Monday, 17 September 2012
Digging the dirt
I once got into an argument on Twitter with someone or other over Sarpo potatoes. Don't look surprised, you know you're not.
Basically he was sounding off long and hard about what a fantastic potato they are, cheap to run, blight resistant, perfect for organic and all the rest of the shpiel about how it was going to save the world while I was saying that although I appreciated the blight resistance and its hardiness as a plant, in any ordinary year with ordinary care it performed no better and was no better foodstuff than most of the other varieties we grow here and prefer to eat.
It seems we're both right.
This year, this sorry year, where conditions for all my vegetables have been poor, the blight as bad as usual and my motivation to keep on of top of things at a significantly distinct low it's the Sarpo Mira that have been really rather impressive.
They have grown well in poor fertility soil, they have tolerated a frankly appalling level of weed encroachment and their resistance to blight has been totally stunning. If the Irish had had them in the 1840s there might have been no famine and all history would have changed.
Yields were good if not great. They're not immune to voles as you can see from the picture but the plant foliage was still functional even after a season that had stripped the rest of the field of its leaves and the tubers are sound, free from blight decay. They keep well and cook o.k.; more commodity than gourmet but potato is something that is often used as a filler rather than the star.
If you aim for self sufficiency in potatoes it is worth having a proportion of your crop made up of these Savari Research Trust conventionally bred varieties and if you've a little money to spare you might take part in the crowd sourced funding drive to get new cultivars onto the National list.
We had unmentionably small yields of Red Duke of York, the Stroma barely any better, a few good Shetland Black but two regular favourites, the Pink Fir Apple and the British Queen, haven't even returned their seed weight in crop. Particularly disappointing as we had planted more rows of these which are so good for cooking.
Which is not say that all the other varieties were write offs. The Ambo, which is nearly as tough as the Sarpo Mira produced a fair amount although it was hit hard by the blight by August and the surprise performer was Arran Victory, a very old and consequently less blight resistant sort that held out to the bitter end and provided nearly as much in weight per row as the Sarpo.