Which Potato Should I grow?
One of the most frequent questions we are asked is "Which potato should I grow?"
Are you asking “Which potato should I grow?” We know the choice can be overwhelming and hope this page helps you understand the main definitions and the main ways people choose what to grow.
Choose by Maturity, Name, Cooking type, Family or Colour. We have customer reviews to help. With such a choice, it may initially appear to be hard to narrow it down. However with a few key questions, we can certainly recommend a few for you.
There are as many ways to chose a potato as there are potatoes and if you prefer making an informed decision rather than picking a name you like, we can help you understand some terminology.
We have organic, speciality, heritage and blight-resistant varieties. The Sarpo Family are here as are Phureja and Mayan seed potatoes. Potato House is renowned for the range of coloured varieties – blue flesh, red skin – there’re all here. Firm favourites such as Colleen, Setanta and Charlotte feature in our shop alongside rare varieties such as Salad Blue and Shetland Black and all are certified seed grown by us in Scotland. There is a FAQ page for all your potato questions. You can browse our range by clicking on a category or use the search facility if you know the variety you are looking for. If you can’t find a specific variety or have any questions, please get in touch.
You can compare the earlies or main crops as well as the reds and blues that are of interest. You will find 70 varieties to cater for the needs of the discerning gardener and allotmenteer!
If you ordered from us before and can remember what you ordered, please leave a product review. During summers we reflect on the season gone by, make plans to improve our varieties on offer for our customers and prepare for the new season. We have a licence to grow from many different potato companies, as well as exclusive rights to many varieties and so our range is the best in the UK. Additionally, we are continually seeking out new varieties to grow – perhaps new to us but they could be 50 years old!
Which Potato Should I Grow? Choose your potatoes by Maturity
The most common way of choosing a potato is by crop type – the maturity. But what does early or main crop mean? Quite simply it is the length of time taken for the plant to mature and give a good harvest. If you planted a tuber of each cropping type on the same day, the earlies would be ready first. Early potatoes are what we think of when new potatoes are mentioned – harvest cooked and eaten within a few hours for that magical new potato taste. New potatoes are often quite expensive in shops and so many gardeners like to grow these. They take 10-12 weeks to mature and are usually harvested before blight sets in. These potatoes do not store for too long. Can be planted up until the end of June for harvesting till the end of October.
Second Earlies take slightly longer at around 14-16 weeks to mature, Early Main Crop and Main Crop (sometimes lumped together) take around 15 – 22 week respectively to mature and these varieties are the ones that will store for much longer. Main crops can be planted till around end of May for harvesting till the end of October. There is so much variation in the weather throughout the UK it is hard to give definitive dates as to when to plant.
You need to be aware of the last (average) frost dates where you are as the young plant is susceptible to frost. The traditional date for planting was Easter Sunday but I suspect this is due to the first bank holiday of the year and people wanting to get out and about. You most certainly are not too late if you have only thought about growing your own potatoes in April and even into June – earlies would be harvested in August if planted in May.
There is obviously some overlap in these broad definitions and other factors such as chitting, soil, weather, location in the garden as well as personal preference to be taken into account. Most people will either stagger planting or plant different crop types to ensure a long supply of homegrown potatoes.
Recently a 5th crop type has been talked about – the Late Season for Christmas Market. These potatoes can be any crop type and are grown accordingly. We have an information page about growing late season potatoes and these are only available from late May.
Names of potatoes can bring back memories or start a tradition!
Some people are delighted to find a potato that their grandparents used to grow, like Edzell Blue, others like the sound of Bambino and others pick a potato because their 8-year-old daughter is called Emily and is determined to grow a Red Emmalie. There are many exotic sounding potato names – perhaps they remind you of a holiday. There is absolutely nothing wrong with picking your potatoes by their name….or indeed picking your children’s names from your favourite potato!
Which Potato Should I Grow? - Choosing by Cooking Type
Have you ever tried to mash a potato that simply wouldn’t, or have your boiled potatoes disintegrated? Your culinary disasters may simply be due to using the wrong potato type. You might have seen a recipe asking for a floury variety or a TV chef using a waxy type. Many people phone us to ask if we can supply a baking potato or ask which potato is the best for roasting. It is so true that many potatoes have one or two distinct purposes while others can be seen more as all-rounders.
The three types are Floury, Waxy and smooth. As a general rule, most potatoes tend to fall into one of two categories; floury or waxy. Waxy potatoes hold their shape and have a firm bite, so they’re great for salads or simply boiled and dressed with butter. Floury potatoes, on the other hand, fluff up when they’re cooked, making them perfect for chips, roast potatoes or baking. But there are varieties that fall in the centre, holding both waxy and firm qualities and these are defined as smooth. These make great all-rounders, and tend to have the creamy consistency needed for a smooth mash.
Choosing by Potato Colour
We are renowned for having an array of coloured seed potatoes! The purples, the pinks and the blues! There are also potatoes where the flesh is coloured. This is always a talking point – whether it is toddlers or friends round for a meal – everyone is impressed. The toddlers get told that the blue mash has super powers and the adults will check if blue potatoes have super powers! Nutritional values are the same although there are some studies which indicate that a range of food colours is better for you. We do, of course, have white skin and flesh seed potatoes.
Choosing by our different "families"
We have many different “families” of potatoes and some varieties will fall into a few of the families. Here is a brief background on each.
For many years Sarpo potato varieties have had a fervent following with gardeners and allotment holders. The reasons for that are simple. Allotment holders frequently grow their vegetables in an organic way and so are always looking for varieties that do not need spraying. The Sárvári family from the Lake Balaton region in Hungary started breeding potatoes for high resistance to late-blight disease over 40 years ago. The late Dr Sárvári was director of Keszthely Research Institute (now University of Pannonia Georgikon, Faculty of Agriculture, Potato Research Centre). His Soviet bosses wanted a hardy strain of potatoes for growing across the USSR which would survive the ravages of climate and disease and that were not dependent on expensive chemical inputs. The first variety to be Nationally Listed in 2002 was Sarpo Mira, a clone with outstanding resistance. This was followed shortly after by Axona, another maincrop clone with good flavour. In 2013 Sarpo Potatoes Ltd was formed as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Sarvari Trust. We are the exclusive grower and supplier to the UK market of Sarpo Seed Potatoes.
Skea Organics is our original company and are renowned for supplying high-quality organic seed potatoes to farmers and market gardeners throughout the UK and beyond. We are delighted to be able to bring the same range of organic seed potatoes to gardeners and allotment holders. Our Organic range is about a only third according to the variety list, however, by area grown and crop yield it is over 90% of our harvest. Many gardeners and allotmenteers will choose organic as they know that they are hardy and can survive in UK without huge use of chemicals. We are certified organic seed producers.
Our range of speciality and heritage varieties is quite incredible; we are helping to bring some varieties back from extinction such as Lumpers and Ratte. Each year we try to extend the range as many people want to experiment with these older varieties and they are seeing something of a resurgence in the press and in restaurants. Only small areas of many of these older varieties are grown and they do sell out quite quickly. The definition of a heritage variety is one that was bred prior to 1950. They have been around for a while and the reason is generally the taste - the yield may not be as good as modern varieties and may be prone to diseases, but are certainly worth a try.
The RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM) helps gardeners choose the best plants for their garden and we are delighted so many of the varieties we grow for you have this prestigious award. With more than 75,000 plants available in RHS Plant Finder alone, how can you tell which plants are best for all-round garden value? The AGM is intended to help gardeners make that choice, and is only awarded to plants that are: • excellent for ordinary use in appropriate conditions • available • of good constitution • essentially stable in form and colour • reasonably resistant to pests and diseases
The Ark of Taste is a key international project of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity. It aims to catalogue and promote quality products from around the world that are rooted in culture, history and tradition and that are in danger of disappearing. It is quite exciting to see so many of our varieties listed in this catalogue and we aim to have more soon.
We produce varieties exclusively grown by us for the UK market. We have quite a range here, including Mary's Rose - which is the first variety to come through our breeding programme and be listed in the national database.
The Mayan, or Phureja Family, with exotic names such as Mayan Gold and Mayan Rose, are varieties originating from the Andean valleys in South America. By hybridization with Solanum tuberosum by the Scottish Crop Research Institute, varieties were obtained which are adapted to the European climate. The varieties can be planted in areas with a mild climate, where culture throughout the year is possible. These crossings are particularly popular as a culinary potato for their excellent taste and less cooking time.