What’s so special about French potatoes? As with most French food, the emphasis is on flavour – varieties simply don’t last long if they don’t taste good. Heft and disease resistance come a very distant second.
It’s also partly cultural – potatoes are seen as a bright, pleasurable presence on the plate rather than edible ballast, something to fill up on, and the popular French varieties reflect that.
Potatoes divide semi-tidily into two camps: the early, largely salad varieties, and the later, often flourier types.
The first camp accounts for 80 per cent or more of my potato patch, largely because they perform as if someone listened to all our gardening whinges and invented early potatoes in response.
They give you the most flavour and the finest texture, and you get them cheaply: shop-bought earlies can be wildly expensive and the flavour of home-grown salad potatoes eaten soon after lifting is – as with asparagus, sweetcorn and peas – of a different order to even the best you can buy.
More importantly, growing your own gives you access to the most delicious varieties, largely not available in the shops.
Earlies are largely trouble-free too, being planted, grown and harvested before midsummer when the warm weather that encourages blight arrives.
Once potatoes are lifted, the space is freed in time to plant out courgettes, squash or whatever you fancy to take its place. In