Thursday, 1 March 2012
Where Have All The Tatties Gone?
Recently I received the following email from a reader:
I decided to take up his challenge and responded by saying I would contact local farmers for their views. Intrepidity is a word associated with the farming community and not with wee women who couldn't shear a sheep, but nevertheless I gathered my 'reporter' equipment and set off to the wilds of Perthshire. I'd no idea how much the mention of tattie varieties would arouse the emotions of farmers!
Once I managed to overcome their interrogations as to why I was interested in their products, it was very obvious farmers resent the supermarkets' influence over them and I was left feeling great sympathy for their position.
My reader is correct in his assumption that the lack of potato varieties is due to supermarkets, but I was told that if the discerning tattie lover visited a 'proper' greengrocer, they would quite probably be the proud owner of a bag of their favourites within days - if not immediately. Unfortunately nowadays there are few greengrocers in business and when I stated the obvious the reply was always the same: that is the fault of women who buy only in supermarkets.
My investigations showed that varieties of tatties vary throughout Scotland and it's all due to the soil. (I can hear you say 'Arrr it's the sawyl is it?). Yes it is.
Golden Wonders - a potato founded by a Mr Brown of Arbroath - don't have a high yield but it's perfect for crisps. Over the years more and more of the crop go to the making of crisps and because of supermarkets tight shape and size standards, the farmers prefer to sell to Tayto. "Less stressful," was the reason given, although I suspect it may also be slightly more rewarding financially.
Kerr's Pinks, although initially introduced by J Henry of Cornhill, Banffshire in 1907, was adopted by the Irish very quickly. My agricultural experts informed me that when supermarkets started to introduce bags of 'white potatoes' a few years ago, the demise of the Kerr's Pink being available to all was inevitable. The unnamed 'whites' were half the price.
The Epicure is commonly know as Ayrshires and here in the east they've been regarded as 'gourmet' potatoes as long as I remember, but I'm assured they too should be available from any reputable greengrocer. Today I asked my local farm shop if he would have Ayrshires available and the response was, "Of course."
One variety which was mentioned repeatedly during conversations was Rooster and how it had been introduced in supermarkets because it was a good 'all round' potato. The marketing of the Rooster brand was clever. It was introduced at £1 a bag and I sensed my local farmers hold a sneaking respect for Bartlett's, because the introductory price was held for well over a year - just enough time for people to buy them 'automatically'. I have to admit to consuming them far more than other varieties in the past couple of years because they are good all rounders but since the price doubled - to £2 - I use them less frequently and buy Golden Wonder for baking from my greengrocer.
All the potato merchants suggested if I had a wee piece of ground I should consider growing my own as seed potatoes in the above varieties are readily available from internet sites.
I trust some questions have been answered now. All I need to do is find out about lunar gardening - highly recommended by one man known for growing wonderful potatoes. He said "Ye cannae beat it" and that's good enough for me!