Saturday, June 26, 2010

New potatoes in buckets

In early summer, when new potatoes are not yet obtainable from greengrocers or market stalls, those grown in buckets outside at home form a special early summer treat.
After my abject failure to grow potatoes in the plastic sacks much advertised for the job, I experimented with growing them in the black plastic buckets now on sale almost everywhere.
It is necessary to drill holes in the bottom of these buckets, then to cover the holes with broken crocks to aid drainage,
Obtain seed potatoes of an early variety and allow them to chit (grow small green/brown sprouts in the daylight), and put 3 on a 3” layer of the compost covering the crocks. Then cover these with perhaps 3” to 4” of compost or sifted soil mixed with compost.
When the green leaves (haulms) appear, add more compost to almost cover the leaves (leave some greenery showing).
Again, allow the leaves to grow, almost covering them with compost.
Leave a couple of inches of the bucket unfilled to make room for water (spuds like plenty of it).
This year (2010) I planted 3 Arran Bard potatoes in each bucket on the 9th of March, harvesting a small crop (a good dish) of small potatoes after 66 days from one bucket. The second bucket was emptied 77 days after planting, and provided 10 walnut-size potatoes from each seed potato (two dishes).
This was well before English new potatoes appeared for sale in the shops.
So, from the buckets, resting on a shelf in the garden, we enjoyed two early potato treats.
After boiling them for about 16 minutes I like to serve these delicacies in individual bowls into which I put salt, a lump of butter and a splash of vinegar. On top I sprinkle a little chopped fresh mint.
The hot potatoes melt the butter and all the potatoes can then be coated with the butter/vinegar/salt/mint mixture before being eaten – as a course on their own. If eaten cold, a vinaigrette or thin mayonnaise is the better coating, and the spuds are then best peeled.
Our harvesting is done by cutting off the haulms for compost, and then upturning the bucket of soil and potatoes on to a marble topped garden table.
The potatoes are then extracted to be washed and eaten (skin on), the spent seed thrown away, and the roots with enmeshed soil composted.
This home grown treat makes for a lovely and exciting annual, springtime ritual.