What is irish potato?

Potatoes Growing Guide

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PREPARING THE SEED

Open all bags upon arrival and inspect the tubers. If you are unable to plant them immediately, the seed should be stored loosely in a cool, dark place. Humidity is necessary as the seed should not be allowed to dry out. If you put the bags into a refrigerator (these dehydrate the potatoes), leave the tubers in the bags we sent you and put those into a doubled-up supermarket paper sack and seal it well. This will sufficiently slow down moisture loss while permitting the seed to breath adequately. We do not use chemicals to prevent our potatoes from sprouting. So the seed potatoes you order may have already begun to sprout when they arrive. This is okay-in fact some consider it desirable. Please handle them carefully. When examining them, chitting, cutting or planting, leave the sprouts on. If you break sprouts off you will delay emergence of the vines; and, you will greatly increase the number of vines that finally do emerge from each potato, greatly reducing the ultimate size of the potatoes you will harvest. All tubers the size of a hen’s egg (1-3 ounces), may be planted whole. Ones this size are highly desirable. Professional potato growers call these “single drops.” We try to manage our seed potato fields so as to produce as large a proportion of single drops as possible. Larger tubers give the grower a dilemma. As a general rule the larger the seed piece, the larger the crop both in terms of size of individual potatoes and overall yield. On the other hand, the larger the seed pieces used, the more seed it takes to plant a given area. At minimum, however, each piece should weigh at least 2-4 ounces and must contain two or more strong eyes. Most people cut up larger potatoes into pieces immediately before planting, using a clean, sharp knife. Seed may be allowed to “heal over” for a day prior to planting, but must not be allowed to dry out. Spread the cut pieces out on a table in the shade or one layer deep in shallow boxes. Do not put in direct sunlight; avoid shriveling the seed pieces, which will weaken them. Growers dust newly-cut pieces with fungicide to guard against scab or reduce the threat of infection by bacteria or fungus. Organic gardeners may use powdered sulfur, placing a teaspoonful or two in a large paper sack and gently tossing the cut potato pieces to cover them with sulfur dust.

SOIL PREPARATION

The ideal potato soil is deep, light and loose, a well-drained but moisture retentive loam. Most potato varieties are very aggressive rooting plants, and are able to take full advantage of such soil. In ideal soil potatoes can make incredible yields. Fortunately, the potato is also very adaptable and will usually produce quite respectably where soil conditions are less than perfect. Because of this, many people who grow their own food on marginal agricultural ground depend on the potato for their very survival. All soils, be they ideal of too heavy or too light, should be deeply fitted before planting by sub-soiling or double digging and by incorporating organic matter. Humus is important. It lightens and aerates heavy ground while it increases the moisture holding capacity of sandy earth. And humus adds the organic component of fertility that potatoes need to be truly healthy. Potatoes especially thrive one newly plowed pasture land, a circumstance a bit difficult for most vegetables because of the large number of weed seeds. The frequent hoeing used to hill the crop up keeps weeds under control while the high levels of organic matter from the rotting sod keeps the soil light and loose. Potatoes do best in soil with a pH ranging from 5.2-6.8. Alkaline soil will tend to make many varieties get scabby.

Potatoes also respond to calcium, but newly-applied agricultural lime can induce scab so if lime is needed, far better if it was added the previous year. On soils already above 6.0 we recommend using a little gypsum to supply calcium while leaving the pH just about unchanged. Gypsum applied at 1 ton/acre (that’s 5 pounds per 100 square feet) provides all needed calcium. As far as NPK goes, potatoes need well-balanced nutrition. Properly made compost at 5-10 tons per acre (25-50 pounds per 100 square feet) mainly dug into the rows below the seed is generally sufficient to produce a fine crop, while also supplying all the organic matter most soils need. If the compost is not “strong,” we recommend supplementing it with fertilizer, but not too much. Potatoes given too much nitrogen grow lots of leafy vines but make few tubers. Too much potassium and your tubers may contain less protein. Organic gardeners may use any kind of seed meal cottonseed, soy, linseed, canola, etc.), dug in with compost at a rate of about 1-2 gallons per 100 row feet. Alfalfa meal or chicken manure compost also works fine used at twice that rate.

CHITTING OR PRE-SPROUTING

The practice of greening and pre-sprouting seed potatoes before planting them out encourages early growth and hastens the development of marketable tubers. The method is simple: spread the seed tubers in open -top crates, boxes or flats, one layer deep with the “seed end” uppermost. (If you’ll closely observe a seed potato, you’ll notice that one end was attached to the plant, the other end has a larger number of eyes from which the sprouts emerge. This end with the eye cluster is called the seed end.) The flats are kept in a warm place (70 degrees F.) w here light levels are medium in intensity (bright shade). The warmth stimulates the development of strong sprouts from the bud eye clusters, which in the presence of light, remain stubby and so are not easily broken off. Usually seed potatoes are greened up starting a week or two before planting. Do not cut the seed before greening it up. It will dry out. Cut it just before planting.

PLANTING

Seed potatoes can rot without sprouting in cold, waterlogged soil, so planting extremely early can be risky. Optimum soil temperature for good growth ranges from 55 deg. F. to 70 deg. F. A small planting of the earliest early potatoes may be attempted by planting 6-8 weeks before the last frost date. If a late frost burns the vines back to ground level the tubers will make more sprouts, but each time this setback happens the final yield gets later and smaller. Your main crop should be sown so that there is virtually no risk of frost blackening the emerging vines. The width between rows and overall plant spacing is determined by the size of your garden, your method of cultivation and the amount of irrigation you have available (or wish to use). Farmers and market gardeners need 36-42 inches between rows to permit efficient cultivation and hilling. Gardeners can get by with as little as 2 feet between rows. Where water is short or irrigation will not be used and soil is open and loose so plants can take advantage of this much rooting space, row spacing can be increased to as much as 5 feet and the individual seed pieces separated as much as 18 inches apart, giving the plants a large area in which to forage for moisture. Of course, with wide spacing like this combined with the effects of moisture stress, yields will be lower. Whatever your row spacing, dig a shallow trench about 6-8 inches deep. Plant the seed pieces 10-14 inches apart in this trench. Using a rake, cover the seed with 3-4 inches of soil-do not fill the trench completely.

HILLING

Hilling is crucial to creating a place for potatoes to develop a large size and abundantly. Sprouts will emerge in about two weeks, depending on the soil temperature. When the stems are about 8 inches high, gently hill the vines up with soil scraped from both sides of the row with a hoe. Doing this simultaneously weeds the row. Leave about half of the vine exposed. Hilling puts the root system deeper where the soil is cooler while the just scraped -up soil creates a light fluffy medium for the tubers to develop into. All tubers will form between the seed piece and the surface of the soil. Another hilling will be needed in another 2-3 weeks and yet another as well, 2 weeks after the second. On subsequent hilling, add only an inch or two of soil to the hill, but make sure there is enough soil atop the forming potatoes that they don’t push out of the hill and get exposed to light (or they’ll turn green). But if you hill up too much soil, you’ll cover too many leaves and reduce your final yield.

HARVESTING

Normally, seven or eight weeks after planting, the earliest varieties are blossoming. This signifies that early potatoes may be ready, so gently poke into a potato hill by hand to see what you can find while making as little disturbance as possible. You may either “rob” a few plants of a potato, or simply harvest an entire plant from the end of the row. “Rob” gently to avoid injuring growing roots and stressing the plant. The main crop. Later varieties are usually grown for winter storage. The ideal time to harvest is when the vines are dead. It is best to wait until heavy frosts kill the tops off or, if your tubers are fully-sized up but no frost is in sight, you can mow the tops or cut them off by hand with a sickle. But if you can wait for the tops to die back naturally, your harvest will be a little bigger and your potatoes just a tad richer. Drier soil is definitely an advantage when harvesting; the tubers come up a lot cleaner and with much less effort. After the tops are dead, rest the tubers in the ground, undisturbed for two weeks to “cure,” while the skins toughen up, protecting the tubers from scuffing and bruising during harvest and storage. Minor injuries in the skin may heal if allowed to dry. It is better to harvest in the cool morning hours. You want to chill your tubers down as fast as reasonably possible and if they start out cool it will be much easier. If hand digging, place your fork outside the hill at first and lift the hill from outside so as to avoid stabbing a potato. If the soil is wet, let them air-dry on the surface for a few hours before gathering them. If the weather is unsettled and you still must harvest, spread the potatoes out under cover and let them air-dry before storing. Then “field-grade” your harvest. Separate out and discard (or set aside to eat immediately) any blemished, scabby, misshapen, or injured tubers. Do not put cut or damaged tubers (those injured during harvest) into a sack of good ones; they will rot and rot other potatoes with them.

WATERING

In most parts of the United States, potatoes can be grown without irrigation if the soil is deep and open, where there is no hardpan that restricts root penetration, and the soil is not composed entirely of coarse sand or too gravelly. In fact, there are some definite nutritional and quality advantages to accepting the significantly lowered yield that happens when potatoes don’t receive all the water they could use. Simply stated, un-irrigated potatoes are less watery and taste better. The skins are also tougher so the tubers store better. There is some evidence that potatoes grown this way have a higher protein content as well. However, if irrigation water is scarce or not available the potatoes must be given more “elbow room,” so they can forage for their water without having to compete with other potato plants-and very importantly, the weeds must all be eliminated so they also don’t compete for soil moisture.

FERTILIZING

After emergence and until blooming ends, we highly recommend foliar spraying every two weeks with fish emulsion and/or a good liquid seaweed extract like Maxi-crop. You can’t beat foliar sprays for ease of application, and the plants really respond with a burst of vine growth that will result in a higher yield at the end. Spray in the morning while it’s still cool and the dew lingers on the leaves. This way all the fertilizer is absorbed. The best time to make the first application is the day before you hill up the vines for the first time. Once the vines are in full bloom, they stop making much new vegetative growth and begin to form tubers. Additional fertilization at this stage is virtually pointless and may hinder the flavor.

POTATO TROUBLES

AVOIDING PEST AND DISEASES

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Here are some tips to help you avoid the worst potato diseases and pests. Soil is everything! Build and maintain a healthy, well-balanced soil and your plants will naturally resist disease and damage from predatory insects. If you’re uncertain as to how to do this, we sell a couple of fine books on the subject. Scab. Avoid un-composted animal manures, alkaline soil, and water-logging on potato ground to avoid scab. Where scab has been a problem, try acidifying your soil pH by incorporating small amounts of elemental sulfur into the rows several weeks before planting. Disease. Don’t grow potatoes in the same ground more than once in three years. Many diseases, like early or late blight and verticulum wilt are soil borne. Insect pest populations can also accumulate in a spot. Other members of the nightshade family (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant) should not precede nor follow potatoes.

INSECTS

The most basic rule: to avoid insect problems have vigorously growing, healthy vines. Plants putting on lots of leaf rapidly can generally withstand some predation without a significant loss of yield. We avoid planting too early. Leaf-eating insects can become a much more serious problem once vine growth has stopped and tubers are forming. The tubers store the food made by the leaves; if too many leaves are lost the tubers can’t develop properly. The Colorado Potato Beetle is the most widespread and destructive potato pest. Both adults and larvae feed on leaves and stems, sometimes defoliating entire plants. Handpicking the beetles off the plants is fine control in a small garden, if you catch the problem early. Drop the beetles into a container and then smash them all at once. Check also for small yellow eggs, in clusters, on the undersides of leaves and crush these immediately. Beetle eggs over-winter in the soil, especially at the edges of the garden. Rotation of the farm potato crop is essential, but rotation in a backyard won’t do much good for this mobile pest; you have to move the potato patch more than just a few feet. Bacillis thuringienses (Bt.) var. San Diego, is an effective botanical control, but unfortunately, only for the larvae. The adults are not harmed at all. Hours after the “worm” eats a bit of treated leaf, it becomes so sick it can’t eat again and dies within a day or two. Then the bacteria multiply within the larvae’s decomposing body and are later released into the environmental background to kill still other beetle larvae. Even growers with small gardens should consider Bt. because this bacteria, once established, persists in the area for years and continues to significantly reduce the number of those insects who succumb to it. And if Bt. is sprayed frequently it can virtually eliminate the problem. Start with spraying as soon as there is anything in the garden for the beetles to eat and spray every 10 days to two weeks. That way no larvae get a chance to become adults and your problem may “peter out” before the potato vines are significantly damaged. Bt. is a bacteria not significantly different than the ones that make yogurt. Bt. is entirely nontoxic to humans and other animals and harmless to most insects as well; you can immediately eat food sprayed with it. If adult beetles are causing too much trouble, Bt. will not help until the next cycle has come around. For adults, the organic gardener can use 5% Rotenone dust or a Pyrethrum spray. Flea beetles can also make so many pinholes in leaves that the overall yield suffers greatly. The health of the vines has a great deal to do with how much interest flea beetles have in a plant. So the best prevention is total soil fertility. Sometimes spraying fertilizer like fish emulsion and/or liquid seaweed can lessen the interest flea beetles may have in a potato patch. Rotenone and/or Pyrethrum controls flea beetles, too. If you are having flea beetle problems, you should consider improving your soil’s fertility next year.

ALTERNATIVE PLANTING METHODS

MULCHING

If your soil is shallow, rocky or contains so much clay that the forming tubers can’t push it aside as they try to swell up, or, if you grow potatoes where the summer’s heat is intense, or if you have problems with potato scab in your soil, growing in mulch may be your solution. Prepare your seed bed as deeply as possible and make it fertile, just as you would for growing the potatoes in soil. But instead of making a trench for the seed pieces, plant them on the surface of just below it. Loosely shake mulch over the bed, 6-10 inches deep. The very best mulch to use is loose, seed-free grain straw, Seed- free hay that has been fluffed up, leaves and/or well-dried grass clippings can also be used. As the plants grow, continue to add more loose mulch as though you were hilling up the plants. Be sure to keep the tubers well-covered at all times.

The result is excellent weed control, a continuous supply of moisture and reduced stress from heat. At harvest time, pull back the mulch. Your nest of potatoes should be clean, uniform and easy to gather.

THE CAGE METHOD

Grow a few potato plants, each or in their own wooden box, crib, barrel or wire cage. The container should be about 18×18 inches at the base, about 24-30 inches tall, and able to be gradually filled with soft soil or mulch as the vines grow. Set each container atop a well-prepared fertile soil. Plant one strong seed piece and cover lightly with 4 inches of soil. As the vines grow, gradually fill the container with mellow compost, mulch or soil, but always make sure you don’t cover more than one-third of the vine’s new growth. With some varieties, the underground stolons which produce potato tubers keep on forming new ones for some time. In containers the yield may be increased 200-3000 percent compared with open-field culture. This is a great way to grow a lot of potatoes in a very limited space. We recommend doing this with Yellow Finn, Indian Pit, Red Pontiac, or the fingerling types. Watering requirements will be greater however, so check the cages or containers frequently in warm weather.

STORAGE

Potatoes keep best in the dark at 36 deg. to 40 deg. F., at high enough humidity that they don’t dry out, and given enough air circulation that they can respire (don’t forget, they’re alive). Light and/or warmth promote sprouting and will also turn the potatoes green. But, cold potatoes bruise easily, so handle them gently when moving them around in storage. We recommend burlap sacks, slotted crates or baskets.

SOUTHERN GROWN POTATOES

Early Spring Planting

Spring comes to the Deep South (Zones 8, 9, 10) when it is frequently too stormy in the North to ship your seeds without a high likelihood of them freezing in transit. To get seed potatoes securely you should order in October or November. Store the seed in your refrigerator (there are instructions on the preceding pages) until mid -January. Then bring the seed potatoes into the warmth and light and pre-sprout (chit) them for 2-4 weeks. Plant when conditions are favorable, sometime in February to early March, depending on your location. If you are uncertain when to plant or which varieties grow best at this time of year, ask a neighbor, the Extension Service.

Fall-Planted Potatoes

In zones 8-10, over wintering gets the earliest of the earlies. And if you have an extra old refrigerator, you can fill it up after harvest and hold your harvest through the summer until the fall crop. Here’s what to do. Order some seed now for delivery next September. These newly dug seed potatoes don’t sprout easily. First, chill them; put the tubers in a paper bag and place it in the refrigerator for 2-4 weeks. Then follow the directions for “greening” or “chitting” them. They will probably sprout in 2-4 weeks. Another way to induce sprouting is by putting apples, bananas, or onions in a paper bag with the tubers and placing the bag in a warm room (70 degrees F.). Ethylene gas given off from the fruits will initiate sprouting. Potatoes that are chilled for a month to six weeks will respond much more rapidly. You can also treat with Gerablic Acid. Plant your just sprouting potatoes from October through November. Choose a site that allows good drainage where winter rains may be heavy. By January, your potatoes could be emerging. By March, the vines may be two feet tall! Of course, weather will greatly effect emergence and growth. Be sure to provide protection from frost when it threatens. Dig new potatoes after blossoming. Harvest the rest when the vines have browned off. Save some seed in your refrigerator for a late-summer planting and fall harvest.

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General Advice

Potatoes always do best in full sun. They are aggressively rooting plants, and we find that they will produce the best crop when planted in a light, loose, well-drained soil. Potatoes prefer a slightly acid soil with a PH of 5.0 to 7.0. Fortunately potatoes are very adaptable and will almost always produce a respectable crop, even when the soil conditions and growing seasons are less than perfect.

Always keep your potato patch weed-free for best results. Potatoes should be rotated in the garden, never being grown in the same spot until there has been a 3-4 year absence of potatoes.

When to Plant Potatoes

Potatoes may be planted as soon as the ground can be worked in the early spring, but keep soil temperatures in mind. Potato plants will not begin to grow until the soil temperature has reached 45 degrees F. The soil should be moist, but not water-logged.

Potatoes can tolerate a light frost, but you should provide some frost protection for the plants if you know that a hard, late season freeze is coming. If you want to extend storage times, and have a long growing season, you can plant a second crop as late as June 15 and harvest the potatoes as late as possible.

Cutting Potatoes Before Planting

A week or two before your planting date, set your seed potatoes in an area where they will be exposed to light and temperatures between 60-70 degrees F. This will begin the sprouting process. A day or two before planting, use a sharp, clean knife to slice the larger seed potatoes into smaller pieces. Each piece should be approximately 2 inches square, and must contain at least 1 or 2 eyes or buds. Plant smaller potatoes whole. A good rule of thumb is to plant potatoes whole if they are smaller in size than a golf ball. In a day or so your seed will form a thick callous over the cuts, which will help prevent rotting.

Planting Potatoes in the Garden

We find that potatoes are best grown in rows. To begin with, dig a trench that is 6-8 inches deep. Plant each piece of potato (cut side down, with the eyes pointing up) every 12-15 inches, with the rows spaced 3 feet apart. If your space is limited or if you would like to grow only baby potatoes, you can decrease the spacing between plants.

To begin with only fill the trench in with 4 inches of soil. Let the plants start to grow and then continue to fill in the trench and even mound the soil around the plants as they continue to grow. Prior to planting, always make sure to cultivate the soil one last time. This will remove any weeds and will loosen the soil and allow the plants to become established more quickly.

How to Water Potatoes

Keep your potato vines well watered throughout the summer, especially during the period when the plants are flowering and immediately following the flowering stage. During this flowering period the plants are creating their tubers and a steady water supply is crucial to good crop outcome. Potatoes do well with 1-2 inches of water or rain per week. When the foliage turns yellow and begins to die back, discontinue watering. This will help start curing the potatoes for harvest time.

When to Harvesting Potatoes

Baby potatoes typically can be harvested 2-3 weeks after the plants have finished flowering. Gently dig around the plants to remove potatoes for fresh eating, being careful not to be too intrusive. Try to remove the biggest new potatoes and leave the smaller ones in place so they can continue to grow. Only take what you need for immediate eating. Homegrown new potatoes are a luxury and should be used the same day that they are dug.

Potatoes that are going to be kept for storage should not be dug until 2-3 weeks after the foliage dies back. Carefully dig potatoes with a sturdy fork and if the weather is dry, allow the potatoes to lay in the field, unwashed, for 2-3 days. This curing step allows the skins to mature and is essential for good storage. If the weather during harvest is wet and rainy, allow the potatoes to cure in a dry protected area like a garage or covered porch.

Storage Conditions

At Seed Savers Exchange. we are able to store potatoes well into the spring in our underground root cellar. Try to find a storage area that is well ventilated, dark, and cool. The ideal temperature is between 35 and 40 degrees F. Keep in mind that some varieties are better keepers than others. Varieties like Red Gold and Rose Gold are best used in the fall, and others like Carola and Russets are exceptional keepers.

Saving Seed Stock

Home gardeners can save seed for several generations. Save the very best potatoes for planting. You may find that after several years the size begins to decrease; this is typical. Potatoes are very susceptible to viruses. If you are looking for maximum yields it is best to start with fresh, USDA Certified Seed Stock every year.

In collaboration with University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers, SSE is working to eradicate viruses from heritage potatoes in order to safely preserve potato genetic diversity and to offer high quality seed potatoes.

By Robert L. Williams

Issue #48 • November/December, 1997

My family has made a practice of planting Irish potatoes in the fall rather than in the early spring. We tried it both ways for many years and our conclusions are that, season after season, fall planting seems to work better for us.

Here’s an illustration: last spring we dutifully planted our potatoes in March, which is about as early as we can work the land successfully. We planted the spuds six inches deep, and then we waited.And waited. And waited.In April the first signs of growth appeared, and in the cool spring the plants grew, barely noticeably. When the really warm days of May arrived the potato plants put on a growth spurt that was truly gratifying.

And in June, believe it or not, we had a series of freezes and the plants were killed back by frost. They never made a come-back. The entire potato patch was a total loss of time, energy, and a small amount of money.

Winter or fall planting

Now take a look at winter or fall planting. As soon as all the summer garden crops have been harvested, we till our potato patch and make our winter planting. When the soil is loose and well pulverized, we dig deep rows—eight to ten inches. If you wish, you can use shallow rows and later pile dirt onto the top of the planted taters.

With the deep row open and ready, we fill the bottom of the row with dead leaves (You’ve been raking leaves from the yard anyhow, and this is a fine way to dispose of them), or we use pine needles. It’s good to have at least four or five inches of this dead matter in the bottom of the row.

Then set the potato eyes or cuttings in the row on top of the dead vegetable matter. It works better if you use whole spuds, particularly if you have some small ones that are really too little for good table use. Set the small potatoes a foot apart in the rows.

Now cover the potatoes with another layer of dead leaves, well-rotted sawdust, or other organic mulch material. You can use grass clippings or any other mulch available. Then add the necessary dirt to fill the row and even hill up the row slightly.

Admittedly, this type of gardening is a little harder, takes a little longer, and seems to be a total flop. But wait till spring and see the difference.

During the depths of winter the snows and rains will cause the mulch materials to decay and, as the mulch decays, warmth is generated, just as green hay or green sawdust will generate heat as it decays. The heat is generated for several weeks or even months, depending upon the amount of mulch used, and causes the potato sets to begin their growth cycle so that the roots begin to grow. The second layer of mulch and the dirt on top of it prevents the heat from escaping rapidly, while the soil on top is too cold for the plants to emerge from the soil. Small potatoes start to form very early, and they will grow all winter.

Obviously, the classic manure can be used as well, but this type of material tends to burn the roots of the tender plants. If you use manure, mix it with a generous amount of rotted sawdust or dead leaves.

When the weather is warm enough, the leaves of the plants will shoot forth, and because there is already a great root system the plants will be hardier and will grow faster. We asked a neighbor, a farmer, why the plants grow faster, and he gave us his theory:

The plant when young has a struggle, he says, to provide enough nutrition and growth power for both roots and shoots to grow, and the result is that both are often weak and fragile, more vulnerable to insects and cold snaps.

If the roots are already established, the growth energy can be used by the above-ground plant without robbing the tubers below the soil.

You can add a small amount of commercial fertilizer, if you wish, by sprinkling it along the rows. But the decayed mulch is providing its own fertilizer power by this time. The results are that by very early spring (unless you live in a frigid part of the country) you will have large, sound, beautiful potatoes long before your neighbors have any to harvest.

And this is only part of the beauty of winter potatoes. Because the early growth is done underground in cool weather, the above-ground plants will mature earlier than they would in the usual form of gardening, and you will be ready to harvest before the insects above and below the soil surface appear to devour plants and tubers.A bonus of this type of planting is that the crop is harvested early enough that you have time to have a second or even a third crop on the same plot of land, especially if you live in an area where the growing seasons are longer.I confess that I don’t know how this system will work where the winters are brutal. What succeeds in the Piedmont of North Carolina may not be successful in Minnesota or Montana or Maine.Give it a try this winter, but you may wish to try only a small patch of potatoes until you see how the system works. If you are pleased by the results, then next season try it on your larger potato patches.

What Is An Irish Potato – Learn About The History Of Irish Potatoes

“Variety is the spice of life.” I’ve heard that phrase countless times in my life but never thought about it in the most literal sense until I learned about the history of Irish potatoes. A significant footnote in this history, the Irish Potato famine, conveys the vital importance of planting genetically diverse crops. This is key to preventing widespread crop destruction and, in the case of the Irish Potato Famine, the massive loss of human life.

This is a harrowing time in history and some of you may not want to know more about Irish potato information, but it is important to learn about the history of Irish potatoes so it is not repeated. So, what is an Irish potato anyways? Read on to learn more.

What is an Irish Potato?

This is an interesting bit of Irish potato information, but the potato actually did not originate from Ireland as its name suggests, but rather South America. British explorer Sir Walter Raleigh introduced them to Irish soil at his estate in 1589 upon his return from an expedition.

The Irish potato, however, was not embraced as a large-scale farm crop until the early 1800’s, when its value as an edible food crop was recognized. Potatoes were a crop that could grow with relative ease in poor soil and, in a period of time in which the best land was farmed by the Irish for the sole benefit of British landlords, this was an ideal way to ensure Irish families were fed.

One potato variety, in particular, was grown exclusively – the “lumper” – which became infected in the 1840’s with ‘Phytophthora infestans,’ a deadly pathogen that capitalized on Ireland’s wet and cool weather conditions, turning these potatoes to slime. All the lumpers were genetically identical and, hence, equally susceptible to the pathogen.

The Irish suddenly found themselves potato-less and were catapulted into a deadly famine that lasted 15 years. The population decreased by 30% due to a million deaths and the exodus of 1.5 million more to emigration.

Planting Irish Potatoes

I know the image of slime and death that I just conjured up probably is not encouraging your desire in planting Irish potatoes, but please do not let that discourage you. To this day, modern varieties of Irish potatoes are among the most widely grown worldwide.

So – let’s get down to the business of planting, shall we? Your planting target should be 3 weeks prior to the last spring frost in your region. It is recommended that you buy certified seed potatoes, as they are carefully screened for the presence of disease and are chemical free.

The landscape of a seed potato is quite interesting, as it will have dimples, or “eyes,” on its surface. Buds will develop in these eyes and sprout. Five to six days prior to planting, use a sterilized knife to cut each seed potato into 4-6 pieces, being sure to capture at least one of the eyes in every piece.

Store the cut pieces in a well-ventilated spot in a warm, humid location so that they can heal over and be protected from rotting. In your garden, use a hoe to open a trench about 3 inches (7.6 cm.) deep, plant the potatoes 10-12 inches (25-30 cm.) apart and cover with 3 inches of soil.

Throughout the growing season, hill or mound dirt around the stem of the potato plant as it grows to promote the growth of new potatoes. Water your potato plants regularly to maintain a consistent soil moisture and consider the use of fertilizer to boost development.

Be vigilant for the presence of insects and disease and respond accordingly. Harvest the potatoes when you observe the tops of the potato plants beginning to die.

Irish Potatoes are some of the best! Irish Potato Champ is a traditional Irish mashed potato dish that includes scallions giving the recipe a sweet, spring flavor. Perfect for St. Patrick’s Day, and every other day too!

UPDATED: March 2019

I would have to say what I love most about Irish food is its honesty.

Many of the most well-known dishes consist of a mere handful of ingredients, are rustically prepared and yet deliver the most comforting satisfaction.

Irish Potato Champ is no exception.

Until I began to travel to Ireland I did not realize the wealth of natural food sources at their disposal.

Seafood such as salmon and mussels, meats including mutton, lamb and beef as well as a wealth of produce abound.

I’ve had beautiful meals in Ireland that are only topped by the charming company of the locals.

Irish Potatoes

Surely some of my favorites are those involving potatoes. Boxty, Colcannon and Champ are stars in my book.

Boxty is a type of potato pancake.

Colcannon is a mashed potato dish that includes kale and scallions leaving the potatoes green in tint. The flavors are springy without any overbearing flavor of the kale.

Champ is a kissing cousin of Colcannon. Potatoes steamed and passed through a ricer to keep them light in texture.

These Irish potatoes are combined with scallions simmered in milk and a nice amount of butter (not too much). The flavor is sublime.

They have a slightly sweet flavor from the scallions steeped in the milk that tastes like fresh greens of spring.

Irish Potatoes – Rich in History

Like Colcannon, Champ has long roots in Irish history. These were very inexpensive recipes to make as the ingredients were able to be locally grown even in the worst of soil or colder conditions.

The filling Irish potatoes were a perfect choice during more trying financial times, pair with almost any available protein or may be enjoyed on their own.

In Northern Ireland the scallions are swapped out for peas for an equally delicious version.

Though I’m choosing to share this before St. Patrick’s Day, Irish Potato Champ mash is traditionally served at Halloween.

It often includes a coin wrapped in waxed paper and the lucky diner who finds it in their serving is said to have good luck for the next year!

Ingredients in Irish Potato Champ

One of the best things about this Irish potato recipe is its simplicity. No fancy ingredients and the flavor is fantastic.

  • Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • Scallions
  • Milk
  • Unsalted Butter
  • Salt and Pepper

Traditionally when made in Ireland this Irish potato recipe would use a ‘floury potato’. The closest equivalent in the United States would be a Russet potato.

Loving Yukon Gold for their flavor and consistency, I’ve used them in this Irish Potato Champ recipe.

How to Make Irish Potato Champ – Step by Step:

  • Steam the potatoes until cooked through. (NOTE: may also be boiled if preferred)
  • While the potatoes cook, combine the milk and scallions in a saucepan and heat over medium-low for 5 minutes.
  • When the potatoes are cooked, pass them through a ricer or traditional potato masher into bowl or back into the saucepan.
  • Pour in the scallion-milk and 4-6 tablespoons of butter; stir to fully combine.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add a pat of butter to each serving and serve hot!

What to Serve with Irish Potato Champ

This Irish potato recipe is fantastic with just about anything and all year long (though perfect for an authentic Irish St. Patrick’s Day dish).

Some favorite ideas include:

  • Lemon Roast Chicken
  • Salt & Pepper Roasted Chicken Thighs
  • New York Strip Steak (or Portobello Mushroom ‘steaks’ if vegetarian)
  • Bangers or Sausages

Did you make it? Please RATE THE RECIPE below! 5 from 20 votes

Irish Potato Champ

This simple, rustic version of mashed potatoes has a sweet springy flavor from the scallions steeped in milk. It is a satisfying dish on its own or paired with any protein. Course Side Dish Cuisine Irish Keyword champ mashed potatoes, irish potato champ, irish potatoes Prep Time 15 minutes Cook Time 20 minutes Total Time 35 minutes Servings 6 1/2 cups Calories 279 kcal Author Toni Dash

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds (approximately 8 medium) Yukon Gold Potatoes peeled (if large, halve the potatoes)
  • 1 ½ bunches Scallions (green spring onions) white and light green portions chopped
  • ½ cup Milk
  • 4-6 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter , room temperature
  • Kosher Salt and Ground Black Pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Steam the potatoes until the center is cooked through (approximately 20 minutes). Alternatively the potatoes may be boiled just until soft, drained and returned to the heat to dry before processing them further.
  2. When cooked, mashed the potatoes. Preferred method of mashing is to put the potatoes through a potato ricer which keeps them light and airy. Alternatively a traditional masher may also be used though typically makes the potatoes more dense when mashed.
  3. (While the potatoes cooking…) Combine the scallions and milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat for 5 minutes.

  4. Pour the mixture, along with 4-6 tablespoons of the butter (to taste; more butter will melt on the top when served) into the potatoes and stir in to fully combine. Salt and pepper as needed.

  5. When serving, add small pats of butter (from the remaining 2 tablespoons) to the top of each serving. Serve hot.

Nutrition Facts Irish Potato Champ Amount Per Serving Calories 279 Calories from Fat 144 % Daily Value* Fat 16g25% Saturated Fat 10g50% Cholesterol 42mg14% Sodium 34mg1% Potassium 980mg28% Carbohydrates 29g10% Fiber 5g20% Sugar 1g1% Protein 6g12% Vitamin A 560IU11% Vitamin C 27mg33% Calcium 100mg10% Iron 7.4mg41% * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

How to grow IRISH POTATOES in Uganda

Potato is a herbaceous starchy, tuberous crop and it’s locally known as the Irish potato cause of its originality.
Globally the Irish potatoes are the fourth largest food crop following rice, wheat and maize.
Available varieties in Uganda include: Victoria, Kisoro, Kabaale, Rutuku and NAKPoT (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

Soils requirements for Potatoes

Potatoes grow best in deep friable fertile soils that have good water retention capacity as compact soils reduce root and tuber development and may cause tuber deformation.

Irish potatoes require adequate soil moisture, though excess soil moisture results into poor growth and encourages diseases.

How best to propagate Irish Potatoes in Africa

Potato is propagated from seed tubers.
Seed tubers must be free of the diseases especially bacterial wilt and viruses; and must have broken its dormancy.
The period taken for the Irish potato to break dormancy is dependent on the variety.
Tubers which have been stored for so long should not be planted because they have very old sprouts which are weak and result in low vigor plants.
The best size of tubers for planting would be 40-80gm.
Seed tubers should be planted intact without cutting them as this is discouraged as it could lead to spread of bacterial wilt disease.
A damage on a Seed tuber may also cause rotting of the tubers in the field especially from root rot bacteria.
Contact the Uganda agribusiness guide to buy Irish potatoes for food and Seed tubers for planting.

How to plant Irish potaoes in Uganda

Potato should be planted early in the season at the onset of rains for farmers who follow rain cycles.
The crop may be planted on a flat field and afterwards earthen and transferred to ridge garden or may be planted on ridges directly, however the best way of planting would be using 10cm deep furrow.
The furrows are then ridged up immediately after placement of seed tubers and one should ensure that the ridges are about 25cm high. The recommended spacing of the crop is (60×30) cm.
Fertilizer recommendation; the optimal fertilizer rates for potato production is 100kg/hectare of sodium, 50kg/ha of phosphorus and 50kg/ha potassium.
Fertilizers are placed in the furrows.

How to weed Irish potatoes

Irish potato plants should be weeded to reduce competition with weeds but also to get rid of weeds that act as alternate hosts of insect pests like aphids.
About two weddings’ are done, the first when the crop is about 10cm high and the second when the crop is about 20-25cm high.
Contact the Uganda agribusiness guide to buy Irish potatoes for food and Seed tubers for planting.

How to Harvest and store Irish potatoes

In Uganda, potato is harvested using a hoe.
Irish Potato should be harvested when it’s mature.
Two to three weeks before harvesting, the crop should be ‘dehaulmed’ (i.e. the stems of the crop removed).
This allows the skin of the tubers to harden to minimize bruising during harvesting and subsequent handling.
Bruised potato tubers are prone to rotting.
After harvesting, Irish potato tubers should be put in cool place for at least a week to allow them to cure i.e. the skin to develop suberin or a hard layer which further protects them from physical damage and attack by insects and diseases.
Curing also heals wounds. To cure potato you should keep the harvested tubers in a well aerated, high humidity and relatively warm temperature of about (50_60) °C.
Potatoes are stored in facilities carefully designed to keep the potatoes alive and slow the natural process of decomposition.

A suitable area should be dark and well aerated. Light in storage should be avoided because it induces greening which also indicates accumulation of a sugar compound that is poisonous (glycoalkaloids).
Storage facilities should be designed to keep temperature low below 25°C
Contact the Uganda agribusiness guide to buy Irish potatoes for food and Seed tubers for planting.

Quick tips for growing Irish potatoes

  • Open up field meant for planting in to furrows.
  • Place the potato tuber into the furrow and thinly cover with soil.
  • Earth up the soils to form ridges as recommended above.
  • Dress NPK in the rows to supplement on the soil mineral elements.
  • Harvest the potatoes in piece meal to allow other small potatoes to grow bigger.

Contact the Uganda agribusiness guide to buy Irish potatoes for food and Seed tubers for planting.

How to grow your own potatoes in 7 simple steps

So, you want to grow potatoes? Well, you’ll be pleased to know that you don’t need a massive garden or allotment to do it. You can even grow a tasty crop in a small urban plot, using a pot or container with a capacity of at least 10 litres.

Start them off now and you should be enjoying tasty potatoes from July through to the end of the year. All that’ll be left to do is decide: chips, mashed or jacket?

Here’s how…

1. Buy blight-resistant varieties

Good looking #sarpo axona @SarpoUK. a little blight on leaves but im very happy, lots of #chemicalfree tasty #potatoes for winter. pic.twitter.com/n9eScpAXLZ

— Hop Cottage (@hop_cottage) October 4, 2016

Excessive wet weather can lead to the gardener’s nemesis – blight – which can ruin your crop in one fell swoop.

But there’s a range of blight-resistant ‘superspuds’ known as Sarpos (pronounced Sharpo). They are now being grown by gardeners who don’t want the plight of blight. Blue Danube is a good blight-resistant variety with a deep blue/purple skin (but white flesh).

2. ‘Chit’ them first

Potato chitting prior to planting out (Thinkstock/PA)

Seed potatoes can now be bought in large bags from garden centres, seed companies and online, but if you have limited space or just want to try out a few, hunt out the centres which sell loose tubers by weight.

Early varieties of seed potatoes should be ‘chitted’ in January and February before planting out (you don’t need to chit maincrop types as they have a longer growing season).

Chit them by laying the potatoes rose-end (where most of the tiny sprouts are) on newspaper in clean seed trays or old egg boxes, placed on a windowsill or in a frost-free greenhouse in a light position but not in direct sunlight.

In a few weeks, the shoots will grow, gaining strength while the soil is still too cold for them to be planted outside.

Rub off all but the four strongest sprouts and when they have grown to around an inch, chitting is completed. Don’t plant them out until the end of March, though, as the shoots will take time to develop.

3. Prepare the ground

Prepare the ground (Chris Ison/PA)

In the meantime, if you have a vegetable plot or allotment, dig the area to loosen the soil, adding organic matter such as well-rotted manure or compost and working it into the soil.

4. When to plant

Planting potato tubers (Thinkstock/PA)

Early varieties can be planted out in late March and early April, second-earlies a week later, and maincrop potatoes a week after that.

Plant tubers of seed potatoes around 15cm deep and 40cm apart in rows 60cm apart. Second earlies and maincrop potatoes should be planted 40cm apart allowing 75cm between rows.

5. Maintenance phase

Tubers need earthing up (Thinkstock/PA)

Hoe shallowly to keep the rows weed-free, then when the first shoots appear above the surface, draw up earth with a hoe from between the rows to cover the shoots (known as earthing up), which encourages underground shoots and more tubers and stops the tubers being exposed to the surface and turning green. Earthing up will create gullies between rows.

Potato foliage should soon cover the ground and you won’t need to weed any more, while potatoes rarely need watering, unless you get a prolonged period of drought in summer.

Foliage soon covers the ground (Thinkstock/PA)

If a late frost is predicted in May, cover the foliage with garden fleece, or sacking as if the leaves are blackened, the yield may be reduced.

6. Harvest time

Harvesting potatoes (Thinkstock/PA)

Earlies should be ready from early June, second-earlies from mid-June or July, and maincrops from September through the autumn.

Start digging earlies as soon as the tubers are a fair size. Push your hand under a plant to feel for egg-sized tubers, or lift an individual plant gently using a fork.

Gently dig round perimeter before pulling up plants (Thinkstock/PA)

The tubers should come up with it, and you can sift around in the soil for any remaining ones. If the tubers aren’t ready, push them back into the ground and give them a good watering.

When the plants start to flower is a good indication that the tubers are ready to harvest, although you could ease out some earlies by ferreting under the soil with your hand and pulling a few out, without pulling up the plant, which will continue growing. They should keep in a cool, airy shed in the dark, or the vegetable drawer of the fridge, for a week or more.

Second earlies can be lifted for storage later, but try to use them before you start on the maincrops. With maincrops, leave the plants to die down completely. They keep quite well in the soil but lift them before the ground becomes really wet or else they are likely to rot.

7. Storage

Store potatoes in hessian sacks (Thinkstock/PA)

Dry out maincrops in a dark shed for a couple of days before storing them in hessian or paper sacks, until required.

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