What does chitting potatoes mean?

Chitting potatoes
It’s that time of year, when my kitchen windowsill fills with egg boxes full of chitting potatoes.

When I began growing my own fruit and veg back in 2006, there were a whole host of horticultural terms and phrases that I had never come across before. Throughout the last decade, I’ve picked up a fair amount of knowledge (I don’t think you ever stop learning and adapting when you’re growing your own), and a bit of a gardening vocabulary as well.

One of the first definitions I picked up was ‘chitting potatoes’.

In short, chitting potatoes means leaving them out in a cool, light space so that the potatoes can start to grow a few sprouts from the speck-like ‘eyes’. Chitting can usually start with earlies and main crop potato types from January or February, and usually a cooler windowsill with a sunny aspect will do. Always opt for seed potatoes (available online or from your local garden centre),  as these will be carefully bred and selected without diseases, and chit ‘blunt’ side up where you’ll likely find the most eyes for sprouting.

Whether you chose to chit your potatoes or not before planting them out when the soil is warm is entirely your choice. There is still an ongoing debate as to whether chitting actually helps the potatoes grow any stronger, faster or more prolifically. Me? I’m of the opinion that if you can give them a head start, then why not.

Small, and Not-So-Perfectly Formed… But Packed With Flavour!

The title of this blog post sums up most of my vegetable harvests so far this year. With not much on the menu to start with – mostly potatoes, onions and garlic, the yields have been spectacularly small and poor.

Grow your own potatoes and garlic - Picasso Potatoes and Cristo Garlic

Just a snapshot of the kind of yields I’m harvesting – some potatoes are a decent size, but many fall under the ‘pebble’ size category. The garlic is small, but packed with flavour.

But putting my positive hat on, I can vouch that my homegrown veg might be a disappointment in the size department, but not so in terms of taste – everything I’ve eaten so far is packed full with flavour. The Cristo garlic may not have swelled to gargantuan proportions as it has done in previous years, but just two small cloves of my homegrown garlic have literally transformed my cooking. The depth of flavour is second to none, and I have never come across the same in shop-bought fare.

I once made the heinous mistake of buying organic garlic from Tesco without reading the label… only to find that it had been shipped all the way from China. The garlic itself was bland, bland, bland, so there was no consolation for my purchase. So although my garlic harvest will likely only sustain us for a few weeks at best (we must use at least one bulb a week), for that short time, I shall be able to revel in the almost-indescribable deep, multi-toned, fragrant richness that comes from my own homegrown yield.

The onions – well, they’re rather pathetic, if I’m honest. It’s my own fault – I barely prepared the soil, bunged in slightly soft onion sets and hoped for the best…. and was promptly met with a miserable start to Spring, and a sustained heatwave where our soil turned to sand. Must do better.

The potatoes have been a mixed bag – yes, they’re small, but boy are they good. The Picasso in particular have peaked my interest, as they’ve somehow evaded the perpetual blight (no, not that kind of blight) of scab that I had resigned myself to facing each year, on account of our sandy soil. But no, the Picasso have proven me wrong and emerged from the earth as modest-sized hunks of cream and pink, a little rough around the edges but generally no worse for wear. That’s a success in my book. Their flavour is outstanding, and as a roastie/mash spud, they’re up there with Maris Pipers, Desiree and Roosters. I’ve even go as far as to say that they might actually oust our perennial favourite, the Maris Piper, as my favourite roastie spud… the creaminess of Picasso is out of this world, and if you haven’t given them a go, then they come highly recommended from me!

The Majestic potatoes were not so lucky and seem to have succumbed to scab – but a cursory scrub and peel, and they’re good to go.

The raspberries are finally beginning to ripen, and the plan is to scrump a few apples from the windfall from our neighbour, or just ask around generally if anyone has any cooking apples spare, and put together a nice apple and raspberry strudel, or crumble. As a gardener, Mum is often handed bags of cooking apples from clients, who are desperate to give away surplus, so I imagine we’ll have a fair few coming our way within the next few weeks. Cooked apples are one of my favourite foods ever ever ever. In fact, we’re thinking of getting a couple of cooking apple trees in to replace the ancient Victoria Plum – last year or the year before, it gave up the ghost after about 90 years.

The best antidote to a grey January afternoon

Well one of my resolutions was to post more on my blog. I’m sorry I haven’t kept up as much as I intended – I managed to break my laptop. And with Rich working morning, noon and night, it’s nigh on impossible to boot him off so I can write.

But here I am.

Ahhh Fridays. I do like Fridays. Now that I’m in the throes of my four-day working week, Fridays are MY day. You know, when the rest of the world isn’t off work. I rise late, I write, I write some more and catch up on getting all those little jobs out of the way; bottlebank, money bank, library, tidying… Today I’m planning on starting another letter. I’ll plonk myself down at some point during the afternoon and scribble away, no doubt accompanied by the background noise of a terrible 70s film on Film4.

My Smallest Smallholding is… well. Hmm. Green and weedy is the most diplomatic way of describing it. Or perhaps ‘slumbering’. Yes, I like that word. After the snow melted it was like an eye-popping explosion of GREEN. Everywhere was bellowing GREEN! GREEN AND BROWN! GREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEN! The snow also uncovered all the messy bits – the unkempt piles of leaves, twigs, weeds, unpruned shrubbery, wonky veg plot borders etc etc. Whilst the snow laid, at least it looked relatively neat. Ah well. Such is nature. I have a lot of work to do this spring.

My local garden centre does a brilliant deal on seeds at this time of year – 50% off, with many “buy two get one free” offers to. So I am planning on heading over there with an extremely limited budget and starting to thumb through the racks. I’m definitely going for squashes again this year. Although last year’s produce was rubbish, at least I managed to get the plant to actually fruit. So this year, who knows. We may produce something edible – it has been known!

I’m not going for potatoes this year. I call my small bit of England ‘The Smallest Smallholding’ for good reason, and potatoes take up a lot of space. OK, maybe I’ll relent and grow a row or two of Charlottes. They’re fantastic when they’re freshly dug. In fact, I doubt whether Rich will allow me NOT to grow them. But as far as maincrop goes, I can easily buy a big sack from the local farmer for around a fiver.

I asked Rich whether he’d eat strawberries, if I grew them. His response? “Depends if they have maggots in them”. Let me remind you that this year, Rich is 30. Yes, really.

And apart from my staple crop of sunflowers (seeds for the birds), onions and garlic, I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do. I think I’ll decide when I get infront of the seed racks.  I have a feeling that this year, anything goes.

Weight: 11stone 6lbs