Potatoes. I reckon they’re one of the most rewarding crops to grow on the allotment.
Just think about it. Hours are spent during the bleakness of winter, sifting through seed catalogues, carefully choosing the potatoes you’re going to grow. Earlies, second earlies, main crop, heritage, the usual and the more unusual varieties are studied. All the while, all you can think about is the taste of the first home-grown potato, lightly boiled to perfection, tossed in salt and pepper, perhaps a smidge of butter, still hot, straight from the pan.
But you’ve got to wait.
Your seed potatoes arrive early in spring, you get your egg cartons out from storage (you’ve been eating way more eggs than usual just so you can sit your seed potatoes snuggly in the box, rose end up without them rolling about) and the chitting begins.
For the next 4-6 weeks there’s not a windowsill in the house that doesn’t have an egg box of potatoes soaking up the spring sunshine.
You see the first greenish purplish shoot. It’s started. Gradually the new shoots will get bigger, more sturdy and when they’re screaming out to be planted, you take them to the plot.
You’ve tended the bed. It’s been restored with nutrients and you know your sprouty potato seeds are going to love it there. Trenches are made, and you carefully lay the potatoes into the ground. After a brief final look, you cover them completely, and they’re in.
The moment you see the green leafy shoots emerge, you’re on weather watch. Frost will stop the leafy shoots in their tracks and can really set the crop back. The shoots are covered with soil and the earthing up begins.
The shoots become bigger and more leafy. You know that just under the surface are golden nuggets, just waiting to be dug up. The hunt for the potatoes begins, for early varieties, when the plants begin to flower. This is it. That moment you were thinking about while looking through the seed catalogues in winter is only an hour away….
The fork goes in slowly, angled to the side as to scoop the potatoes rather than to spear.
Gently, the fork is lifted, and you spot it.
It’s golden, rounded and just glints at you from the ground. It’s lifted, carefully, and held up for all to see….behold the potato!
Salt and pepper new potato, still hot from the pan