Enjay, you must start growing them at once. They are very easy, very satisfactory to contemplate in all stages of development, and very, very delicious. Chitting is, as you imply, just a matter of encouraging them to do what they do naturally. You set them out in a cool, well-lit, frost-free position and let them sprout. That gives them a bit of a head start. They are tough little tubers, but the foliage is susceptible to frost, so they can’t go in the ground too early.
Are you in Britain? If so, I highly recommend Alan Romans as a supplier. He doesn’t publish a paper catalogue – you have to go on-line. I used to order from Thompson and Morgan, but one year recently, after I had, as usual, spent happy hours during the winter reading and re-reading their interesting list and finally narrowing things down to my four choices – they sent me two substitutes. It spoiled all the fun.
I would also recommend growing Pink Fir Apple, a salad potato so beloved of trendy veggies that I long avoided it. I grew some last year, and am converted. Prolific, delicious. It’s sort of a funny shape which is presumably why you don’t get it in shops. (It's on the far right in the picture above.) A warm potato salad with Pink Fir Apples and a couple of fistfuls of sorrel and some butter is a dish fit to set on the table next to the nectar and ambrosia. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe. The heat of the just-cooked potatoes wilts the sorrel.
Tamar, thanks for the tip about growing potatoes on the surface. I’ll read up on the possibilities when were are in Strathardle and I am reunited with my gardening books. I think it can be done under black polythene, as well. Digging isn’t the problem – that can be done a forkful at a time, as required for lunch, and grandchildren enjoy helping. It’s like digging for treasure. The difficulty, strength-wise, will be getting them in, in that delicious but narrow window of opportunity in April and early May when everything has to be done at once.
For the moment, I proceed like the Little Engine That Could. I have set the potatoes to chit. When we are next in Strathardle (from tomorrow) I will prune the autumn-fruiting raspberries I put in last year. Pruning consists of cutting them down to the ground, because they fruit on the current year’s growth. I can do that. I want to start digging holes for the courgettes – dig a hole, half-fill with compost or manure, fill it up, mark with a stick. I’ll need eight such sites in all, and hope to establish maybe three this week. Chose a place for the Mara des bois strawberries I have ordered, and weed and fork it over. All that should be possible.
And, oh yes,
I speed onwards with the Princess with winged sandals on my feet. I’ve reached row 22 of the 11th centre repeat. My mistake, I think, was to stop, last time, just after that pesky initial motif, with the thought of making it easy for myself to resume. On the contrary, I just felt mired down in endless easy knitting. Whereas now that I’ve toiled through the motif again, easy is delightful and speed is enjoyed. I should pass row 23 today which is, in a sense, half-way through the 46-row repeat. “In a sense”, because another 23 stitches will be added in the second half.
Jean, thank you for the memories of your mother-in-law’s contract knitting (and all best wishes for your move). There is simply no way that hand-knitting can produce a living wage, or even very much by way of pin money. The knitters I often wonder about these days are the ones who knit for designers.