Last week was mostly about potatoes! Every February the Glasgow Allotments Forum hold a Potato Day, selling around sixty varieties of seed potatoes. It is very popular with plotholders and gardeners from across the city – as well as community groups and schools – as you can buy
types of potatoes that are not available in supermarkets or garden centres and you can also buy smaller or larger amounts than you could in a shop. This is excellent for experimenting with different varieties and finding out what you like, as well as being very useful for War & Peas as there were many heritage varieties available!
War & Peas had a small display about the role of potatoes during the First World War. We became somewhat dependent on potatoes, which were sieved, mashed or riced to bulk out recipes and save on flour – bread, pastry, biscuits and cake could all be made using potatoes. See for example the mince pies in our recipe section! But at the same time butter and milk were in short supply so some favourite potato recipes were just not the same – imagine mash with no butter!
Luckily there were a number of potatoes available at this year’s Potato Day which would have been available to plotholders during the First World War. After I bought the seed potatoes they became part of the display with little tags explaining why we are growing these particular ones. Apparently this was quite effective and a few people were inspired to also try out the same types! Shetland Black proved to be a particulalry popular potato this year and totally sold out!
War & Peas will be growing the following:
Arran Victory: A maincrop potato bred on the Isle of Arran by Donald McKelvie and named in celebration of the end of the First World War in 1918. These potatoes are a cross between Suttons Abundance and an unknown potato. The skins are bright blue but lose their colour when cooked.
Duke of York: A first early bred in Aberdeenshire by William Sim and entered on the national list in 1891. Suggested as a potato to grow, along with Sharpe’s Express, in Walter Brett’s ‘Wartime Gardening’, published in 1915.
Epicure: A first early bred in England by Sutton & Sons but very popular in Scotland and widely grown in Ayrshire. It is a cross between Magnum Bonum and Early Regent.
Kerrs Pink: A maincrop potato raised by J Henry in Banff in 1907, from a cross between Fortyfold and Smith’s Early. This potato used to be known by various local names but became known as ‘Kerrs Pink’ when it was marketed by a seedsman from Banff named Kerr in 1917.
King Edward: The breeder of King Edward VII is unknown but it is believed to be a cross between Magnum Bonum and Beauty of Hebron. It is a maincrop potato. They were named and marketed by J Butler in 1902, to coincide with Edward VII’s coronation.
Sharpe’s Express: A first early introduced by C Sharpe in Sleaford, England before 1901. Its parentage is unknown. Suggested as a potato to grow, along with Duke of York, in Walter Brett’s ‘Wartime Gardening’, published in 1915.
Shetland Black: A maincrop potato native to the Shetland Islands, dating from the early 1900s. Traditionally, it is said to have picked up from a Spanish Armada shipwreck in 1588!
The potatoes will be planted on Saturday 17th March as traditionally potatoes are planted on St Patrick’s Day in Glasgow. So come along to plant a spud and maybe have some cake and a cup of tea too!