Tubing it across the city this evening, a fierce panic seized me. Blight was in my potatoes, and it was about to send its spores tomatowards! Cue apocalyptic visions of spore clouds dispersing disease and fruit rotting on the vine.

Much as I love new potatoes, I don’t think I can grow them next year.

They break all my (rough, loosely-applied) rules of what I should grow and what I shouldn’t. The tubs take up a relatively large bit of space, which is the thing I can spare the least. I can only grow a taste, and when they’re so cheap and easy to buy and easy to store, there’s not much point.

I’ve grown them anyway –  for the fun of earthing up, the delight of digging them and those few amazing meals with the ‘I grew this’ garnish. But No More!

There were definitely a few spots on the leaves. Were they a blighty sort of spot? Probably not, but still I sat out in the twilight and the first rain for three weeks (Warm, moist air! Doom and destruction!) shoving the foliage into a bin-bag and casting anxious looks at the tomatoes.

Totally illogical. I’ve never had blight, the tomatoes were bonny and wonderful last year and, if force of will counts for anything, they’ll be even better this time round. But the fear is infectious and so there was no fun in this potato harvest.

*This year I grew Swift, Charlotte and Duke of York, as that’s what I was given. All were nice and clean-looking; Swift yielded almost twice as much as the others; tasting to follow.

Spuds! How excited I was.

I expected to be a little smug just with my own cleverness for producing carbohydrate from mud. Mud in a pot, no less. But there’s more.

Lucky dip

Lucky dip

The harvest was gleeful.

Turns out that the container approach has many advantages. I let the soil dry out, and pulled the stalks off. And then we played lucky dip in the sawdusty compost – delving around blindly, until we seized on a prize. Hee hee, we cried!

Then out they came –  as shiny as eggs.

Look what I found!

Look what I found!

I’m often deterred from cooking potatoes by the need to rinse and scrub scrub scrub, then dig out a thousand staring eyes, and then spend half a lifetime picking bits of peelings out of the plughole. But not with pot pots. I barely needed to introduce them to the tap.

Patience rewarded

I’ve lurked jealously on the fringes of other blogs as they tasted their first new potatoes of the year, but was determined to wait my full twelve weeks. And on the 7th day of the 12th week, I cooked potatoes and saw that they were good. Boiled for 15 minutes or so, bashed a bit, dotted with thymey, garlicy butter, and roasted in the oven for another 40 – then shared with friends.

Loving the potato for itself

And I now see the spud in a new light. Previously, I have marveled at their subterranean activity and valued them as a filling carbohydrate accompaniment to real food, but I see now that I never really respected them in a culinary way. “You just want me for my body” they’ve said accusingly, before I poked out the look of hurt in their eyes.

Not just hot body

Not just hot body

This time it’s different. Overall, my cooking’s a bit mixed – veering between anxious fussing, and we’vegotanicebottleofwine-whocaresabouttiming-neglect, seasoned with enthusiasm and total ignorance of technique, but these potatoes could do no wrong. Perhaps it’s the flavour of home-grown glee, but He-who-lives-with-me has mentioned them, unprovoked, on three separate occasions since – and I think he dribbled a little.

The line-up

The line-up

Look, look!

These potatoes were planted at the start of April and are pretty happy looking veg. I shall be very happy too when they are on my plate.

Introducing the potatoes.

Chips, precious?

Po-tay-toes! Boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew... Lovely big golden chips with a nice piece of fried fish.

The potatoes are here thanks to the Begetters-of-Frugilegus. They chitted them lovingly, nurtured them into sproutingness, then passed them into my care. They also donated the buckets I am growing them in knowing it would give me joy to see objects they’d rescued from someone’s rubbish redeployed.

So now I need to attempt to justify the title of this post. In reverse order:

Rocks on a Roll: I get rather excited once I’ve planted my seeds. I normally give them an hour, and then enter a routine of checking them regularly to see if they’ve grown yet. I’ve even been known to poke about in the mud in my impatience to see if anything is happening. If left to my own devices I could probably spend the whole day checking up on progress; like painting the Forth Bridge, once I’d got to one end, I’d have to go back to the first ones to see if they had broken the surface since I last looked.

Anyway, potatoes were no different. After two days with no above-ground action, I decided I’d planted rocks by mistake. Albeit wrinkly, rooty rocks. I sulked extensively, but watered the rocks anyway, and after aeons and aeons – at least another day – leaves poked out. And now the buggers are really on a roll. Each evening I add another few inches of compost to cover them over, and each evening find they’ve burst through once more. At this rate I’ll only have another couple of weeks of earthing up before my mountain can rise no more. I wonder how tall anyone has made a potato pile. Is there an optimum height?

Glugs: Definitely shoe-horning this one in. They’re very thirsty. They knock the water back. That’s it.

Sex: Each of the four buckets hosts a different variety. We have Maris Bard, Nadine, Rocket and “Sex”. Mother-of-Frugilegus had been given the task of carefully labelling the compartments of the egg-tray that the potatoes sat in while they chitted with the names of the different varieties. She cannot explain why she named the fourth pair “Sex”. Not a Freudian slip, she insists; an abbreviation perhaps? So she asked the supplier what potatoes they had that began with ‘sex’ but they denied stocking such a thing. Internet research turned up a “potato database”, but, of course, one needed to enter four letters to yield a result. Saxon is the closest I’ve found on other lists… So, I don’t know what to think. Saxon? Or is there a sex potato out there?

The wondrous spud

I marvel each day at the growth of my sprouting stones, but what’s going on above ground is nothing to what’s going to be occurring below the surface. The plant is striving to get to the light and produce leaves and flowers. My daily additions of mud to the pot frustrate these efforts, forcing more root to be produced as it fights towards the sun. But soon, our battle will be over. I’ll leave it be, and let it produce its mess of vegetation and topple all over the place..  But the real activity will be hidden from view. All that root, those poor thwarted leaves, will be multiplying and swelling into marvellous starchy globules –  each one versatile  enough to soak up gravy or scoop up aioli.  I can’t wait to dig up this treasure!