l-r King Edward, Pink Fir Apple, Maris Peer with shallots and garlic in foreground

l-r King Edward, Pink Fir Apple, Maris Peer with shallots and garlic in foreground

My favourite book on the potato (actually its my only book) is ‘The Story of the Potato; through illustrated varieties’ by Alan Wilson. Published in 1993 this is an overview of the development of potato varieties from the mid eighteenth century onwards, which not only details the history and characteristics of the tubers it is illustrated with colour paintings by Faith Harris.

Pink Fir Apple. Painting by Faith Harris

Pink Fir Apple. Painting by Faith Harris

Although I have the book I always fail to read it before I buy my seed potatoes. So having brought home some Pink Fir Apple tubers I find it under the chapter on unusual varieties;

It is very prone to blight and tubers should be eaten when lifted as it is a poor storer and must be dry when stored.

As the shape is so long the traditional ridging up technique may not be suitable. The tubers poke out of the side of the rows and are turned green by the sunlight….The shape makes it impossible to peel and it is often cooked in its skin or sliced. It is probably at its best when eaten cold.’ (Wilson p100)

Ah well, perhaps Maris Peer (1962) will be better. However

‘It gives a high number of medium sized tubers per plant. This makes it suitable for use in canning or washed samples for retail prepacks.’ (p87)

Never mind what can go wrong with King Edward (1902)

‘The variety is susceptible to blight and wart disease….it is difficult to get consistently good yields…The fussy nature of this variety has always impaired its popularity with growers.’ (p53)

However because of its excellent flavour and superior cooking, when it was threatened with extinction by the EEC in the 1970’s,

‘People protested, wrote to their Euro MPs and eventually a solution was reached with Britain still being allowed to grow King Edward’ (p54)

Any way at least I didn’t get Congo (c1900)

‘The tubers are very small and dark and must be harvested on a bright, dry day to stand any chance of finding them in the soil. The taste is insipid and the texture stodgy.‘ (p105)

Whatever their taste and cooking qualities, potato tubers are effective at storing food overwinter and if they are not efficiently dug out will grow again the next season. I certainly find it makes an effective weed on the allotment (relic of cultivation);

‘In disturbed habitats it is usually casual, but the production of tubers allows some populations in more stable sites to become established’  (Preston et al p 488)