You can’t get much more of an allotment staple than the faithful potato. Low maintenance, high cropping, and versatile in the kitchen, we love them.
It’s estimated that the average person in Britain eats nearly 100kg of potatoes a year, whether crisped, chipped, roasted, baked, mashed, or boiled.
Choosing a potato to grow can be a bit of a minefield. After all, there are over 80 different varieties available in our shops today. So what makes a good chipper over a good masher?
I don’t reckon anyone could possibly have tried all 80 varieties, but I’ve had a good go at a few over the last 7 or so years of growing veg. Here are my favourite salad, mashers, bakers, roasters, and chippers.
Up until 2012, I’d never grown Pink Fir Apple, but now I wouldn’t be without them. Boiled, this waxy potato is cracking in a salad, hot or cold. They keep for ages too and are also incredibly productive – just a small row will provide a sackful of these nobbly pink tubers.
And you can’t grow International Kidney. International Kidney is the variety used for the famous ‘Jersey Royal’, and we all love them, don’t we? Grown as an early, International Kidney provides a beautiful, waxy salad potato. Productive in containers or bags too.
You need a smooth potato variety for mashing, and all-rounder Desiree is perfect (and Delia Smith’s favourite potato, no less). I like Marfona too – I grew this potato in my first year on the allotment and noticed that they carried an almost buttery taste, which really lent itself to a good mash.
A couple of years back, I told allotment head honcho and sort-of-shop manager, Ron, that I wanted to grow some potatoes that were fit for baking. He recommended Estima, suggesting growing half as earlies, and then leaving the rest in the ground to swell up. Ron was right too, and I harvested some real specimens.
I’ve found Ambo good too. My organic farmer friend Sarah grows Ambo for her bakers and sold me the biggest potato I’ve ever seen at the local farmer’s market.
I don’t know anyone who hasn’t grown the ever-popular King Edward once upon a time. They’re high croppers, reliable as well as being a classic roastie variety due to their fluffy flesh. Being a late maincrop, they’re also a regular on the Christmas dinner menu.
I picked up some Cara from the allotment shop last year, as my plot neighbour swore by them. They’re smaller than King Edwards, but still made a very tasty roast potato, as well as a good chip.
I’m a real sucker for a homemade wedge, and for me, you can’t beat a good old Maris Piper. The combination of golden skin, creamy white flesh, and fluffy texture make them perfect for chips. The plants flower a purple colour, making them an attractive choice to grow too.
Golden Wonder is another super chipper I discovered, albeit by accident. I grew these one year for the novelty factor after I found out that the crisp brand was named after this potato. Like the Maris Piper, Golden Wonder has the all-important fluffy texture which every chip needs.
If space is tight, then I’d definitely recommend going for an all-rounder like King Edward. Although a smashing roaster, this awesome potato will happily be chipped, baked, or mashed with equally delicious results.