How do you choose from the hundreds of different seed potatoes without just picking the ones you’ve heard of? First ask yourself how much space you’ve got. Then what tastes appeal to you - floury or waxy? This affects how you cook them. When do you want to eat them - summer, autumn or winter? And finally, where can you buy them?

You can grow potatoes in a bag on the patio, so a few tasty new potatoes are there for the taking. You could use expensive potato bags or free, old compost bags turned inside out and spiked at the bottom for drainage; fill with home-made or multi-purpose compost. And allow 20 litres of compost per tuber.

With open ground, measure how many seed potatoes you can grow. They need different spacing, depending on whether they’re described as 1st Earlies, 2nd Earlies, or Maincrop. Plant 1st Earlies 30cm apart, 2nd Earlies 40cm and maincrop 45-50. And don’t cheat because you’ll get pretty meagre specimens if you squeeze them too closely together. With your total in mind, relax and enjoy working out which varieties to get.

Taste is very personal as is how you like to use your tatties. Also texture helps to determine flavour and, at a basic level, dry matter gives some indication of this. On a scale of 1-10, the lower the dry matter, the waxier the potato, the higher, the more floury.

Waxy potatoes are best boiled and can be served hot or as a salad. Varieties with dry matter content of 5/6 are described as general purpose and can be used any old way. These varieties are useful but not usually as tasty. Get them from the supermarket shelf, and grow the speciality ones yourself. After a year or two, you’ll start deciding what you fancy but even after 40 years of growing, I keep experimenting and a couple of years ago, I chanced upon Jazzy, my latest waxy star. The last few I’m eating just now haven’t lost much of their original flavour.

But I can’t resist floury varieties, with higher dry matter. They make wonderful bake rs, giving you a crisp skin and crumbly flesh screaming for melted butter. But size isn’t everything. I find the smaller Alouette is the tastiest baker I’ve sampled.

And high dry matter is essential when cooking with fat. Again, the famous Golden Wonder makes good chips, but the smaller Mayan varieties are off the scale when it comes to flavour. So, keep sampling your way to perfection.

Also decide on timing. For freshly dug new potatoes, plant from early April onwards. Earlier, if you’re growing in a bag and can bring under cover if frost threatens, or in August for a Christmas treat.

1st Earlies take between 10 and 12 weeks, but beware the speedy growers, like Swift; they really are pretty tasteless. And plan your planting to avoid harvesting when you’re on holiday as earlies lose that wonderful ‘new potato taste’ if left in the ground too long. At 14 weeks for 2nds and 16-20 for maincrops, you get a succession by planting the lot in a oner.

Tracking down potatoes on your shopping list can be a problem because garden centres and mail order firms often sell tubers by the kilo. Even a ‘special collection’ offers 1 or 2kg bags of 4 or 6 different varieties; at least 40 or 60 tubers. That’s far too many for most people. If I’m experimenting with a new variety, I don’t want more than 5, so the solution is to go to a special potato event where you buy individual tubers. [see sidebar]

Potato events

Dunblane: Sat 17 Feb 1.0pm-3pm, Braeport Centre, Dunblane.

Glasgow: Sun 18 Feb 11am-3pm, Reidvale Centre, Whitevale St, Glasgow G13 1QW.

Linlithgow: Sat 24 Feb 10am-12.30pm, Masonic Hall, Linlithgow.

Edinburgh: Sun 25 Feb 11am-2pm, Bridgend allotment, 41 Old Dalkeith Rd, Edinburgh.

Black Isle: Sat 3 Mar North Kessock Village Hall

Kelso: Sun 4 Mar. 11am-3pm Springwood Park, Kelso.

Plant of the week

Galanthus elwesii Rosemany Burnham. The outer petals are prettily veined with green and the inner is strongly green. Like all green snowdrops, this is quite expensive.


Twitter: @boddave