New potatoes put to the test

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FIVE potato varieties come under GILLIAN VINE’S spotlight.
MOST gardeners like to try something new and I’m no exception, so when Fiesta Bulbs offered the opportunity to try five potato varieties being released this year, I was delighted to be involved.
The potatoes, trialled in other parts of New Zealand as well as here, were Anuschka, Cristina, Jelly, Kikko and Nectar. Two were bred in Germany, three in Ireland.
Interestingly, none were promoted as being suitable for roasting. However, I found Kikko, Jelly and Nectar satisfactory roasters but not as good as my favourites, Agria and Van Rosa.
To spread the trial a little, I got three other women involved — two of my sisters in South Otago, and a Dunedin gardener.
Everyone planted all five varieties in mid to late November, so Anuschka went in later than any of us would have planted first earlies.
The gardeners recorded their results on charts I drew up. All found that the potatoes came through quickly and made fast growth, Anuschka flowering within six weeks, the others almost as soon.
The four of us treated Cristina like a second early and were digging them in 60-70 days.
Comments were generally positive, although overall the yields were not good.
Despite the fairly small crops, which could have been due to seasonal factors, Cristina produced delicious new potatoes in my North East Valley garden and my husband felt they tasted better than Jersey Benne, his long-time favourite.
Helen Jones, who grew them in her Wakari garden, also thought Cristina had fine flavour, as did Nadine Barclay, of Milton, who found them good for salads.
The first Jelly shaw I dug had a less-than-great yield but the plant left for almost four months cropped extremely well.
Although the netted skins may be a turn-off for some, the good yields should offset this.
The flavour was bland, though.
Nancie Allison, of Moneymore, referred to Jelly’s ‘‘medium texture’’ but thought care was needed if boiling. ‘‘It would break up if overcooked,’’ she said. However, I found it mashed quite well.
Jelly was suggested as an alternative to Agria but, as noted, didn’t match it as a roaster.
Nancie liked Anuschka for its larger size and softer flesh, which would mash, while Nadine had ‘‘an exceptionally good yield’’ and felt this potato had potential for chips.
None of the four triallists saw this as a salad spud, despite Fiesta Bulbs’ suggestion of this way of using it.
All four gardeners reported Kikko as a high-yielding variety, which Nancie found ‘‘slightly waxy’’ and very much to her taste.
With its shallow pink eyes, a little like Osprey, Nectar vied with Cristina for looks.
Because it was labelled early to main crop, I dug one shaw after nine weeks. There were more than 30 potatoes but most were very immature and I should have left it longer.
I feel Nectar should probably be treated as a main or early main variety. However, it had an excellent flavour.
I thought the taste and texture more like Agria than Jelly, with which Agria has been compared.
Helen ‘‘really, really liked’’ Nectar —her best cropper — for the even, wellsized tubers, while Nadine praised the ‘‘good flavour’’, although in Milton she did not get the yields the two Dunedin gardeners had.
The trial was an interesting exercise that gave us the chance to try varieties we had not grown before and to find some alternatives to old favourites.
Í Fiesta Bulbs has taken a slightly different approach to seed potatoes.
Instead of selling them in 1kg packs, its packs have 10 certified seed potatoes of fairly even size, with each bag weighing close to 1kg.
The company says that’s enough for a 2.5m row, but I’d space them over at least 3.5m. In the coming season, garden centres will have 13 varieties from Fiesta, the five we trialled plus Agria, Arizona, Electra, Everest, Ilam Hardy, Moonlight, Red Fantasy and Rua.

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