Well, OK, it wasn’t much of a sin compared to torching the Mona Lisa, say, or reducing the sugar level in jam (I foresee a revival in home jam-making to rival the Great British Bakeoff).
But I am sorry to say that the venerable Crocus Potato Trials, now in their third year, have lost a little of their usual scientific rigour this year.
First off, I ate them all before I remembered to take any photographs. So I’m afraid the illustrations in which you get to see the all-important appearance on the plate are sadly lacking. Luckily, most of the varieties I grew this year were pretty bog-standard blonde (with the exception of the ever-reliable blush-red Sarpo Mira, pictured left drying for a couple of hours before storing).
Second, I discovered the only drawback I’ve found (so far) to my obsession with triangles. Before, when I had little sensible 10 x 4ft raised beds, potato trials were easy: you just put in two rows alongside each other, and all you had to keep track of was which side was, say, Accent and which Foremost.
But when you’re growing in huge triangular expanses, things get rather confusing. I’ve been growing nine or ten tubers of each variety, and you can fit about three groups into a 12ft triangle, but dividing it up made my head hurt.
Anyway: proof positive that a creative approach isn’t always a scientific one. It wasn’t helped by the fact that my long-suffering husband took the law into his own hands and decided to harvest the veg himself for the roast he cooks every Sunday, instead of waiting for me to get round to it. So measuring yields this year has been a bit… well… hit and miss.
But enough chuntering: it’s still been a satisfyingly good year for spuds. Though blight hit, the heatwave kept it at bay and it didn’t spread as catastrophically as usual: I also went for a lot of varieties which mentioned blight resistance in the description this year and I think it paid off.
I’ve also been concentrating on first early and second early varieties, with just one maincrop that wasn’t a Sharpie (the solidly blight-resistant Sarpo family bred by the Hungarian Sarvari Research Trust, based rather incongruously but practically (given the climate) in north Wales, whose scientists no doubt grow their potatoes in very straight rows and have forgotten more than I will ever learn about blight).
So let the Potato Trial Verdict begin: here’s what I thought of the varieties I grew in 2013:
Earlies and second earlies:
Premiere: I am very fussy about my first early potatoes. They must be the real deal: hen’s egg sized, smooth, and with that unique, exquisite, mouthwatering flavour only new potatoes have. Good ones are hard to find: since the beginning of these trials I have tried and written off both Sharpe’s Express and Foremost, and added just one (Accent) to my list. Well: here’s a second. I was a bit meh about Premiere’s Dutch breeding (usually a recipe for tastelessness), but needn’t have worried: they were utterly delicious, neat little golden tubers, wonderful, wonderful flavour, super-high yields for a first early. I’ll be growing this one again.
Yield: 11.5lbs (5.3kg)
Flavour: Classic new potato: nom, nom, nom…
In a word: Fragrant
Cherie: You know how sometimes things look a lot better than they taste? Well: that. This modern French variety is all style and no substance. I do hope the French haven’t lost their mojo in the flavour department: usually I make a beeline for veg varieties with French names as they’re guaranteed to taste better than anything else you can buy. Not this one. Gorgeous to look at: the skins are blushed pink and have an elegant, elongated shape. But the flavour? What flavour’s that, then?
Yield: 10.8lbs (4.9kg)
Flavour: A bit like eating wallpaper paste. Only blander.
In a word: Skin-deep
Sherine: Now here my results may not be entirely reliable, but I’m thinking that the mystery variety which lost its label must have been this one. It’s a second early, and a lovely-looking potato, rather ethereally pale - actually, one of the palest-skinned potatoes I’ve ever grown, and the closest to a white spud I’ve seen. The tubers were oval, even and blemish free (you can see how it’s such a favourite on exhibition benches) but as with many show potatoes, flavour wasn’t the main consideration. There also weren’t very many of them: possibly because I lost a few to the hubster’s enthusiastic harvesting, possibly because yields are genuinely low.
Yield: 6.6lbs (3kg)
In a word: Uniform
To be continued…