FOR TAMSIN CARVAN, UNEARTHING HOMEGROWN POTATOES IS NOT UNLIKE FINDING BURIED TREASURE.
ou wouldn’t expect potatoes to be the cause of arguments in our vegetable patch. But when my desire to serve our freshly dug potatoes at every Sunday Table lunch interferes with my partner Al’s desire to have them every night for dinner, compromises must be made. Like onions, it seems that every year we grow more potatoes, but never are there enough. If you have ever eaten a handful of freshly dug pink fifir apple potatoes, gently scrubbed but defifinitely not peeled, boiled in salty water and served with huge amounts of salty butter, then you’ll understand what the fuss is about. One of the joys of growing your own potatoes is the distinct variation in taste and texture between the difffferent varieties, and how satisfying it is to jumble these together in the same dish. Fortunately, when it comes to backyard potatoes, achieving this is much easier than it sounds. After only a season or two of growing them, your potatoes will happily grow themselves and will often make a better fifist of it than you did. A few seasons ago I planted out two long rows of the new (to me) variety purple sapphire (with seductive deep blue-black skin and purple flflesh that holds its colour when cooked) only to end up with a paltry handful when it came time to harvest. Yet this summer, every time we scratched around in the potato patch, fearing that this time we really had dug the last of them, another bucketful of the long-forgotten purple sapphires would reveal themselves, each larger and more splendid than the last. Before growing my own, I found one of the frustrations of potato recipes was being directed to use either ‘waxy’ or ‘flfloury’ types without any sense of how this translated into specifific varieties. But since having our own to work with, I’ve realised that this distinction is neither very clear cut nor terribly useful. Many common varieties — such as desiree, royal blue and Dutch cream — are great all-rounders or do most things reasonably well. When it comes to chips, however, nothing beats the exceptional flflouriness of a russet burbank. In the end, freshness and deliciousness trump all else, so experiment with what you have on hand — you might be surprised! Cook, farmer and accomplished gardener Tamsin Carvan hosts cooking workshops and seasonal lunches at her farm at Poowong East in Victoria’s Gippsland. For information, visit tamsinstable.com.au