Monday, 8 October 2018

Crazy About Potato Seedlings

As you know by now, if you are a regular reader, Mr. Ferdzy and I have all kinds of bees buzzing around in our bonnets. One of them is the idea of growing potatoes from seeds. Actual seeds, from an an actual potato fruit, not seed potatoes. Up above, you see us - okay the bottom half of Mr Ferdzy - about to dig up the little section allotted to this project this year.

We tried a different technique this year for starting our seeds. Normally we have started them in pots inside very early in the winter, let them die down, refrigerated the resulting mini-tubers to simulate winter, then planted them out to grow in the summer. Most potato breeders do this; they figure it cuts out a year of the long process of assessing new potatoes. We have come to the conclusion, however, that we lose too many little mini-tubers in this method.

So, this year we started them indoors in pots, but later in the winter to go out into the ground with everything else in the spring. Most of them died down and formed mini tubers - but not quite so mini as in the more usual technique, but there were 3 in particular that grew, and grew, and grew. Eventually we got fed up with them and decided to dig them anyway.

And there they are, with a brick for scale. We thiiiiink 2 of them are from Duane Falk and the Latvian potato seed he gave us, but we are not certain. One of them is not; it was mauve with a white edge to it. It looked a bit like ham. It tasted very good (but not, alas, anything like ham) when we boiled one of them, so it will be replanted. Unfortunately, of the other 2, one tasted "okay" and one tasted downright bad and so has already been eliminated from replanting. We will plant the "okay" one - it may do for future breeding even if the flavour is a bit blah, if it continues to produce like it did this year. And if it has fertile flowers, of course. Always a question, with potatoes.

Of the remaining, more typical potato-lets, we eliminated a number of these little piles - each pile representing a single plant - on the grounds that we were already not impressed by their productive capacities. Many of them, though, went into a paper lunch bag, again one for each plant. From there they go into the house, and a sacrificial victim is selected and boiled for 15 minutes. We then assess it for flavour and texture. If it gets a thumbs up, it will be planted next spring. If it gets a thumbs down, it goes into the compost.

We got about halfway through testing all the new types of potatoes that are under consideration for replanting in the spring before we started suffering from serious potato fatigue. We'll finish testing them on another day, then see how they survive the winter in the cold room... next year we will plant them out and see how they do.

We were a little surprised to eliminate some of the potatoes we had grown from seed last year. They had all been tested for flavour already, but there were a couple that just didn't impress us the second time around. Different growing conditions? We were in a different mood? Who knows?

One of the potatoes we eliminated made me a bit sad. The potatoes it made were not very large, but it made lots and lots of them, and the foliage only grew about 6" or 8" high! But while it rated quite well for flavour last year, this year we didn't think it tasted good at all. Too bad. 

There is something about very little potatoes; they are slightly bitter compared to even medium sized potatoes from the very same plant. We try to keep that in mind when we are testing these tiny potatoes.  However, there is a limit!

Over all, we are quite pleased and excited with the results of our potato seed trials this year, and we are looking forward to even bigger and better things next year - we hope! 

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