB-certified potato varieties that have undergone independent resistance testing for key pests, diseases and pathogens.

Clearly, it’s designed for industry, but I still found it a helpful tool to discover varieties of potatoes I’d like to grow on the allotment and some useful information on their characteristics.

The homepage offers a quick search function. If you know the name of a particular variety, type it in and click search and it will bring up the information about the potato. However, for me, the power of the database is within the advanced search facility.

The database provides an extensive selection of characteristics to choose from, some are not as relevant for the home grower, but values such as cooking type, skin and flesh colour are considerations we might want to make. Each of the characteristics you choose will provide options within the particular characteristic for you to pick and filter the results further.

The database provides a useful description of the potato including yield and texture. There are also images of the tuber, sprout and the potato’s flower.

potatoes

Potato days

Meeting other passionate potato growers in person is a fantastic way to learn more about the huge variety of potatoes available, how others have found growing them and of course how they taste.

You can find a list of potato day events all across the country by visiting potato-days.net. This is the twelfth year Pennard Plants have been hosting these events in conjunction with Garden Clubs and Societies.

Choosing the perfect potato to grow is ultimately a personal choice and based on many factors. The variety of potatoes available is incredible and I genuinely believe there lies the benefit of growing your own.

What are your favourite varieties of potatoes to grow on your plots? Let me and everybody else know why you like them in the comments below.


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22 thoughts on “How to choose the perfect potatoes to grow

  1. I have Lady Crystl, Charlotte and Sarpo Mira. Haven’t grown these varieties before. I grow spuds in bags, just old compost bags. I’ll have 5 bags of each type, I think. I have grown earlies in the raised beds but as you say they take up a lot of space. It is pointless making an economic case for growing spuds GYO but i enjoy the process and still am delighted when delving in one of the bags for a spud harvest. I’m always a little surprised that they look like potatoes! I’m never sure with veg. My carrots frequently do not look remotely like shop carrots…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I recognise all those varieties being highly recommended by growers. I’m definitely a Charlotte fan. I don’t think I could not grow them in fact. They are very special treasure. Even a pot or bag of earlies to enjoy in the summer for a meal or two is just delightful.

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  2. Potatoes do not do well here, or at least in some areas. I happen to know that some people do quite well with the; although i can not determine why. I think if they were a reliable crop, more of the farmers here would grow them. I suppose in home gardens, we are not worried about making a profit, but I would be pleased with more than what I have gotten.

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  3. I grow potatoes mainly because you can’t beat the texture and flavour of a new potato fresh out of the ground. The ones you buy from supermarkets have mostly be stored (sometimes in a chiller) for ages before they are offered for sale. When growing in containers you can get a pretty decent crop from a small space too. My favourites are “Charlotte” and “Pink Fir Apple”, though there are many great varieties available. I’m off to my local Potato Day next weekend, to stock up. This year, with my new 2nd plot, I’ll be able to grow some Maincrops for a change.

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    1. I completely agree Mark. Before the allotment I grew them in bags and there is something so special about having a meal or two from fresh home grown spuds in the summer. They feel different too. I think it’s as you say, supermarkets have had them stored and chilled.

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  4. We looked at the space on our half plot last year and decided not to grow potatoes, until I saw a pack of 5 little seed potatoes for £1 in Wilko, the type was ‘Nicola’ and I felt we had to try! So we did it in a bag, they were easy to grow and fairly low maintenance, we got a couple of kilos and they tasted really good. This year we are going with the ‘Nicola’ again and ‘Anya’, five bags because I really don’t have the space otherwise. I keep saying that it might be time for a full plot just so I can grow more stuff!

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    1. I think that’s what so fantastic about growing them Nic. Even a small sackful is just wonderful. Early spuds, fresh from the soil in the summer are just a delight. I could eat them just on their own. Anya has a good reputation.

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  5. Your references in the blog are excellent and the AHDB website is a very good place to hang out if you are either a professional or amateur potato grower.
    Potato Blight is a constant threat in most parts of the country and there is plenty that allotment potato growers can do to reduce blight pressure. I hope that you have time to blog about this later in the year and help spread the Fight agains Blight message. [https://blight.ahdb.org.uk]

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much. I stumbled across the database last year are thought it a very useful resource for home growers. The information is fantastic. Not all are available from retailers bit many are with a Google search. I’ll take a look at the blight info.

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    1. That’s an old variety isn’t it? I have heard it mentioned a lot. I keep saying this to all the others commenting but it’s just worth saying again. Earlies, fresh from the soil in the summer are such a treat. I used to treasure the few meals we used to have from a few sacks when I didn’t have the allotment.

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  6. I totally agree after the year I’ve had with potatoes, I did wonder why I bothered in the first place as a bag of potatoes really doesn’t cost that much. However as the years go on at the plot, I find I grow potatoes in areas where the ground could do with tlc – potatoes really do break up the ground superbly and I’m usually reward with a fine grade of soil to plant in, with that in mind, any crop I do get is a massive bonus.

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    1. Yeah. I never know whether it’s the potatoes that do or us earthing up and digging the spuds up! Ha ha but they certainly grow pretty much anywhere don’t they? What varieties you thinking of growing this year?

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      1. Ha! You’re right it’s probably us to be fair (note to self, must dig and weed more often). Just before Christmas I planted some International Kidney potatoes as an experiment, if they don’t come through, I think I’ll plant another load as they’re supposed to be Jersey royals (but without the Jersey soil) and some Maris Piper’s, great for roasts and chips 🙂

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  7. I’m just getting into growing potatoes myself. We have a bad wireworm problem we’re going to be using nematodes to try to tackle. What do you suggest as an option for very clay-heavy soils, and what do you think would be best for potato box growing or strawbale gardening?

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    1. Hello. I have clay soil too. When I first took plot on I dug in as much compost or organic matter I could get my hands on to break the soil up. You won’t be short on nutrients with clay that’s for sure. I’m no dig on a number of beds now and it works a treat. Even with clay. So many good varieties to pick but you will want to go for early varieties when growing them in containers and small spaces.

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  8. We accidentally bought Maris Peer last year as they were in the same basket as the Maris Piper in the garden centre. Turns out they’re lovely. We also grew King Edward and Anya, but Maris Peer definitely came out as our favourite. I think we’ll be growing them again this year. They fared really well in heavy soil and were good croppers – buying them turned out to be a happy accident after all!

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  9. Great article Richard.
    Have to say we always find Charlotte to be the most reliable for all potato recipes summer related. King Edward is a great winter spud with Rooster a close runner up. For something a little different, try Salad Blue or Purple Majesty. Both keep their purple colour on cooking and are full of healthy anthocyanins. David (Boxwood Gardens)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi David. Thanks so much. I grew rooster this year. Stored very well too. It’s a bit one dimensional though? It roasts nicely but it breaks apart when boiled. I’m very tempted with purple majesty this year. I want to grow potatoes with some exciting colour.

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