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.
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.
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.
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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