Spuds with a dif­fer­ence

There’s more to spuds than those found in the su­per­mar­kets. Vicki Price talks to one potato grower who knows his tu­bers

Kapi-Mana News - - GARDENING -

Potato grower Mick Tur­ton cred­its his great un­cle Her­bert for teach­ing him how to suc­cess­fully grow this pop­u­lar vegetable while grow­ing up in Eng­land.

Since then he has grown them wher­ever he lived through­out Bri­tain and for the past 15 years or so in New Zealand.

The many soil and cli­matic con­di­tions have also pro­vided valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence, much of it trial and er­ror.

Mick grows or­gan­i­cally and has em­braced the wide va­ri­ety of her­itage potato va­ri­eties on of­fer, many of which he has sourced through seed sav­ing co-op­er­a­tive Koanga Gar­dens in North­land.

Mick’s favourite is the Pink Fir Ap­ple. Thought to be Celtic in ori­gin, these pink-hued spuds are not very high yield­ing but are the best tast­ing of all, ac­cord­ing to Mick, and have been the best potato to grow in both coun­tries he has grown them. But he has never seen them in a shop, even though they are highly prized by chefs.

The Pink Fir tu­bers are usu­ally long and thin, hence the name, fir mean­ing man and the colour and shape re­fer­ring to a par­tic­u­lar mas­cu­line body part.

They are highly waxy and the long­est keep­ing of all pota­toes. They are also pretty much dis­ease- free, the only prob­lem Mick had once was af­ter a dry spring, there was some potato moth dam­age.

Pink Fir Ap­ples are a main crop va­ri­ety that taste like first crop­pers and make a fine potato salad.

An­other her­itage va­ri­ety Mick grows is Huakaroro, a deep-eyed waxy potato with a cream coloured flesh. It too is a good keeper and this year, Mick’s plants pro­duced more than two kilo­grams each. These are a main crop potato grown through­out the main grow­ing sea­son.

Te Maori is good for roast­ing and bak­ing, and de­spite its smooth pur­ple skin, has white flesh. Once cooked, the pur­ple colour dis­ap­pears from the vegetable into the water. Moe­moe is an­other Maori potato and has a cream and pur­ple medium waxy flesh.

Per­haps the most well-known of the Maori pota­toes is Urenika which is dark pur­ple through­out, apart from some white patches in some tu­bers. A favourite of gourmet cooks, it re­mains pur­ple even when cooked.

Mick has one va­ri­ety that he has named Mys­tery, as he hasn’t been able to iden­tify it. It came from an el­derly Maori man in East­ern Taranaki, who gave a few tu­bers to him through a mu­tual ac­quain­tance. Mys­tery tu­bers look a bit like large yams in ap­pear­ance and of­ten grow in a tri­an­gu­lar shape. They have deep eyes, mak­ing them look like potato-pin­cush­ions, and a white flesh. Mick likes to make wedges with them, by wash­ing then cut­ting them in half and coat­ing in oil, then adding spices such as curry or garam masala and cook­ing in the fan grill for around 15 min­utes.

Pota­toes may come in many va­ri­eties, but the plants all look quite sim­i­lar, ex­cept for vari­a­tions in the flow­ers. The colours of these range through pur­ples, pinks, mauves and whites with yel­low sta­mens and the colour of the flower can in­di­cate the colour of the tu­bers be­low ground.

Spe­cial spuds: A se­lec­tion of her­itage pota­toes, top row, three many-lobed Pink Fir Ap­ples, bot­tom row from left, Te Maori, Huakaroko, Moe­moe, Pink Fir Ap­ple, Mys­tery, Urenika.

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