Potato Day!

My meagre patch of snowdrops is out at last and it’s a countdown to see how long they’ll stay there before they get flattened by rain or children, but snowdrops, along with the first dead baby birds brought home by the cat, are the not always pleasant reminders that spring is supposedly just around the corner.

Of course since it’s Scotland, and since I’ve lived here this past thirty five years, I should know that spring doesn’t really begin here until May, but where would we be without hope?

One of the other harbingers of spring for me, and (possibly sadly) one of the most exciting events in my spring calendar, is potato day in Kelso.

Run by Borders Organic Gardeners, this event is a hilarious scramble of silver heads rustling paper bags, fighting to get to the most prized seed spuds with the same violence of old ladies at bus stops, who are clearly at the front of the queue but are convinced everyone else is about to jump in front of them.

The number of different varieties, if you can see them through the stampede, is astounding, and I spend ages flicking through the catalogue usually to buy the same pink fir apples I buy every year.  Pink fir apples are delicious, nutty little tubers , with an alien like knobbly appearance.  They are, however, a bugger to clean, because the dirt collects in all the nooks and crannies, so this year I’m opting for a rounder potato.  I’ve grown Nicola and Lady Christi in the past years, both of which did extremely well and were nice, neat, round, easy to clean shapes.


Pink Fir Apples

I’m also going to try a purple variety.  A few years ago in Orkney my mother in law grew Shetland Blacks, and the flavour was amazing.  I’ve not come across them again, so if anyone knows where to get hold of them please let me know!

In Gardener’s World magazine this month Alan Titchmarsh has some good tips on veg growing for people who think they don’t have the time or space.  One of the things he says, however, I have to disagree with.  To save money, he says, avoid crops like potatoes and onions in favour of things that cost more in the shops.  Usually I do avoid cheaper veg, especially if it’s tricky to grow, but potatoes are great for opening up the soil without digging (more labour saving for busy people).  More importantly having both onions and potatoes in your garden at all times means you can knock up a hearty soup from whatever other veg happens to be in season.  This has often saved me from making a trip to the supermarket in the past, saving on both petrol costs and carbon guilt.

I’m not sure how the state of my carbon guilt will be after the 200 mile round trip to Kelso, however.  Why isn’t there a potato day in Fife?  Or is there and I’ve just missed it?  I googled and found some kind of event in Cupar in July, which seems a bit late in the year.  When I am queen I will make potato days compulsory for every region.  In the meantime I’ll have to see it as a holiday and a day out for the kids (I know – poor kids) as the low cost of the potatoes (only 13p a tuber) is more than negated by the cost of petrol!

Potato Day is on Sunday 6 March 2011, from 11am to 2.30pm, at the Borders Union Showground in Kelso, and includes food, stalls selling seeds and onion sets, as well as over 100 different varieties of seed potato.

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