Well, its not really a Great Debate! Like most people, gardeners have likes, dislikes and preferences for fruit and vegetables they like to grow and eat. I have grown Russet, Yukon Gold, Red Norlands and Kennebec potatoes in the past. Potatoes are not a very wise vegetable to grow if you have limited space such as we do but for experimental purposes they have been fun to grow for the past two years.
Red Norland versus Kennebec Potato
Red Norland seed potatoes were purchased, hardened off and planted in our Spring at the same time as the Kennebecs (seed kept from last years crop). They were both grown in lawn converted to two small raised beds with no special additives but purchased “soil”. The Red Norlands were the earlier of the two to mature and the yields were much less than the Kennebec and also appeared to have more scab. Interestingly, a few Kennebec potatoes (missed last year) in another part of the garden came up on their own about two to three weeks after planting the experimental beds and were quite healthy and abundant.
Two Vigorous Potato Varieties
The Red Norlands when boiled for mashed potatoes, went mushy and did not hold their own in a cold potato salad, whereas the Kennebecs appeared to be a firmer potato and held up well in both. Also the Kennebec is a more versatile potato as it makes great french fries and is good for roasting. Family opinion voted the Kennebec potato the “tastier” of the two.
I did try growing Red Norlands in a bin without success so think I will stick with traditional methods. Half a dozen Red Norland seed potatoes were also grown along the back terrace and pretty much left alone after hilling - they were planted too early (May 4) as the weather did not warm up for some weeks and planted too deep (should be about 4 inches before first hilling). It was a pleasant surprise when digging them up to find clean, unblemished mature potatoes. The total yields per plant appeared less compared with the Kennebec.
If stored correctly potatoes should last a long while. For example last year Kennebec potatoes were dug up in the Fall – kept in an unheated enclosed garage until the spring and planted out. That's about seven or eight months without chemicals to help them not deteriorate. The potatoes were stored in large cardboard egg flats – and in plastic dairy crates. Both with air circulation.
Although there are many diseases and insects which can affect potatoes, the two most common diseases for home gardeners appear to be blight and scab. Blight is often caused by wet weather and scab usually results from growing them in the incorrect soil. If exposed to the sun potatoes will turn green and are poisonous to eat.
Chemicals in Potatoes
There are about 36 chemicals used in commercial potato growing and the humble potato unfortunately has a high chemical residual when tested. It is one vegetable that having a choice, and space, I would like to grow organically because like onions they are eaten on a regular basis and store well.
Potatoes are packed with Vitamin C, B6, Potassium and fibre.
- One of my happiest memories having a garden with young children was the joy we all had digging up the potatoes in the fall before the first snow or frost! It was sort of like a treasure hunt – you just never knew how many, and what size, you would find!
- When we moved to Vancouver in the 1980's, Kennebec was our first choice as it was a reliable, consistent producer. We always had great success as they were easy to grow, provided a bountiful crop and were no problem to store.
- Potatoes require a lot of room and other more productive vegetables should be considered first if you have a small garden.
- Potatoes should be left for approximately two weeks after “dying” down to allow the potatoes to harden before digging them up and make sure that they are covered so that they do not turn “green”.
- Not recommended to use any diseased fruit, vegetables or vegetation in compost.
- Potato water (from boiling potatoes) is great for making bread as it helps the bread rise (or as soup stock)
- A delicious treat – small new season potatoes – washed, boiled and served with butter and a little chopped parsley – hmmmm delicious!
- For organic growers, whole seed (uncut) should be planted as they are less likely to become infected with diseases
- Potatoes seem to grow better if mulched and seem to suffer less from diseases and insects
- Due to lack of space we will be looking for a community garden to grow potatoes next year. Both Red Norland (early variety) and Kennebec will be grown.