Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Potatoes At The Ready

I have my potatoes chitting in the greenhouse, ready to go out on Good Friday (the traditional day to plant spuds, this year 2nd April). My husband is feeling very pleased with himself because he managed to find a variety called ‘Record’ which a potato expert in Aberdeen once told him was THE very best potato to roast (whatever variety you chose, a little goose fat never goes amiss).

While pondering the merits of different potatoes, I noticed that the Guardian newspaper has sparked an impassioned debate over the best way to mash potatoes, recieving over 260 comments on the blog. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2010/mar/15/best-mashed-potato-method.

How much milk or butter? Should we follow Delia Smith’s demented idea and use an electric whisk? What about food wizard Heston Blumenthal’s strange looking goo? Then there is the perennial issue of Waxy vs. Floury potato.

When I first started growing potatoes, I grew girly waxy, salad varieties, shunning those floury things, beloved by blokes to accompany stew, that fall apart when you boil them. All that changed when I interviewed potato guru Alan Romans, author of the definitive tome on spuds ‘The Potato Book’. Don’t boil potatoes, he chided, steam them! Nothing falls apart when you steam it, and besides, floury potatoes have a better favour than waxy ones. How right he was. I suppose floury potatoes are something you grow into, rather like whisky or Chanel No. 5.

So, where does Mr Romans stand on the great mashed potato debate? His resounding answer to the readers of this blog: ‘Arran Victory’. They are dry, tasty, fine textured and not yellow’. There you have it, the master has spoken.

Not all potatoes perform well on all soils. King Edwards prefers heavy soil, but our allotment has rather sandy soil (well suited to ‘Picasso’). It’s best to ask other people around you what has grown well for them.