Pink Fir Apple Potatoes
26th Oct 2000
Most of my potatoes turned out quite poor this year in comparison to other seasons when I have had some excellent exhibition varieties to select from. The growth rate was not as good as normal and I honestly think that I might have over done the fertiliser quantity underneath the polythene sheet and possibly set the tubers back. To re cap, the potatoes were planted in a peat based medium only on top of a perforated polythene sheet that lined the normal depth potato furrow. Before laying the polythene down, the bottom of the trench or furrow is given some potato fertiliser which is then forked into the soil to a depth of 100mm or so.
This worked really well last year with the idea being that the feeding roots of the potato extend into the peat and find their way through the perforations in the polythene and into the enriched soil below. This gave them some phenomenal growth last year and the potatoes were large and clean. All the trenches were prepared in exactly the same way this year, yet two trenches of Winston grew very small haulms, indeed most of those two rows eventually died off completely, obviously there was something radically wrong.
Kestrel, Maxine and Carlingford
Kestrel once again proved to be excellent as did Maxine and another variety that I used to grow a few years ago called Carlingford, a white oval with pink eyes. My reason for having this one in the trenches was to enhance a display of potatoes that we were staging as a Welsh branch committee at our National championships in Pembroke. Every committee member were offered two varieties 5 of each to grow and to bring back to the show sufficient of each one to fill a small basket, the other variety that I chose was Pink Fir Apple.
Pink Fir Apple
I remember growing this variety for the first time when I staged my first large display of vegetables at the Royal Welsh Show in the eighties, to be honest, I had completely forgotten how good it tasted. From the five seed potatoes I put down during the first week in May I was amazed at the crop that I had when they were lifted during the middle of August, they more than filled a 3 gallon bucket. This is a very old late maincrop variety which makes the quantity that I had even more remarkable and it seems to have made a great comeback in recent years.
I shall certainly be growing this one again, firstly because I like the taste and how filling it is, secondly it will look good on my Chelsea display and thirdly and more importantly, my three grandchildren, 7 and 8 year old, loved them. My son took nearly all the crop home and within less than a week they had devoured them; they have always liked all the vegetables that I grow and when younger they used to call the broccoli spears - Trees.
The attraction to the Pink Fir Apple however was their knobbly inconsistent shape and immediately they called them Dinosaurs, Dolphins and Sharks. If we can get children as young as my three grand children to start to really enjoy eating fresh vegetables, then we really are cultivating the gardeners of tomorrow, even if they do call potatoes dolphins and sharks! A lot of catalogues will soon be coming through the letter box and the first one that I had was Thompson and Morgan together with a specialist potato catalogue listing over 70 different varieties including the Pink Fir Apple.
Having been around most of the top shows and judged many of them including the world potato championships at Dundee as well as the Scottish potato championships, there's no doubt that Peter Clark is the one we all have to try and beat. He is well known as a tremendous grower of his own leek but in my opinion he is the best potato grower around as well. The reason I say that is because when the covers were removed prior to judging they simply shone at you in every way, quality, size, condition and Uniformity; they simply has everything. After handling each potato on the six dishes I was even more impressed , there wasn"t a mark on any of them. On top of this he also won the Scottish Championship as well as other individual dishes in the NVS championships, the mark of a great grower.
Planning for next year
What varieties to use next year, well Kestrel is definitely my banker and seems to be Peter Clarks' as well, he gets good size on them but more importantly the flesh is very white making the purple splash around the eye prominent which in turn makes the whole dish stand out. The other criteria to remember of course with Kestrel is it"s superb versatility as a cooking potato. In my mind this is the best all round potato for it's time of year, it's only a second early and makes the tastiest chips of any variety, even from the maincrop selection.
My other bankers for next years showing season, particularly if you intend to have a go at the large potato collections will be as follows; Winston (First early) Nadine (Second early) Maxine (Early maincrop) Harmony (Early maincrop) Osprey (Early maincrop) all of these were bred by Dr Jack Dunnet, what an achievment. Another variety that caught my eye when judging the Tullamore Show in Ireland was an Irish bred variety called Rooster. A bright red oval potato with lovely smooth skin which has a distinct chance of become a top all round culinary variety, possesses a very high dry matter content. If grown well could become a good show variety.