And draw the Earth up

April is a busy month for potato potting
Janet Queen


Avalanche, Pentland Javelin, Vivaldi, Brodie, Ratte, Karina, Harmony, Balmoral, Romano, Sangre, Osprey, Claret, Roseval, Salad Blue, Mayan Gold, Harmony, Pink Firapple, Belle de Fontenay. All were planted last week, not many of each, but enough for a few hearty potfuls and some seed to store for next year. Belle de Fontenay and Nicola are the two I look forward to most. Nicola, though, is not on this year’s planting list; it seems they were all rapidly taken for the pot last year before seed was saved – probably the highest accolade for a potato.

There is one other I have planted. It is a buttery, yellow variety served roasted in olive oil and fresh rosemary in the far north of Tuscany where it is an every-day potato. Crossing the line of the law while knowing I should know better, I brought some seed back with me last year and stored it with all the other seed and resident spiders in wooden plant boxes covered with sacks in the pantry at Gardener’s Cottage. It was of an organic source, originating from a crop grown in the more southerly Italian region of Abruzzo. Nobody could tell me the variety name. Perhaps I was asking the wrong questions. I have labelled it Abruzzo. In Rose Castle summers, will it taste the way it does in Tuscany?

And there is another one. We call it Rose Red – a red-skinned, nameless potato that we found already growing here when we arrived. It boils, roasts and stores well, and its well-earned worthiness of a place each year in our pantry keeps its association with the garden alive.

Then there are the ghosts of departed Shetland Black and Highland Burgundy Red. Their appealing northern names and intriguing colours couldn’t make up for my lack of success with them in the kitchen or garden.

Soon, July sunshine will be on my back and the morning soil will be crumbling away from the first potatoes of the season, and later there will be an earthen scent and shreds of apple mint steaming on their buttered skins in the evening. Avalanche will be the first, and this week I can see the mint already appearing in the bed outside the castle’s kitchen door.

Thursday 13th April 2017

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