Wednesday, 21 June 2017

A comparison of some Early potatoes

As regular readers will know, I like to grow a few of several different potatoes every year. I have a few favourite ones that appear on the list year after year, but I also like to ring the changes and try some different ones each time as well. I thought it might be interesting to compare how some of them have performed.

In the last couple of weeks I have harvested all my First Early types. They were all grown, 2 tubers to a pot, in containers approximately 30cm in diameter and 35cm depth, using ordinary soil from a dismantled raised bed. I used no compost this time, but I did add to each pot a handful of "Growmore" general-purpose fertiliser and a handful of pelleted chicken manure.

The varieties I grew were Belle de Fontenay, Accord, Lady Christl, Juliette, International Kidney and Orla. The first 4 of those were planted on Mar 11, and the last 2 on Mar 23.

First to be harvested (3rd June) was Belle de Fontenay. The harvest was not huge (533g), but the potatoes were very fine - pale oblongs with smooth unblemished skins. When cooked they were light and insubstantial, very nice indeed.

Next up was Accord, harvested on 12 June. The fact that I didn't even photograph them says a lot - I was disappointed with them, especially since the Belle de Fontenay had been so good. Accord produced a small number of tubers which were very variable in size. They included four huge ones, about the size I associate with a baking-potato, not a new potato. When cooked (boiled) the texture was very dry and rather unpleasant. In retrospect they might have been better baked! We initially ate only half of the ones we had cooked, but we re-cooked the remainder the next day, frying them with some bacon and they were better the second time round.

My faith in New Potatoes was restored on 15 June when I harvested the Juliettes:

They yielded 1.28kgs, with 52 tubers of a useable size. The tubers themselves were lovely and clean. When cooked the flesh was firm but tender. I think this is a perfect salad potato. I say this with authority because I often eat any leftover potatoes, cold. If you are unfamiliar with this one, think of it as being very similar to Charlotte, which I'm sure everyone knows.

19th June saw me harvesting Lady Christl.

This pot yielded 922g. Again the tubers were very nice, clean and regularly-shaped. My only complaint is that when boiled many of them split. Thinking about this, I realise that in the past I have advocated leaving the potatoes for three or four days after harvesting before eating them, to allow the skins to harden-up a bit, which seems to help prevent them splitting. I must practise what I preach!

In terms of quality, I would rate Lady Christl as 7/10, behind Belle de Fontenay at 8/10 and Juliette at 9/10.

Following my own advice about letting the skins harden, I dug up two more lots on 20th June. What a disappointment! The first one was Orla (incidentally a type that can also be grown as an Early Maincrop because it can get pretty big). Initially the crop didn't look too bad, with a decent number of good-sized tubers. Weight was 790g.

When washed though, it was a different story. Many of the tubers had a fair bit of Scab on them. This is a disease often associated with excessively dry soil, lacking in organic matter. I hold my hand up to this, because as mentioned earlier, I used simple garden soil. However, most of the other varieties did OK in it. Next year (as long as I can find some good compost) I think I will revert to using either 100% compost or perhaps 50/50 soil/compost mix.

Scab looks bad, but fortunately it is only skin deep, and if you scape or peel spuds affected by it they will be fine. No prizes on the showbench though...

The second variety harvested on 20 June was International Kidney. This is the type marketed as Jersey Royal (officially only if grown in Jersey, of course). When I tipped the pot out I saw straight away that it was seething with red ants, and the soil was very dry. These are probably reasons why the tubers were poor:

They were mostly lumpy and mis-shapen and deeply pitted with Scab. Not a pretty sight! Weight was only 709g.

Considering the high profile of International Kidney / Jersey Royal, you could reasonably have expected this variety to have been the best of the bunch, but it wasn't, it was the worst. I must say that I was quite surprised that mine didn't have any of the loose skins that normally characterise this variety. Maybe they only go like that when grown in sandy Channel Island soil - and with sea air?

Anyway, looking back on the six potato varieties I have harvested so far, I rank them in this order (best at the top of the list)
Belle de Fontenay
Lady Christl
International Kidney.

To be honest though, at the time of writing we have not tried the Orla or International Kidney ones yet, so maybe taste and texture will compensate for poor appearance.

In 10 days or so I will start harvesting my Second Earlies. I'll let you know how they perform.


  1. I thought you were ahead of us. I've yet to dig any spuds!

    1. Yes, but you'll still be eating yours when mine are long gone!

  2. Many places list Belle de Fontenay as a maincrop. I wonder whether the yield is better when grown as such? I hope it is, 'cos I've four 30 litre pots of them!
    That said, the ones I've had in France have been some of the tastiest potatoes I've eaten - they're said to get better with keeping as well.

    1. Yes, I think many of the potato varieties sold as Earlies would be quite happily grown as early Maincrops. You'd almost certainly get a bigger yield, but they would be less choice. I grow mine for the quality, not the quantity.

  3. We grew Orla as a tester last year and liked it enough to plant it as one of our main varieties this year. Now I will be on the lookout for scab. When we have grown International Kidney we have been disappointed, maybe it needs the Jersey soil and climate.


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