Seed Catalogues - Potato Lists
24th Nov 2004
Most seed catalogues will have dropped through your letter box by now and there's no better way to spend a cold miserable Winter evening than thumbing through the pages for what"s new on the vegetable scene. The potato lists are always an interesting read and I often like to search out some potential newcomers for the show bench. ESP (Exhibition Seed Potatoes) are a new-comer themselves to the potato scene, a company that started selling seed potatoes last year and their insert for 2005 has a few extra varieties to ponder over.
Though not new by any means, they have re introduced an old favourite of mine called Mona Lisa which also used to be a firm favourite with the late Brython Stenner. Mona Lisa is a Dutch variety and what I liked about it at the time was the weight and consistency of the yield. The colour is creamy white and the shape is oval but more often has a tendency towards a pear sort of shape where the sprouting end, or the rose end, is much wider than the other end. The shape didn't prove to be a problem at all as it"s very consistent from haulm to haulm giving you plenty of potatoes to have a good selection from.
The only drawback I found at the time was, though the skin finish in general was excellent, you could really polish it up, it left me with too many lenticel marks for my liking. When I grew it last, a few years ago now, they were grown in the straw trench method which produced some superb potatoes but nearly always left the annoying dark small spots on the skin. I am led to believe that these marks are the result of the pores on the potatoes skin closing down on minute specks of peat or soil thereby destroying the look of the potato. This happened when I was growing them in the open ground scenario, particularly when the potatoes were lifted during damp wet weather, a time when the pores were fully open.
Nowadays we have, without a shadow of doubt, improved our growing techniques to such a degree that the quality of potatoes seen today are probably better than at any time. This is certainly due to the method of growing which improved so much when we decided to use poly pots to grow them in rather than the hard physical labour involved with the straw bale method. The beauty of the Polypot method is their mobility, once the haulms have been cut, down the pots can be moved from their outdoor growing position to a location under cover such as a polytunnel. The peat based compost inside the bags has time then to dry out, but more importantly, the pores close down and the skin sets with much less risk of lenticel marks being evident. For this change in culture alone, I'm going to give Mona Lisa a fair crack of the whip this coming Spring. Another reason is, should it turn out to be good enough to show, then I won't make the mistake of staging it amongst other whites on my plate because it's colour is so distinct.
Mistakes in Staging
Mistakes can happen, particularly with the likes of Winston and Nadine as well as Lady Christl and Harmony where the shape and colour is often hard to tell apart. The same thing applies to coloured varieties where I have seen dishes staged of the two relatively new varieties, Malin and Amour, both mixed up on the same plate. This really shouldn't happen, the grower should be very careful when harvesting these varieties, making sure they are kept separate. However, it isn't too hard to separate these from each other, though both have pink eyes as well as a splash of pink around the eyes, the skin colour is different, Malin is what I would call a creamy yellow where as Amour has a much whiter skin.
Accidents do happen though and when they do, it certainly makes the job of judging them extremely difficult. How many judges I wonder would have the bottle, or even the knowledge, to down point, N.A.S. (not according to Schedule) or even overlook a plate of five coloured potatoes with the name Malin on them but two of the potatoes on the plate have a whiter skin and look very similar to Amour and particularly when they could well be the winner of that particular class? The question however is, should a judge be concerned, sufficient even to take some action, if a dish of a named variety, is made up from more than one kind - or should he simply judge it on the basis that they do at least look similar? I'm torn two ways on this one because I have my doubts as to how many judges on the show scene would be able to tell them apart, further more, is it fair and right to expect them to be able to? On the other hand, if these accidents become deliberate, then that is purely the grower trying to pull the wool over the judges eyes and is then tantamount to cheating. A very difficult area to get into, until we manage to either train Judges in identifying show bench varieties, or changing the wording of the schedule somehow. I just can't see any judge sticking his neck out on this one, even though in reality, he may well suspect or even know that they are not the same cultivar. I would welcome comments on this very point.
Companies I recommend for show potatoes are:
Castlemill Seed Potatoes, Westfield, Castleton Road, Auchterader, Perthshire PH3 1AG.Morrice Innes, Old Town, Newmachar, Aberdeenshire, AB21 7PR
Exhibition Seed Potatoes, 26 Bakehouse Lane, Ockbrook, Derby DE72 3RH