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Which are the best potatoes to grow?

I do a trial of at least one group of ornamental and one group of edible plants at Perch Hill every year. With new varieties appearing on the market all the time, it's always worth reassessing which are the best performers - and if you're eating them, which have the best flavour, are reliable producers, and easy to grow with minimal TLC.

In 2010, it was the turn of seed potatoes, not grown in the garden, but in plastic sacks or potato grow bags . I usually do a few in bags for eating a little early and this is a useful and successful technique if you have a small veg patch, or a persistent pest problem, such as eel worm, wire worm and slugs, all of which can make potatoes ungrowable on some soils. Even if you have no garden, just a balcony or yard, you can still get a good crop of potatoes like this.

In 2010 the weather was extraordinary - exceptionally late to get going and, since the end of spring, unbelievably dry. Both these factors almost certainly favoured containerised potatoes over those growing in the late, sun-parched garden and, indeed, mine did well.

We trialled 11 types, varieties that I had heard were good for growing in bags and not widely available to buy. On March 10, we planted two seed tubers of each in an inside-out, standard-size compost bag. Turned the wrong way around, the black plastic absorbs any heat and this should get your potatoes growing faster (see our full instructions for how to grow potatoes in bags).

The sides of the bag were rolled down and the two tubers planted a hand's width apart on top of six inches of planting medium (one-third peat-free compost, one-third mole hills or garden soil and one-third well-rotted manure, all mixed in a wheelbarrow) with the odd hole pierced in the bottom of the bag. Then they were covered with another six inches of the planting mix, watered well and left to get on with it.

We stored our sacks in the polytunnel, but anywhere slightly sheltered against a house, or in a bright shed or garage would be fine. They were watered once a week to start with, moving to two to three times as the weather warmed up.

The Earlies were all harvested on the same day, so I would expect them to have the largest crop. The late varieties were not quite ready for cropping, so their yield needs to be looked at in that context. The number of tubers is the key with these, not the weights, as each of these mini potatoes would have doubled or tripled in size in time.

The Trials - First Earlies

Potato 'Foremost' (AGM)

The promise High quality firm, white flesh that is especially tasty and, because it is early, ideal for forcing.

Our result

Flavour and flesh Not exciting, with very white flesh.

Yield 3lb 12oz.

Condition A little scab.

Texture Neither particularly waxy or floury, but would be good for baking and mash. It holds its shape well on boiling.

Storing Stays good for months in a sack.

Will I grow it again? No.

Potato  'Rocket'

The promise Many gardeners have been delighted by the earliness, ease of culture and size of crop, praising its uniform, exhibition quality, round tubers.

Our result

Flavour and flesh Boring, but very quick to crop, very white flesh.

Yield 3lb 4oz.

Condition Pristine.

Texture Said to be waxy, but I found them floury.

Storing OK.

Will I grow it again No.

Potato  'Winston'

The promise Large, evenly sized tubers. Creamy, moist flesh of excellent flavour.

Our result

Flavour and flesh Lovely.

Yield 3lb 12oz.

Condition A few had a touch of scab.

Texture Midway between waxy and floury so ideal for boiling, mash or baked.

Storing Said to be good.

Will I grow it again? Yes, my early potato of choice. Next year I will try two lots, some as tiny, very early new potatoes in May and some larger in June.

Second Earlies

Potato  'Anya'

The promise 'Desiree' × 'Pink Fir Apple'. A nutty flavour with a creamy flesh and smoother tubers than 'Pink Fir'.

Our result

Flavour and flesh Fantastic, 'Pink Fir Apple' taste and texture, but three times as healthy and quick producing.

Yield 1lb 5oz.

Condition Perfect.

Texture Very, very waxy.

Storing OK.

Will I grow it again? Yes definitely, one of the best salad potatoes.

Potato  'Marfona'

The promise Very popular as a large-tuber early baker. White-skinned with pale yellow, moist flesh, ideal for boiling and general use.

Our result

Flavour and flesh Boring.

Yield 1lb 12oz.

Condition Perfect.

Texture On the waxy side of mid-point between waxy and floury.

Storing OK.

Will I grow it again? No.

Potato  'Charlotte'

The promise A very popular salad variety producing pear-shaped, yellow-skinned waxy tubers with creamy yellow flesh of first-class flavour, either hot or cold.

Our result

Flavour and flesh OK, slightly yellow.

Yield 2lb 10oz.

Condition Perfect.

Texture I found these midway between waxy and floury.

Storing OK.

Will I grow it again? Yes. A good all-round potato.

Potato  'Nicola'

The promise Long, oval, smooth-skinned tubers with a wonderful waxy texture. Superb flavour when boiled.

Our result

Flavour and flesh Fantastic.

Yield 1lb 13oz.

Condition Perfect.

Texture Very waxy.

Storing OK.

Will I grow it again? Yes, definitely. One of my favourites.

Potato  'International Kidney'

The promise If harvested as a Second Early, 'International Kidney' makes a perfect, very waxy, salad potato. 'International Kidney' can also be used as a general purpose early Maincrop potato.

Our result

Flavour and flesh Good.

Yield 2lb 10oz.

Condition Perfect.

Texture Midway between waxy and floury.

Storing Not well, greens quickly.

Will I grow it again? Yes.

Potato  'Ratte'

The promise Delicious nutty taste like chestnuts. A classic of continental cuisine, prized for its flavour for more than 70 years. Steam in skin and eat hot or cold, waxy flesh that does not disintegrate.

Our result

Flavour and flesh Fantastic, tons of little potatoes, all delicious.

Yield 1lb 8oz.

Condition Perfect.

Texture Very waxy.

Storing Not good.
Will I grow it again? Yes, definitely.

Potato 'Maris Piper'

The promise Versatile all-rounder. Dry, floury, creamy white flesh of good flavour rarely discolours on cooking. The best chipping variety.

Our result

Flavour and flesh Good.

Yield 3lb 3oz.

Condition Little bits of scab on a few.

Texture Floury.

Storing Good.

Will I grow it again? Available large, so maybe not worth growing your own for that stage, but harvest young instead.

Potato 'Belle De Fontenay'

The promise An old French variety, highly valued for its flavour, which further improves on storage. Beautiful pale yellow tubers.

Our result

Flavour and flesh Delicious - perfect for potato salad and boiled with new potatoes.

Yield 2lb 3oz.

Condition Perfect.

Texture The waxiest of the lot.

Storing OK.

Will I grow it again? Yes, definitely.