Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Potato days and allotment greed

I really didn't need any more potatoes. I've got first earlies, second earlies and maincrop covered, thanks. Then I went to the Garden Museum in London last weekend which just happened to be having a potato day. And, well, it was free to get in, rather than its usual £6, and I thought why not buy just a few tubers... what harm can it do?

And that was probably the point when the potato mist descended and I treated the whole exercise like someone who left Christmas shopping until Christmas Eve and was filled with a desire to buy up EVERYTHING. My inner-allotment monster ran riot.

I bought intriguingly knobbly, fat-fingered tubers of Anya and Pink Fir Apple with the latter described as 'the historic potato' in Christopher Stocks' excellent Forgotten Fruits.

I finally tracked down the much-prized, tri-coloured Mr Little's Yeltholm Gypsy, regularly talked up on the Observer's allotment blog and most recently by Alys Fowler. And at the recommendation of the sellers, Pennard Plants, I added another blue-skinned variety, Bleu D'Auvergne, because I asked for something unusual - as if the slug-shaped Pink Fir and the red, purple and cream Mr LYG weren't unique enough.

I also cursed my tardiness when Vitelotte (purple skin and flesh) had all sold out... an hour and half after the potato day opened. They are clearly the potato equivalent of Heston's Hidden Orange Christmas Pudding and I was left to ponder the fun I could have had serving them up to guests.

So now I have 62 tubers, of nine different varieties, chitting in the spare bedroom which will be crammed onto a double-sized starter plot already stretched to capacity. If we're spared the blight, we'll be guaranteed a bumper crop and yet there's only two of us to feed - how many multicoloured potatoes can two men eat?

There's supposed to be a simplicity to allotments, which I haven't learned to practice yet. More is more doesn't quite fit in a place where neighbours regularly build their own sheds or go skipping for pallets and find other useful junk to make border beds and benches. And yet my soon to be delivered seed order contains two different varieties of beetroot, numerous carrots and radishes and three different varieties of pumpkin including Dill's Atlantic Giant. I mean, a giant pumpkin is an amusing novelty but how do you get an amusing novelty home from the allotment and what do you do with it when you get it there?

As fun as potato shopping is I'm going to lock up the allotment monster and when it comes to future seed orders learn to realise when enough is enough. On the plus side there will be a lot friends getting potatoes as gifts this year. It's the simple things, right?


  1. I think there is scope for a new self help group for those of us with an inner allotment monster. I clearly need to stear clear of potato events like this, and I already have way too many seeds. Good luck cramming your new delights in the ground...

  2. I know exactly what you mean. We went to a local potato day a few weeks ago fully intending to only buy a few main crop tubers after the failure of our earlies last year... What did we leave with? About 15 first early, 10 second early and a scary 25+ main crop... So much for good intentions.... ;)