A Chit Chat With Our Market Gardener
Potatoes are arguably the most versatile food on the planet. You can mash, boil, or roast them, cover in gravy, cheese or simply a dollop of butter, cut them in half, in slices or squares, sprinkle just about any herb over them or even dig them out and fill with bacon and sour cream instead. The potential of a great potato is just one of the reasons our head Market Gardener, Laura Spring, is already planning the future of our impressive array of organic spuds.
Sourcing the Right Spuds: Potato House
Laura admits that despite their universal appeal (no pun intended), sourcing organic potatoes can be difficult. You can see why upon discovering organic seed potato suppliers Skea Organics Laura was delighted. Skea are a big player in the potato industry, supplying many large organisations with top-rate spud seeds. In fact, they are the lead supplier of organic seed potatoes across the UK, Europe and even further afield.
However, it’s not just potatoes they’ve been growing over at Skea Organics, but their business ventures too. Their “baby potato”, aptly named Potato House, is the real source of Laura’s joy as their mission was grown from a need to help smaller gardeners and growers. Keeping the passion for growing spuds alive is at the root of Potato House’s beliefs, and it’s certainly something Laura has in abundance.
Despite the history of the vegetable taking us back to America, Potato House do all their spud growing in Scotland, which is widely renowned for the best seed potato-producing soil in the UK. Laura explains that this is because the climate here is cooler, allowing the crops to flourish in a more virus-free environment. And don’t worry, they also have their Scottish Organic Producers Association certification so you can rest assured the produce is premium as well as organic.
Potato Chitting Basics
With so much pressure on potatoes to deliver us a delicious meal, it’s no wonder that growing a good bunch takes a lot of work and preparation. Firstly, Laura has to make sure she orders the right seed potato type. So to cover all grounds, she opted for Mary’s Rose, Twinner, Pink Gyspy, Robinta, Blue Annelise, Arran Victory and Heidi Red. These seed spuds will produce potatoes of all shapes, sizes and even colours (as the names suggest!), but only with the right nurturing.
Chitting is vital for getting the organic seed potatoes to sprout and produce wonderful veggies, simply defined by Potato House as “waking the seed potato up after its winter dormancy ready to grow.” In order to successfully chit, it’s a good idea to get the seed potatoes nice and early – around January or February. Our Laura is already on the ball, having got our batch ready to go.
Once the sprouts are around one inch long, Laura will start planting seed potatoes in a divided container (many use old egg containers) so that if one begins to rot, it will not affect the others. These chitted seed spuds will then be ready to grow potatoes much quicker when Spring comes around (we can’t wait!) and the soil begins to warm. When the time comes, the potato seeds will be planted individually in trenches rather than the divided containers in which they began their journey.
In addition, chitting potato seeds will boost the amount of produce available when harvest arrives. Laura estimates that one seed potato will produce around 20 to 30 delicious, organic potatoes ready to be cooked, cut and served in your preferred way. And of course, plants need the right amount of light and optimal temperature to deliver a perfect crop. Chitting is no different, with the potato seeds preferring a cool ambiance and lots of lovely sunlight (or as much as possible in these dark winter months!).
Growing potatoes sounds like no walk in the park (or market garden), but we have all faith that Laura will produce some of the best organic potatoes on the market, and if you’re using her tips to grow your own, we bet these will be just as delicious. Be sure to remember us when you’re the country’s next biggest potato grower!
We’ll be checking back in with Laura at the Eversfield Organic Market Garden soon, so keep your eyes peeled for updates on our potatoes and much, much more of your favourite organic food.