Newest Review: ... Sounds simple? It is! But I have used these before and wouldn't recommend them purely because the potatoes that grew from the seed wer... more
The ever popular potato
Member Name: Lunaria
Date: 24/02/12, updated on 07/07/12 (37 review reads)
Advantages: Versatile in cooking, healthy, widely available
Disadvantages: Plants often susceptible to pests and disease
The potato has a long history of being a mainstay of our diet and we all know it is a wonderfully versatile vegetable, we eat it boiled, baked, sautéed, deep fried, mashed and roasted. It is a crucial part of traditional dishes such as Shepherds pie, Lancashire hotpot and of course a classical roast dinner. The humble potato is also the basis of big business for manufacturers who make crisps and french fries. Potatoes are an excellent carbohydrate and also contain Vitamin C and magnesium.
There seems to be an almost endless variety to choose from which grow through from early Spring to Autumn and can be floury or waxy in texture, pale white to red in colour. A few of our British varieties are: Maris Piper (ideal for baking) King Edward (good for boiling) Saxon (good for mashing) and Duke of York (often eaten as new potatoes)
~ My experience and thoughts ~
I grow potatoes in a large plot every year. Loved greatly by my family, potatoes are eaten almost daily throughout the spring and summer. I think an outdated view is that to lose weight you need to cut down on potatoes. As a carbohydrate food, potatoes are relatively low in calories and can be cooked in many ways which don't include large amounts of oil or butter. Since I started growing potatoes I hardly ever buy them because we are able to have a good store for the winter months and although this usually runs out at the end of March we decide to wait for our first earlies which I start to lift in May. As far as my family are concerned there is no replacing the fresh, earthy taste of home-grown potatoes.
~ Growing Potatoes ~
It is widely claimed potatoes are easy to grow. I think they are in terms of process but the plants are highly susceptible to various problems such as blight, ringworm and mildew. Blight, for instance, can swiftly destroy a whole crop. Fortunately seed potato varieties include disease resistant tubers, this doesn't mean the plants will not get the disease but they will be less prone to and affected by it. I highly recommend the resistant varieties because they will help ensure a good crop with less need for treating and tending plants. My all time favourite 'Orla' has good disease resistance, can be grown as an early or maincrop and stores extremely well. The potatoes are pale cream, very smooth and taste good. Seed potatoes are on sale early in the year and February is the time to start chitting, a simple matter of leaving the tubers in a dark, cool place to sprout.
The soil needs to be prepared by incorporating plenty of manure. When the tubers have produced shoots (eyes) of approx 2cm, it is time to plant them. My method is to dig a trench, place the potatoes roughly 40cm apart, cover with grass cuttings and then bank up with soil. The grass cuttings help to conserve moisture, provide nutrients and are believed to promote a blemish free crop. On the couple of occasions I didn't do this my crops were disappointing so I now religiously add grass cuttings with each planting. Slugs, birds and rabbits are then a threat to the newly planted crop so I employ various deterrents, beer traps etc. Plants are notoriously greedy and so need regular watering and further feeding. I've found nettle or seaweed feed very good for promoting growth and healthy plants.
~ Eating Potatoes ~
I love pulling up the plants to discover a hidden treasure of fresh potatoes, the pale tubers contrast so dramatically with dark soil and it always feels such a healthy and wholesome thing to do. Early in the year I mainly boil potatoes leaving the skins on and often serve with butter and chives. As the potatoes increase in size I'll then mash, roast and bake, use as a base or thickener for soups and also as an ingredient in cake and bread recipes. Chocolate potato cake is a must if you love chocolate, it's so deliciously moist and satisfying.
There must be hundreds of recipes including potato. It is the most popular vegetable in this country, what would we do without it?
Thank you for reading x
© Lunaria 2012
Summary: An invaluable carbohydrate, easy to cook and grow.
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