Garden to Table series
Dear reader, this week I take a back seat and present you one of our volunteers here at The Organic Centre, Christiane Share, a past student of our full-time training course. Hope you enjoy the article as much as I did. If you are interested in our Volunteering programme please get in touch. – Hans
This year’s seed potatoes are now widely available. Why not skip the plastic bags of English or French potatoes in the supermarket and make this the year you grow your own? If you already do so, you know it can be a pleasure to step outside on a summer’s evening and dig for your dinner. There is an unbeatable flavour and texture to a new potato that has travelled from earth to pot to plate in 15 minutes. Fresh potatoes, available as and when you need them are a true convenience, especially when they are so simple to grow. You will be amazed by what your soil can produce.
How to plant
Choose an area of your garden that gets sun and is not in a frost pocket. Potatoes are not fussy about soil type, but avoid planting in areas prone to water logging. Dig a shallow 10cm V-shaped trench. Add, if you have it, some well-composted manure and sow the potatoes on top, 30cm (1ft) apart, with any shoots pointing upwards. Alternatively, use a trowel to make a 10cm (4 in) deep hole for each potato, putting some compost or manure in each hole, then the seed potato, and covering over with soil. Leave a metre (3ft) between each row of potatoes.
Last year at the Organic Centre in Rossinver I learnt about the lazy bed method. This involves laying out a line of manure or compost, placing potatoes along it at 30cm intervals and flipping clods of earth on top of them, using a spade (see picture). In this way a patch of lawn can be converted to a potato garden in a couple of hours. Each seed potato planted will produce on average eight to ten potatoes, depending on variety.
Which variety should I choose?
With a little knowledge of potato varieties it is possible to plant potatoes in sequence and enjoy them from late June until April next year. Varieties are divided into four categories according to the length of time they take to mature. The categories are first earlies, second earlies, main crop and late main crop. Earlies are planted mid-March and harvested late June and into July, and these delicious new thin-skinned potatoes are likely to be eaten up as quickly as they can be dug. Good early varieties include Colleen, Orla, Sharpe’s Express and the salad potato Charlotte. Main crop varieties are planted in April and harvested in October, they will have thicker skins, making them ideal for storage. Excellent main crop varieties are Record, Valor and the blight resistant Sarpo Mira.
Grow vitamin C
For health, potatoes beat pasta, rice and bread. They contain something that these other starchy foods do not: vitamin C.
A portion of potatoes, boiled in their skins, contain half your daily requirement of vitamin C, as well as high-grade protein, fibre, vitamin B and minerals.
Potatoes contain no fat and are low in calories and salt. They also help the body release serotonin, a chemical that gives a sense of wellbeing – and lets face it, who doesn’t feel happy after a plate of hot buttery potatoes.
Hans Wieland is joint manager of The Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co Leitrim. For more information, visit www.theorganiccentre.ie or phone 071 9854338.
Questions or comments? Contact Hans at firstname.lastname@example.org.