P is for Potato

How well do you know your "spuds"?

Blight is caused by a fungus-like organism which spreads in the leaves and tubers of potato plants in - wait for it - wet weather.  So you can see how in Scotland this could be a problem! However on the positive side, potatoes grow more and bigger tubers when there is enough moisture in the soil, so don't be put off.  

Just remember to rotate where you plant your potatoes each year, as this helps deter the dreaded blight.  Blight resistant potatoes are available too, including the variety 'Setanta', which I have planted for the first time this year - we'll soon see if they are as good as they claim to be! 

Other popular varieties include King Edward; Desiree; Golden Wonder - in fact, there are now around 5000 varieties to choose from, even blue ones!

BUT -  there is one colour of potato you should never eat - green.  

If a potato has turned green this means it has a high level of solanine, which is poisonous, especially to children and should be avoided by pregnant women. So when you see green potatoes in the bargain bin at the supermarket, leave well alone - better to GROW YOUR OWN!

Fun fact - potatoes were the first food to be grown in space aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 1996


The word "spud" is taken from the Latin for spade.  So when we talk about spuds we're really talking about digging stuff up - although like me, you might have accidentally speared a few potatoes if you tried harvesting them with a fork!

How old are potatoes? Would you believe they were being grown as long ago as 8000BC?  Traced back to their origins in Southern Peru, they were introduced to Europe by the Spanish in the 16th Century.  By 1800 potatoes made up 80% of the diet of Scottish Highlanders, who had previously relied on oatmeal, cheese and meat.

These days, most new allotmenteers try planting potatoes first, mainly because it's easy and due to a long held belief that potatoes 'clean the soil'.  Whilst this may not be entirely true, planting and harvesting potatoes does mean the soil gets plenty of attention; feeding, weeding, digging.

Seed potatoes are easily bought locally and online, and can be planted as soon as the danger of frost is over.  It's possible to even plant a potato bought in the supermarket, but you might not get as big a crop. 

You can easily tell when potatoes are ready to be harvested - this is just as their flowers begin to die back. Then dig in!

There really is nothing like a freshly dug up allotment potato.  Not only is it much cheaper to grow than to buy in the shops, it tastes LIKE HOW A POTATO SHOULD TASTE.  A potato provides you with healthy stuff like carbohydrates, fibre, vitamin C and potassium. 

Have you ever heard or used the phrase, "a blight on the land"?  Potato blight in 1846 resulted in a failure of Scotland's crop, leading to famine, destitution and an increase in the death rate.