12 April 2010

Chitted potatoes and other garden things

Change of plans: the work crew is here today after all. Jacques the boss phoned yesterday to tell us. They'll be on another job tomorrow, and maybe Wednesday. But they're working here today. Jacques is coming by this morning, and we'll talk to him about finish flooring for the new attic space.

Meanwhile, we've been working in the garden. I'm actually getting a late start this year, because it was so cold well into March and then I was in North Carolina for two weeks. Usually I do the tilling in March, but this year I'm only starting now.

Primevères (primroses) don't mind the light frosts of
early spring. They come up all over our back yard every year.

The danger of frost here in Saint-Aignan, and all of northern France, isn't past until May 15, so we won't be planting much before then. Walt does have radishes growing in planter boxes under a cold frame, and I have collard greens out in the garden that have survived the winter. The collard plants are bolting and will have flowers soon. The leaves will still be good to cook and eat, and I'll gather the seeds when I pull up the plants.

A friend gave us these primulas and said we should get
them started in our yard alongside the other primroses.

The two plum trees that were uprooted by high winds during our February storm are in full flower now. Walt has a theory that since the trees must be highly stressed by being uprooted, they may well produce a bumper crop of plums this year. It would be a survival mechanism. Our fingers are crossed. We'll make pies, jam, and plum sauce. Then next fall, we'll cut the trees up for firewood and plant other trees in their place.

The collard plants are getting ready to flower. You can
see the downed plum trees in the background
(and on the banner photo above).

Jean of the blog A Very Grand Pressigny gave us a couple of dozen seed potatoes when we drove down to spend the afternoon with her and Nick on Saturday. She sprouted the potatoes (in England they call it "chitting" them) and told us beforehand that we would need to have a garden plot ready for them. On Friday I tilled up a plot where the soil is loose and fine. That'll be good for potatoes, I think. It's a spot where the people who lived here before us had a big compost pile.

These are the "chitted" King Edward and Rocket potatoes
that Jean and Nick brought us from England.

I need to go out and plant the potatoes today because they are ready to be put in the ground. And that's the case despite the fact that the instructions on the bags the seed potatoes came in say to plant them only after all danger of frost is past. If we have more frosty weather, I'll have to go out and cover the plants.

Why did Jean give us seed potatoes? She thought of it because I had mentioned to her last year that I would like to try the variety of potatoes called King Edwards available in Great Britain. British people rave about how good they are when you roast them. We can't find King Edwards here in France. However, I'm sure there is a French equivalent.

I tilled up this plot in the back corner of the yard for the potatoes.

Jean chitted and brought us not only some King Edwards but also some other potatoes called Rockets. We'll plant them all. When we harvest them, we'll be able to determine what French varieties they most resemble. I already know that King Edward potatoes are good for "chipping, mashing, and roasting" — that's what it says on the bag they came in. That would be the Agata variety in French, I think (what we call "baking potatoes" in the U.S. but maybe smaller). The Rocket potatoes are for boiling and steaming — those would be Charlottes in France, or something similar. Or "boiling potatoes" as they are called in the U.S.


  1. How thoughtful of Jean :))

    Isn't it GREAT having spring here! It's the home opener for the Cardinals today, too :))


  2. I noticed that potatoes taste different in France than in the US. It will be interesting to make the comparison with the english ones. Are you still thinking of getting hens?

  3. I love potato talk! I think my dad cut the potatoes up so that each one he planted had one eye. One of my favorite garden chores was digging up the potatoes. Our cat was always beside us because there were sometimes nests of baby mice in the hills along with the potatoes.

    My dad also grew "potato onions". They were sort of green onions, only much bigger. He'd cook the potatoes and onions in our big iron skillet for breakfast. Miam, miam.

    I hope your plum tree produces lots of those delicious yellow plums for you and also keeps you warm next winter.

  4. Great minds! (Well, you, anyway). I just planted potatoes this morning, last year's leftovers that sprouted in the bucket.

    I set out one tomato plant too, even though our last frost date is May 10. We'll see if Reemay will get it through the cold nights.

    For some reason I thought your frost-free date would be way ahead of ours.

  5. Is it possible to set the plum trees upright and back in the ground, since they seem to have survived?

  6. Do you plan the whole potato or just he sprouts?

  7. That's some mighty fine looking dirt you have for the taters, I'm sure they'll love growing there.

    I was wondering the same about the plum trees.


  8. BettyAnn and Diogenes, I've thought about trying to prop those trees back up, but you'd be amazed how heavy they are. The would probably just blow down in the next windstorm. I think we'll plant a nice cherry tree in their place next year.

    N'ège, yes, potatoes are very different from country to country. It will be interesting to see how the Enlgish varieties compare to the French varieties we've gotten used to.

    Evelyn and Starman, the instructions on the package tell me to plant the whole potato, not just separate eyes, so I'll do it that way. I guess I could check some of my gardening books for more details.

    E., I wonder if those "potato onions" were like leeks?

  9. Hi Ken

    I have had many holidays in the Loire valley and am now regular reader of your blog at lunchtime here in London - as a central London commuter it is encouraging to see your photos and read about what is happening with you in a far more sensible place!

    Thanks and keep up the good work! And - I hope you find a name for the cat!



What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?