Monday, 30 July 2007

Baking potatoes

The annual potato harvest came early this year.
Sodden ground brought our second early potato Kestrel to an end four weeks early. Kestrel tubers are quite round and have purple eyes set in yellow skin. When cut, the organically grown ones have satisfying dense yellow flesh. For those who can say these things with a straight face, it is a very pretty potato!

Advancing potato blight would have got them anyway in this terrible gardening summer. Blight has ruined our maincrop potatoes and killed the second-cropping ones planted a short while ago. Tomatoes are also being affected - being in the same plant family.

But, surprise, surprise the tubers lifted were not as disappointing as I had feared. Many were of a reasonable size and there were far fewer of the very small potatoes than we usually have. And almost no slug damage! Of course, growing on an allotment, the lifting of potatoes is public and an opportunity for comment. John came by and commented on how small the tubers were in comparison to his own Kestrel, which apparently achieved the size of small pumpkins.

My normal routine is to lift them for storing at the end of August. The tubers are left to dry in the sunshine for a few hours and then bagged.

This year, the potatoes had to be dredged from parts of the allotment. I'm sure that I have left many tubers in the soil and know that I spiked several because they were so hard to see in the sludge. You always seem to spike the biggest!

Today they are sunbathing on the patio before being bagged.

But, as they say, there are no problems, only opportunities and challenges.

  • Kestrel seem to have done better than some other varieties. It has certainly been our most consistent performer over many years and will remain our main potato.
  • Lifting the potatoes early is probably the reason for the limited slug damage. I'll try and remember that next year and lift before August.
  • And the importance of watering has been confirmed again. Potato yields are increased by watering. Local farmers irrigate their potato fields constantly - and with good commercial reason. If I only had time!
  • I'll limit the number of rows of maincrop Pink Fir Apple next year. Maincrop are always vulnerable to blight because their foliage (haulm) is standing late in the season, when blight is worst.

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