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A feast fit for a... Saint!
According to an old Irish saying: “Only two things in this world are too serious to be jested on: potatoes and matrimony.” We all know how dangerous it is to make jest of the latter, so we’ll stick to the former!
What are potatoes anyway?
Spanish conquistadors first encountered the potato in the mountains of the Inca Empire during the 16th Century and decided these vegetables were rather... Ande! Basque fishermen later introduced the spud to the emerald isle where this little tuber has been a favourite from that day forward... to be sure!
Since its introduction to Europe, gardeners everywhere have really ‘grown’ to dig the spud which in Irish circles is traditionally known as ‘the queen of the garden world’. In the first decade of the 21st Century people the world over bowed down to regal helpings of this humble veg and now, the average diet embraces approximately 33kg of potatoes per person, per year!
There are a number of varieties available, varying in terms of how long they take to grow and how they are best cooked.
Roasting - Moonlight, Agria or Rua – for roasting
Boiling - new spuds Nadine, Jersey Benne, Cliff’s Kidney, purple passion – for boiling
Mashing - Moonlight, Agria and Ilam Hardy – for mashing
Cliff’s Kidney, Rocket, purple passion – best grown in buckets or planter bags
How, where and when to plant
While in some parts of New Zealand it may be a little early to plant potatoes, in warmer regions the humble spud can be grown year ‘round.
Although those sprouting spuds in the bottom of the pantry can be planted, for the best crop, there’s most definitely a need for seed! Seed potatoes are available from garden centres nationwide or online.
Choose certified seed potatoes to help ensure a healthy, successful crop.
Before planting, lay out seed spuds in a single layer on a seed tray or box in a dry, warm and airy place. Shoots will usually begin to appear after a few weeks; when they reach approximately 3-4cm in length, remove all but three of the strongest shoots for planting.
Potatoes prefer all day sun and free draining soil, so choose your spot carefully for the best results.
While your veggie patch is, of course, a highly suitable home for spuds, they can be grown in bags, pots and even car tyres.
When planting, dig over the area well, to a depth of roughly 20cm and mix in a layer of sheep pellets, compost and potato fertiliser; Tui recommends Tui Potato Food.
Be sure to mix the fertiliser into the soil thoroughly, avoiding direct contact with the seed potatoes themselves.
Plant seed potatoes in rows with shoots facing upwards – approximately 10cm beneath the soil and 50cm apart.
As shoots begin to peek through the soil, cover them over again with soil to gain a larger crop, retain moisture and protect against frosts if you are planting early season varieties.
Sprinkle Quash slug and snail bait around the new shoots to prevent damage.
Early season varieties are usually ready to harvest roughly three months after planting and when the flowers are fully open.
Main crop and late season varieties should not be dug until the tops have completely died down, usually in late March.
Once harvested, store spuds sacks in a cool, dark and well-ventilated place until they’re needed.
The spuds are up!
Over recent years we’ve had one or two things to say about the spud; click on the links below for more news, recipes and hint and tips.
Don’t say it with flowers… say it with potatoes!
Super spuds save the day!
Grow your own
Successful spuds for Christmas Day
Spud bags pass the test!
Fresh from the garden
Crisp Potatoes with Spinach and Leeks
Leek and mashed potato bake
Salt and vinegar potatoes