The World’s Best Potato

Last year I walked into the transmogrifier a bona fides city person, and came out the other side as a suburbanite.

Well, to be honest I’ve always felt affinity with the countryside even though I love the steamy old city.  There was the idyllic childhood in a nearly uninhabited section of central England.  There were the Commune Years, where I spent my time fashioning shoes out of bark and desperately trying to communicate with rabbits.  I can ride a horse bareback to escape marauding holiday-makers who don’t like it when you peer into their caravan.  I know first-hand the velocity required to make it to the other side of the silo without drowning in grain.

The Commune Years came complete with an enormous lean-to Victorian greenhouse, with pits of deep sludge the bottom of which couldn’t be reached with the longest stick you can possibly imagine.  There was a walled garden replete with many varieties of things that I refused to eat.

As all magazine editors know, you can’t call yourself a suburbanite without a Raised Bed in which to grow things that you will ingest after you’ve boasted about their zero carbon footprint, the extra special taste, and the money savings.  OK!  I thought.  Let us get with the programme here, and worship at the altar of the Raised Bed.  I felt sure I had subconsciously imbibed the kind of green-fingered knowledge one requires for such an enterprise from my childhood encounters with horticulture.

It was a shocking discovery (K-man’s) that despite the easy step by step instructions and multiple articles about how simple! and cheap! it is to make your own raised beds, that on a sloping plot it’s like trying to cobble together a space shuttle out of old bits of decking.  A day and around 100 quid later, we had achieved.   What they don’t tell you in those magazine articles is that you better make sure you have a shit load of growing-matter available or you will have to buy compost.

We had some grass-cuttings, some leaves and bits of garden compost at the back in the shitty patch of the garden, but since I had instructed that the Raised Bed should be extra high we were somewhat short of material.  I put around ten bags of shop-bought peat-free compost in there, and uttered the immortal words Fuck It.

Nonetheless, I planted some seed potatoes and settled back.  I did make a tactical error in using raised beds for potatoes though, as it is severely limiting how much you can ‘earth up’ without creating compost carnage.  Here they are, three months down the line.

In other news, we’ve lost the camera.  Until we can buy a new one, iPhone pictures R us.   I bought too many potato plants so there are also some in the bin to the right hand side of the photo.  In the back you can see Fallow Raised Bed 2, currently collecting growing medium for use next year when I shall expand my enterprise and take over farming with industrial-scale cackling and witchcraft.

I have waited, and waited, and my posture has withered, and I have willed potato-flowers to die.  For that is apparently the indicator of potato readiness.  Yesterday, through the haze of one of the worst hangovers of my life, I lost it and started flinging foliage around to unearth these buggers.

So, there were potatoes, yes.  But I had been led to believe by my vegetable-growing tome that there would be lots of medium-sized new potatoes for me to enjoy with my fish supper.  Not so.  Some of the potatoes were akin to pinheads, and others were the size of a Fijian island.

What has gone wrong?  I’ve had to grade my potatoes into ‘pointless’, ‘single-bite’, and ‘mutant’.  There is a sizeable haul I suppose, but honestly we are looking at about a fiver’s worth of spuds (a tenner if you count them as organic, for I don’t do pesticides).  For about a fiver’s worth of investment not including the beds themselves which will last for years.  I oscillated between joy – I grew them! – and despair – they are not as I was led to believe they would be.

That was until I tasted one.  K-man (on chicken-roasting duty yesterday evening) had grabbed two of the more gargantuan potatoes and baked them.  And I tell you, it was the best and most flavourful potato experience my taste-buds have ever had.  Knocked spots off the shop-bought spud.

My graded potatoes are sitting in a cool dark place waiting for my next bout of tuber-cookery.  I think, though, on the whole I use my space more sensibly and go with the bin-only approach next year.  I think three plants in one bin was too ambitious, and I’ll do just one plant and see if I can increase my potato-per-plant ratio.

So, internet, anything else I should know about growing potatoes?


5 Responses to “The World’s Best Potato”

  1. 1 jennatjugglinglife June 20, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Potatoes are my desert-island food; I love them–but I haven’t ever tried to grow them.

  2. 2 Bella Rum June 20, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    I was just waiting to get to the end to see if you’d eaten any of them yet because I knew they would taste great. As for the little ones, many people prize them, don’t cha know? They sell them at my favorite vegetable stand. I boil them with skins on and put a little butter and parsley on them, or you can toss them with a little grated cheddar cheese instead of butter. Be proud of your potatoes. You will never taste a better potato than the one you grew yourself.

  3. 3 Jen June 21, 2011 at 2:11 am

    We love the wee potatoes here in my house. I drizzle them with a little olive oil and some salt, then bake them for a little while. Delish.

    I grew potatoes last year but discovered that the cost and the effort were not worth the harvest I reaped. This year, I’m more focused on tomatoes, cucumbers, edamame, and herbs.

  4. 4 Bella Rum June 21, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Yes, I forgot about drizzling them with olive oil and roasting them. Sometimes I throw a few carrots and onions in with them.

  5. 5 Jonathan June 21, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    See… I knew as soon as I read “transmogrify” in the opening sentence that this was going to be a good one :)

    We tried to grow potatoes in our garden when we first moved in – that was before we discovered half a building site buried under the ground. The drainage was so good because of it, nothing would grow… We’re talking motorway kerb stones…

    We are good at growing courgettes though – which seem to do well particularly if you forget about them.

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