Step-by-step: Chitting potatoes

Encourage your seed potatoes to send up sturdy sprouts before planting by chitting them. Early or 'new' potatoes will be more productive if chitted and it can also boost main crop varieties, which are planted later. Here's how...

Step-by-step: Chitting potatoes
  • Start chitting your potatoes at least 6 weeks before you intend to plant them and collect together old egg boxes, as these make good trays for the potatoes to sit in. Chitting also allows you to see if any disease has crept in and eliminate any 'bad apples' before planting out into the soil.
  • Each potato will have a rounded blunt end (the rose end) with a number of eyes, i.e. tiny sprouts, and this is the end you want uppermost.
  • Slot each potato into your egg box and give them plenty of natural light in a frost-free place. A windowsill is good, as long as it's out of direct sunlight (but not too dark), and away from radiators.
  • You want the potatoes to produce short, darkly coloured shoots, around 2.5cm long, rather than long white or green ones.
  • On planting, place the potatoes in deep trenches with the chits uppermost and cover.

Buy it
Try dependable earlies such as 'Pentland Javelin' or 'Maris Bard', or versatile 'Red Duke of York' (www.organiccatalogue.com), which can be dug early for boiling, or left longer to produce fluffier potatoes for chips and roasties. Good maincrops include 'Cara', 'Desiree' or 'Pink Fur Apple' (www.tamarorganics.co.uk).

Top tip
Always order your seed potatoes from a reputable supplier or garden centre, as supermarket potatoes can harbour diseases that inhibit good growth. Seed potatoes, by comparison, are grown in sterile soil and are certified disease-free.

Dig in
Make quick samosas by topping puff pastry squares with sautéed potato chunks, onion slices and a spoonful of chickpeas. Stir in 1 teaspoon of curry powder and brush the edges of the pastry with egg. Fold into triangles, dust with paprika and bake for 15 minutes at 190C/fan 170C/gas 5.

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