The potatoes that nearly weren’t

In early spring last year we saw a notice for a ‘Potato Day’ in Castle Cary. We were intrigued, and headed over to see what it was all about. It was all about potatoes! In a community hall trestle tables had been set up in a square formation, and covered with trugs full of seed potatoes – every one a different variety, from ancient to modern. The system was that you took some bags and walked around the trestles, choosing which potatoes you wanted, and writing on the bags what they were. Payment was by number of potatoes, all very simple. It was like a jumble sale only much more orderly – potato fanciers seem like a very civilised bunch. We studied the ‘form’ in the form of a small leaflet describing the varieties, and made our choice – it was fun, and the romance of the potato caught hold of us.

When we got home we dug over our small vegetable patch and allocated spaces for the four different varieties we had chosen – 

Mr Littles Yetholmes Gypsy – 1899

Belle de Fontenay – 1885

Apache – 1986

Dobbies Asset – 1930

– and in they went.

Then the rains came, and came, and came. The potato plants grew ok, and we got potatoes off them, but without exception they were fairly tasteless and watery, breaking up in the pan after only a short boil.

So we decided that we would forgo potatoes this year, and concentrate on beans and peas. Last autumn D dug the plot over thoroughly, finding a few potatoes left, but digging deep to clear them all.

We watched our seeds come up, and grow into healthy plants. But hang on, what’s this growing among them? Blooming potatoes, and not just one, but about 3 or 4 plants. It seems the potato will out, so we let them grow.

We dug some up yesterday and they were a lovely red and white colour, so we decided they must be ‘Apache’. We weren’t expecting too much after last year, but when we cooked them they were absolutely delicious, just what you would expect from a home-grown potato.

So we learned something interesting about the effect of too much rain on potatoes!

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