from the employee owners at Gardener's Supply Co.

Favorite Potatoes

I found one of my favorite potatoes while on a garden tour in England about 10 years ago. On our way through the Yorkshire countryside on a soggy spring day, our small group stopped at a pub for dinner.

Potatoes produce lots of food in a small space, with little effort.

My grandmother, a Maine native, grew Kennebecs and Katahdins. My stepdad, a Vermonter from the cold Northeast Kingdom, swears by Green Mountain, Red Norland, and “whatever is sprouting under the sink.”

There’s much to be said for growing locally developed vegetable varieties, and I’ve grown those potatoes, too. But, I’m adventurous by nature, especially in the realm of plants. When I travel I’m always on the lookout for something new to try in my garden back home. Discovering a new ornamental plant while visiting a garden or shop is relatively easy, but finding new vegetable varieties often takes a bit more risk.

I found one of my favorite potatoes while on a garden tour in England about 10 years ago. On our way through the Yorkshire countryside on a soggy spring day, our small group stopped at a pub for dinner. As usual, my meal was outstanding and I inquired about the source of the delicious baked potatoes. They smelled earthy and tasted sweet and buttery, even without condiments. The server didn’t know what kind of potatoes they were, but thought they came from Germany. He mentioned that the shipping carton was probably out behind the pub.

After dinner, much to the nervous amusement of my less-inclined traveling companions, I engaged in a bit of dumpster diving. From the bottom of the pile of flattened boxes in the rubbish bin, I uncovered a waxed potato carton with the name ‘Desiree‘ checked on its side. Bingo!

When I got home to Vermont, I did a little research and discovered that it’s the most popular red-skinned potato in Europe. It wasn’t hard to find a supplier in Maine and order my own Desiree seed potatoes to grow that summer. My family has enjoyed this lovely yellow-fleshed potato ever since. It’s perfect for roasting, boiling, mashing, and rich winter stews.

Potatoes are among the most rewarding crops because they produce so much food in a small space with little effort. In years past, I grew them in long rows in our big vegetable garden. But as I age and the number of people at our dinner table shrinks, so has our garden. Growing food in a smaller, more efficient garden is a new priority for us. Last year I grew enough potatoes in a 3′ x 3′ Grow Bed to last our family of three until the new year. I’ve heard good reports about growing potatoes in fabric Potato Bins this summer, too. The bags allowed my condo and apartment-dwelling friends to grow food on balconies and patios without any yard at all. Who knows? I may be growing my gourmet Desiree potatoes in a bag on the porch next summer.

How did you discover your favorite vegetables? Are they family heirlooms and hand-me-downs or selections you found by chance? Drop us a line and share your story.

-Ann Whitman
Green Goods Supervisor, Gardener’s Supply

6 Comments

  1. October 17, 2009    

    Used your 3×3 raised beds and bags this year. The bags produced a huge quanity of Kennebec potatoes. I was really impressed with their produce after trying them for the first time this year. I am getting a couple more.

    I think I would love to try Desiree. They sound like a yummy potato.

  2. October 24, 2009    

    I am sorry to be the negative one, but I tried potatoes in the bag and although I did get potatoes, about 10 to a bag, they were only the size of small apricots or smaller. Very disappointed. I think I must have done something wrong. The top vegetation was beautiful, so I thought the tubers below ground were getting along well, also. bhawley3@gmail.com

  3. Anonymous
    October 24, 2009    

    Too bad there is no writing about the varieties of potatoes that might be appropriate for other areas outside of rural USDA 4. Any ideas for zones 8-10?

  4. Anonymous
    October 26, 2009    

    I had a good crop this year. The different was the soil and a lot of rain in spring. I went to Lowes and got bags of straight Humus and planted the pototoes in that. I tried to keep adding more soil and seaweed while growing. Potatoes are great, and they really do get rid of the weeds in a bed.

  5. Anonymous
    October 26, 2009    

    I would also love some advise on growing potatos… I had the same experience of Bobette and am terribly disappointed (the raised bed garden was FABULOUS this summer though). It was our first time trying potatos so maybe I am just not getting the particular needs of potatoes. I am also in zone 8-10… any advice would be greatly appreciated. I loved the bags and would like to give them another go!

  6. October 26, 2009    

    For tips on growing potatoes in the Potato Bin, read the instructions page: http://www.gardeners.com/Instructions-for-the-Potato-Bin/7099,default,pg.html

    For growing potatoes in a Grow Bed (our raised bed), read test results here:
    http://www.gardeners.com/Growing-Potatoes-in-the-Grow-Bed/5192,default,pg.html

    For zone-specific guidelines, check with a good gardener in the area. Your local cooperative extension might be able to put you in touch with a Master Gardener in your neighborhood who might know the best potato varieties for your region. To find out where your extension service is, start here: http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/

    -David, Gardener’s Supply

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