So, how was your potato harvest? Did you have a couple of tubers in big black buckets on your balcony? Or row upon row of smart green soldierly tops, all neatly banked up?
If you were one of the many hundreds of thousands (well, it seemed like that was the number) who flocked to the annual Potato Day at Springwood, way back in March, you will, by now, have reaped the rewards of those brown paper bags of tubers you so lovingly selected from more than 100 varieties and took home on that spring day.
Who could have predicted, on that March day, that we would have The Fantastic Summer (as it has passed into legend) that we have had this year? Unlike last year, The Summer of Mud, our potato plants this year have actually had to be watered. Here at Shoogly Towers, our resident potato expert Gamford has creaked into action. Having kept a beady eye on what the ‘professional’ potato-growers were up to, he knew the time was right to make his move.
Did he watch the flowers on the pants bloom, then die, and know instinctively what lay beneath was ready to harvest? Did he observe nightly the phases of the moon, like an odd cross between Monty Don and the Patrick Moore?
No, nothing as technical. He just watched the tractors pulling the trailers of potato crates which were firing past the gates of Shoogly Towers and decided that the time had come.
And what a harvest! Lovely, large, smooth-skinned tatties from the veggie beds. The soil in there is the product of our own compost heaps, enriched with chicken poop and garden waste. They lifted out of the soft, silky soil with ease and abundance. But what to do with them?
Think of a potato version of Monty Python’s spam sketch. Spam, spam, egg and spam. Faced with boiling, mashing, frying, frittering, fishcake-ing, roasting or jacketing ad infinitum, I decided that we should store them and try to save some of them for Christmas dinner, as they would provide the perfect home-grown accompaniment to Ranga and George, the two ex-cockerels already languishing in the chest freezer ready for December 25.
To store potatoes properly, you need nice, rustic wooden racks in a cool, dark, dry place (bet Monty Don has his own perfectly-proportioned, fully-restored Victorian potato storage shed). Of course, we have plenty of unsuitable dark, damp places. Who hasn’t?
The only other way to ensure they don’t go mouldy and rot, according Mrs Beeton, is freezing (or should I say my ‘updated’ Mrs Beeton book, as I don’t suppose the Victorians were coming down with chest freezers).
So I have spent a couple of productive afternoons blanching, plunging in iced water, drying off and freezing (the potatoes, not me). One by one, the bags have been popped in the freezer after having the air carefully sucked out of them by means of a child’s bendy straw, you know, one of those crazy, twisty ones (when it’s the only straw in the house, needs must).
I bet they never have to do that at Walker’s.