Permaculture blog

Choosing the best potato variety

Published by Sam Page on 16 February 2013

Last year was not a good year for potatoes for many gardeners, however it did provide a great opportunity to discover which varieties showed the best resistance to Late Blight and slugs! Considering that there are hundreds of different potato varieties that have been bred for UK gardens, but I don't yet know what extreme weather events may be coming this way - which variety should I plant this coming season?

Last year I planted three different varieties: 'Belle de Fortenay' - a traditional French salad variety; 'Orla' which can be grown as a 'first' or 'second early' or even as an 'early maincrop' and 'Swift' an exceptionally early variety.  I grew the 'Orla' potatoes in the ground, and the other two varieties in bags. I regularly observed the plants for pests and diseases during the growing season. When I harvested the potatoes I weighed the yield from three plants of each variety, chosen at random.  

The potatoes that were grown in the ground yielded almost 5 times as much as those that were grown in the bags. The best tasting variety was 'Belle de Fortenay', however I could not test its storage qualities as the yield was so low. 'Swift' was almost totally devoured by slugs and was later killed off by Leaf Blight. 'Orla' was best by far - it not only tasted good but was resistant to slugs and only showed signs of Blight at the end of the season, as the leaves were senescing. I prevented this killer disease from going into the tubers by removing all the foliage and then waiting two weeks before harvesting them. This meant that I was able to store the potatoes in my shed right up to January, when they had all been eaten!

Assessment of 3 potato varieties grown in Sam's garden in 2012
Potato Variety Weight of tubers from 3 plants Leaf Blight? Slug damage? Scab damage? Storage qualities Comparative taste 
Belle de Fortenay 1.5 kg No No No ? Very good
Orla 5 kg No No No Very good Good
Swift 1kg Yes Yes No ? Bland

Obviously I am going to plant 'Orla' again this year!

If you would like to check out the characteristics and comparative resistance to pests and diseases of your chosen potato varieties, I recommend that you go to the British Potato Variety Database.