Potatoes are one of the most popular vegetables grown in the UK and for good reason. The humble potato is a staple food and a valuable addition to so many meals. And, what could be more satisfying than heading to the bottom of your own garden, digging up your lovingly grown potatoes, washing them, popping them in a pan and having them for dinner?
If you are growing your own, one of the first things to decide is which variety you want to grow. Here we look at the differences between crops, from First Earlies to Main Crop, as well as offering some tempting recipes, inspired by our Hillier restaurants.
If you want advice on growing, read our article ‘How to grow your own potatoes‘.
Seed potatoes are available in a number of crop types: First Earlies, Second Earlies, Main Crop and we also separate out Salad varieties. The crop type you select, in combination with the specific variety, determines when you should plant, harvest and what sort of potato you will get – from small waxy new potatoes to large, floury ones.
Plant: February – April | Harvest: May – June
These are generally the best choice if you want smaller, new potatoes. They are the first to harvest and will be ready around 10-12 weeks from their planting date.
Varieties: Arran Pilot, Duke of York, Red Duke of York, Foremost, Lady Christl, Pentland Javelin, Rocket, Sharpe’s Express, Swift
Plant: March – May | Harvest: July – August
These are also typically smaller, new potato varieties – but ones that can be planted a little later than the first earlies. They are ready to harvest 12-13 weeks after planting.
Varieties: Estima, Maris Peer, Wilja
Plant: March – April | Harvest: July – October
Main Crop varieties usually produce larger potatoes. These big potatoes, several of which are real household names, are often great for baking and roasting. The downside of Main Crop potatoes is that they take up more space in the garden.
Varieties: Cara, Desiree, Golden Wonder, King Edward, Maris Piper, Pentland Crown
Plant: March – May | Harvest: July – September
Salad varieties tend to have firm, waxy flesh and delicious flavours. This makes them the perfect choice for a potato salad or other dish where the simple whole potato is the star.
Varieties: Charlotte, International Kidney, Pink Fir Apple
Good Varieties for Beginners
We often get asked which varieties are good for beginners to try. We recommend choosing some of the more reliable earlies, such as the first early Pentland Javelin and second early Charlotte. By planting them together, the first will be ready after 2.5 months and the second 1 month later.
Some other varieties often praised for being easy to grow or high-yielding are Desiree, Kestrel and Lady Christl.
If you are still struggling to make a choice, browse through our potato recipe selection. Inspired by the development team at our Hillier restaurants, we’ve picked some of the perfect ways to use some of our seed potato varieties
First Early | Duke of York
A solid, old-fashioned variety. Somewhat floury with yellowish flesh and an excellent flavour. Dislike being over boiled.
Good to roast, boil, mash and chip.
Did You Know? Duke of York Potatoes were developed in 1891 by William Sim of Fyvie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
First Early | Foremost
Another old favourite. Round and white-fleshed and reasonably firm and waxy when young. Holds its shape well when boiled.
Good to roast, boil, chip or as a salad potato
Did You Know? This variety used to be called Suttons Foremost and were introduced in 1954
Second Early | Estima
A reliable and popular variety, fairly large in size. A firm potato with creamy-coloured skin and light, yellow flesh. Holds its shape well when boiled. Works well when used simply in potato dishes.
Good to boil, mash, roast or bake
Did You Know? Estima potatoes were developed in the Netherlands by crossing two existing varieties
Second Early | Wilja
A versatile and great-tasting potato – said to really taste of ‘potato’. Produces a decent sized (but not always huge) yield. Holds its shape well when boiled.
Good to boil, mash, roast or bake
Did You Know? Another Dutch origin potato, which means the correct pronunciation of the name is technically ‘Wil-ya’
Main Crop | Desiree
Instantly recognisable with their red skin and yellow flesh, Desiree are extremely popular potatoes. They have a firm, creamy flesh and are extremely versatile, although not good as a salad potato. They can be grown as a normal Main Crop variety, or, you can choose to keep them in the ground longer and get larger potatoes as a result.
Good to mash, chip, roast or bake
Did You Know? Despite the French sounding name, this potato originated in the Netherlands in 1962
Main Crop | Maris Piper
Perhaps the most famous variety of all, you can find Maris Piper in any supermarket with its floury texture and creamy-white flesh. This arguably makes it less attractive to grow yourself, but it is a fantastic all-rounder for recipes and stores well.
Good to boil, chip, roast or bake
Did You Know? Maris Piper potatoes were named after Maris Lane. This was the address in Cambridge, UK where the Plant Breeding Institute it originated from was based. Piper was a word chosen at random, as it began with ‘p’, for potato. The Maris Peer variety originated from the same location with the same reasons behind the name.
Salad | Charlotte
The best known of all the salad potatoes is Charlotte – so much so, that many recipes specifically suggest using them. They are slightly waxy with yellow flesh and hold their shape fantastically when boiled. They taste wonderful eaten both hot and cold. In terms of planting time, it fits with the ‘second earlies’.
Good to boil, roast or use in salads
Did You Know? The French-origin Charlotte may sound like it has a long history, but was in fact introduced in 1981 for the early salad market
Salad | Pink Fir Apple
Pink Fir Apple is an old, French variety with a fantastic flavour and texture. It’s a distinctive looking variety, long and knobbled with pink skin. The taste is deliciously nutty, making it fantastic as a salad potato and also for boiling in a range of recipes. In terms of planting time, this is a late harvesting ‘main crop’, which also stores well.
Good to boil or use in salads
Did You Know? Introduced to the UK from France in 1850, Pink Fir Apple is one of the oldest varieties still in commercial production.