While other parts of the country are, apparently, dry and droughty, the same cannot be said of Cornwall. The predictable result is that, as I mentioned earlier, blight has destroyed our potato crop. Still, it does present us with the opportunity to try a few of the eclectic mix of varieties that happen to have ended up growing here, albeit a little earlier than anticipated. For the purposes of the taste test, they were boiled, with a little sprig of mint. Here goes:
Gloucester Black Kidney: a good tasting, dry and floury variety. Lovely appearance with distinctive kidney shaped tubers - well named. White flesh despite the purple skin. Excellent except for the pitiful yield. From Nip it in the Bud
Vales Emerald: huge tubers and lots of them. Firmer than the above, probably a good baker. Flavour initially unremarkable, then left a bitter aftertaste and a harsh sensation in the back of the throat. Nice yield, shame about the taste. From Nip it in the Bud
Rote Emma: smooth, waxy, very pleasant. Pink flesh. Good yield, but wins the Mollusc Medal for its enduring appeal to slugs. We like this one too, but somehow the slugs always get there first. Originally from Ulrike Paradine
Purple Peruvian: dry, floury, slightly "nutty" taste. Delicious, purple fleshed. Firm, doesn't break up easily, a good all-rounder. Just the thing before or after manual labour at 0-4000m. Brilliantly camouflaged in the soil - we always miss loads. Horribly susceptible to blight and although they crop reasonably, tuber size is not impressive. Despite this, we have been growing them from our own seed for over ten years now. Purple mash will create a stir at the most staid dinner party.
Nicola: waxy, with a good flavour. Good yield, worth growing again. From Nip it in the Bud
Robinta: waxy/ buttery flavour. Very pleasant, would make an excellent salad potato. Good yield. Will be growing it again. From Nip it in the Bud
Blue 13 and its successors. Were Heraclitus around today, he would perhaps concur: time to move on.
Like the light from a distant constellation that's dying in the corner of the sky, these varieties are the product of another age, now past. In the song by Paul Simon, from which those lyrics are lifted, he exhorts: don't cry, baby, don't cry. He may have a point: it's perfectly possible, in these days of miracle and wonder, to envisage an elusive affiliation of potatoheads and tomatoheads, breeding new, tasty, blight-beating varieties; they could transfer genes from these oldies to blight resistant ones, thus combining the best of the old with the best of the new. They may be old, but they ain't necessarily cold. The heirloom potatoes, I mean. Let's hear it for cross-pollination - a bit of sexual healing may yet knock Phytophthora infestans off its perch. So join, why don't you, some of the people already engaged in this work: Rebsie Fairholm; Frank van Keirsbilck; Vegetable Heaven; Tom Wagner; Patrick Wiebe; Open Plant Breeding Foundation. You have nothing to lose but your free time.