If you love potatoes, we've got a great range of our favourite varieties. They come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, colours and textures. If space is limited, opt for early varieties because they take up less garden space for less time.
One potato, two potato, three potato four...
Potatoes are the world's fourth most important food crop (after rice,
wheat and maize), providing a vital carbohydrate source throughout the
temperate regions. Potatoes were originally introduced to Europe from
central America by Spanish explorers in the sixteenth century, but
potatoes were not grown in England until Sir Francis Drake brought a
clutch of potatoes back in 1563. It took two centuries before potatoes
were widely grown as a food crop.
...five potato, six potato, seven potato more.
Ireland's rich soil and high rainfall meant they got the biggest crops
of potatoes and potatoes became the staple food. All the potato crops
were virtually identical genetically because the potatoes had been
vegetatively propagated over the generations from the same original
handful of potato tubers. This meant all the potato crops were
vulnerable to the same potato pests and diseases. In the 1840s a
series of potato crops were completely wiped out by potato blight
disease, resulting in a widespread potato famine.
Modern potatoes are broadly grouped according to when they are
harvested. The three main groups are 'first early', 'second early' and
'maincrop'. Just to confuse matters, the earliest 'first early' potato
varieties are often labelled as 'ultra-early' or 'extra-early'. The
'first early' potato varieties are planted in March, grow rapidly and
produce moderate crops of small potatoes in June or July before potato
blight can take hold. The 'second early' potatoes are planted about a
month later and lifted in July or August, producing larger harvests.
'Maincrop' potatoes produce the biggest crops, but take the longest to
grow. They are planted in April, ready for lifting in August for
immediate consumption, or can be left until September or October
before they are lifted for winter storage. 'Maincrop' potatoes are the
most susceptible to potato blight, however.