The yellow-fleshed potatoes in the boxes over the last few weeks have been "Orla", a new variety combining excellent resistance to potato blight with good flavour. Without access to modern systemic fungicides, phytophthora infestans, the virulent fungi-causing blight, can wipe out a healthy field in a matter of days, as demonstrated during the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-7.
As we approach the end of the season for the old crop we need a variety with prolonged dormancy, which, if kept cool and dark, is reluctant to sprout. For the next month we will be using the sleepy, paler fleshed and slightly less interesting (but still better than average tasting) Valor. You will find them a reasonable general purpose potato. If they show signs of waking up and growing arms and legs, keep them in the bottom of your fridge.
Our co-op members have almost finished planting this year's crop. The main varieties will again be Charlotte, Cosmos, Orla, Valor, Sante and the reds: Romano and Robinta. After years of completing trials, these are the varieties which perform in the kitchen without driving our growers to despair in the field or on the grading line. As always we will be trialling lots of other varieties for the future. The big change this year is that we are finally phasing out Cara, the pink eyed King Edward look-a-like, which is invariably a disappointment in the kitchen but has hung on because of its blight resistance.
We have been arguing all week about asparagus. The English season is still about three weeks away so the bunches in the small and medium boxes and have been on the extras list are from Spain. One camp says the boxes are getting a bit boring and need a more interesting item as we approach the end of the old season and the range available from our fields and stores shrinks. The purists argue that there is something iconic about asparagus and that it should be only eaten when local and in season. That is fine and would probably have won the day apart from the fact that there is virtually no UK organic asparagus because it is such a difficult crop to control the weeds and slugs in without herbicides and moluscicides. I have tried once and failed miserably and have seen others similarly frustrated. Andy Haylor, one of our co-op members, has planted an acre this year but it will be two years before it is in production. I suspect the phones will be hot with indignant purists but for a few years at least, if you really want local, in season Asparagus you are going to have to get out there with a fork and DIY.