Five of the best... blight resistant potatoes
You know the start of a new season is getting closer when you evict the houseplants from your windowsills and line them with eggboxes full of chitting potatoes instead.
I went to a potato day at the weekend – my favourite way to buy seed potatoes, as you pay per tuber so you can buy exactly the number you need. They’re also loose – no plastic netting here – and there are dozens of different varieties to choose from: everything from firm favourites like Maris Bard and King Edward to curiosities like Vitelotte – such a deep purple it’s almost black – and Mr Little’s Yetholm Gypsy, which is a tricoloured heritage spud blotched yellow, pink and purple. Some potato days can boast over 100 varieties on display.
You’ll also find a much better than usual range of varieties bred for their resistance for blight. If you grow potatoes anywhere that’s damp and warm – like the south-west of England, where I live – late blight of potatoes is a fact of life. It strikes in early July, as a rule, and from the first brown blotch on a leaf you have about a fortnight till you’re facing the total annihilation of your crop, all that lovely foliage reduced to brown slush.
There are two ways you can avoid it. The first is to stick to first early (‘new’) and second early potatoes which grow fast and mature quickly. New potatoes are up and harvested before late blight takes hold; and second earlies, which mature in July, usually give you a normal harvest even if they do get a few spots here and there.
For maincrops, which grow slowly and mature late in the year, your only option is to buy a blight-resistant variety. There are lots, but they have their drawbacks: their resistance can vary from so-so to totally bombproof, and sometimes the price you pay for superior disease resistance is a meh flavour, or dicey cooking quality (sometimes both).
I’ve grown a few over the years – so I thought I would share the best with you.
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