Last summer I tried an experiment and it went very well. My friend, Reuben, gave me a few of his 'Puritan' potatoes earlier in the year to try out and I grew a good harvest from them. He highly recommends this variety. I grew them next to a rather dramatic purple variety, Salad Blue (Solanum andigenum), dating back to the 1900s that cropped very well, tastes good roasted, boiled or baked but is a bit alarming on the plate when mashed!
Puritan is a high quality white variation of pink Beauty of Hebron bred by a homesteader in Hebron, New York State in the early 1870’s. It was one of the first first earlies to reach Europe.
Chatting about Puritan, Reuben suggested I grow my own seed potatoes in the early summer. Seed potaoes are relatively expensive but they do produce higher yields and they are less likely to introduce disease into your plot. Some growers simply save a selection of their crop in a brown paper bag in a cool, dark place and replant in the new season. This risks of reintroducing air- or soil-bourne diseases that you may have had the previous year into the plot so horticulturists recommend you isolate the potential seed potaoes in a greenhouse away from where you have grown potatoes and use a commercial growing medium that is effectively 'clean' rather than garden soil that might carry the fungal pores of diseases like potato blight.
Rueben explained how to grow your own.
You need to grow your seed potaoes in a clean environment so I purchased a grow bag (the first time I have done that in over two decades!). Make sure the compost in the bag is not compacted. Cut some irrigation holes in its base. Then cut three holes on the top of the bag. Two at either end for a seed potato in each and one in the middle where you sink a small flowerpot to aid irrigation.
Place your grow bag in the greenhouse and never water the leaves of the tubers, always water the bag via the pot. Wait until they have flowered and started to die back and then harvest the crop. Store in egg cartons ready for next Spring.
From my two Puritan potatoes, one was not viable but one yielded six good sized potatoes and six smaller ones. I am definitely going to do this again next summer.
Meanwhile, who won the taste test between Puritan and the Salad Blue?
It had to be Puritan in the middle. It was simply delicious.
Edible Perennial Gardening: Growing Successful Polycultures in Small Spaces by Anni Kelsey for a special price of £11.20 (also available as an eBook)
Maddy Harland co-founded and edits. She has been practising permaculture since 1991.
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