Tattie Trials

Forgive me for writing with my mouth full, but I just can’t stop eating the very first of my parsley-buttered White Duke of Yorks.

I have broken my own record by ten days.

In fact, for the first time in my life, I have not bought tatties to bridge the gap between last year’s and this.

I still have some Kerr’s Pink and Records in store. Doubt I’ll be using them.

(Update – tonight looked at the squidgy mass, decided against chappit tatties, even with chives, and voted for compost bin.)

Red Dukes were the first I planted, but they were a wee bit too optimistic, and got a touch of frost. They’ll be okay though, but a wee bit later than I’d hoped.

Meanwhile, the White Dukes, planted a fortnight later, suffered no setback, and have overtaken their cousins.

Hence a tasty meal tonight.

I’m trialling a number of earlies this year, and the preliminary conclusion is that you can’t beat a Duke (red or white). The proof is in my dinner tonight.

A newish variety, Lady Christl, is performing well. A client says she’s better than a White Duke. Not in my book. Better yield, but a bit on the wet side.

Isle of Jura – which should be a malt – is trialling well, and hot on the heels of the Dukes. But I haven’t tried her yet.

Orla is interesting. I have rarely seen such variable growth from first generation seed. Some may be ready soon; others may never be ready at all. But those which I’ve lifted gave such a bumper crop, I nearly put my back out lifting them. Shame they stay soggy, never mind what tricks you pull, and they have all the flavour of wet cardboard. I’ll not be saving seed, but as a new variety, and given the yield, there’s no doubt Orla has a great future on the supermarket shelves. Great BOGOF potential.

Ulster Chieftain is in my view wrongly sold as a first early. As a second early it’s a cracker. Just don’t try Ulster Chieftains in June.

I was originally disappointed with Swift. Swift is promoted as the ultimate first early. Top growth seemed to be very poor, and lagging behind all the others. To my great surprise, these diminutive haulms yielded a cracking crop of good sized, tasty tubers. Not as tasty as Dukes, of course, but that’s only a personal opinion…

My trials are less than scientific, because for some varieties I saved seed from last year, and treated them with much TLC. Others I bought.

But when you buy tattie seed, especially by mail order, what you get has been a long time in cold store. They are not chitted when you get them in spring, so obviously it will take them a lot longer to spring into life.

I will give more credibility to the results of my trials in the second year, when I have kept and stored my own seed, all in the same mouse-infested conditions.

Finally, there are so many tasty tatties which are verging on extinction, basically because, although they taste fantastic, they do not conform to supermarkets’ requirements of uniform size and shape. I sincerely hope these do not die out. Many are available as micropropagated plants. They’re not cheap, but well worth it, if it means you can buy some, grow them on, save your own seed, and have REAL tatties in perpetuity, instead of relying on the uniform size/shape, no-flavour, no-character potatties Safeway and the Co-op seem to believe the public wants.

I veer off-topic in just about every contribution which I humbly offer to this site. This one is no exception.

We have not yet embraced the euro, but in all other respects we have sold our nationalities and our souls to Brussels. I use the term “we” in deference to those who still nurse (sook) the security blanket of a Union (Black) Jack.

Beneath my Saltire, my Jersey Royals are looking good. They’re a second early. But I can’t call them Jersey Royals, because I’m not growing them in Jersey. According to the EC, ‘cos I’m not in Jersey, I’ve got to call them International Kidney.

I can’t call my Shetland Blacks Shetland Black, because I’m not growing them in Shetland.

Sorry folks, but my Edzell Blues are now anonymous.

There’s a wee village in Aberdeenshire called King Edward. King Edward is a great tatty! But it was named after the King, not the village.

I would dearly love to move to that village, just to grow the tatty, and name it.

But I suspect Brussels would require me to grow this tatty only on King Edward’s grave.

My Bru . . . ermmm . . Caithness sprouts are looking well, though.
© Mike Clark 2003

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About Mike Clark

Mike discovered the joys of horticulture when, as a small child, he overheard a neighbour say she'd dropped a sixpence in the tattie patch. He has been digging ever since, with the tenacity of a true Scot, hoping one day to find a fiver. Despite now running his own landscape gardening business, Mike claims to be permanently broke, due in part to his quest for fame resulting in writing gardening columns for free. He likes trees, Jack Russells, and 12 year old Glen Ord, but not necessarily in that order. Gifts of any of these can be sent c/o britishexpat.com, but he would like to point out that the third item is by far the easiest and cheapest to post. One of the highlights of his life was winning a toilet brush in a raffle. He persevered with it for ages, but he's back on the paper now... Mike approaches gardening and writing with exactly the same formula. Throw in plenty of manure, and something good will eventually spring up.

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