Monday, 9 July 2018

Potatoes

Yes, I admit to being biased.   I am still a Lincolnshire lass at heart.    But the Lincoln potatoes are 'in' so let's celebrate the most tasty potato on the planet.   This used to be the case with the Jersey Royals, but no longer.   They seem pretty tasteless to me.   I read somewhere that the reason is that they no longer use seaweed as a fertiliser.  But when the Lincolnshire ones come on to our market stalls then things look up.

I buy the first lot, bring them home and have them for tea with mint and butter - nothing else.   The taste is sublime.   Now, after a fortnight of eating them I use them every which way - some which are left over any minute now will be put into the frying pan with a tiny bit of butter and olive oil and fried to a crisp.   Eaten with a tuna salad today!

But I am always reminded of the old days and this was brought to mind this morning by an article in this morning's Times.   John-Paul Flintoff headed off to the strawberry fields near Oxford to see what it was like picking strawberries.   Here the team of pickers come from Bulgaria and Rumania
(large farms often have as many as a thousand seasonal workers).   John-Paul picked for a day and at the end of it had done very poorly compared with the expert pickers and was also absolutely shattered and ached in  every joint.

This brought to mind my childhood, when there were no fancy machines to pick potatoes on the vast Lincolnshire potato fields.   The farmer went round with his tractor and some antiquated (by today's standards) digger-upper, flinging potatoes on to the surface of the soil.   Gangs trailed behind him picking up the potatoes and putting them into baskets.   On Saturdays schoolchildren could go and earn a few bob.   I was desperate to go.

My Mum and Dad pointed out that I got adequate pocket-money, I didn't need to go and I wouldn't like it.   I wittered and wittered and pleaded to go until finally they gave in and said I could go one Saturday.   We began early and after an hour I wanted to go home.    But I was stuck there all day.   Every single muscle in my body ached.   I couldn't stand without being in pain, I couldn't sit without being in pain, every time I moved an inch I was in agony.   At the end of the day I got my 'wages' - I think it was about five shillings.

I never went again - never ever suggested it.   But I still love those first Lincolns.   If you haven't done so already - try them.

Now I am off out into my garden to cut my first courgettes from my grow bags.   After lunch I shall make a ratatouille and I know it will taste so much better because one of the ingredients will be home grown.

34 comments:

Rachel Phillips said...

More like a shilling I would think. Farm work is still hard work even with modern machinery and fruit pickers here, even before the Common Market, have always been from Europe coming for summer and then going home again. We have never liked fruit picking for some reason. The potato harvests are easier now but potatoes will be in short supply because of the late spring followed by the drought.

thelma said...

I always used to look forward to Pembrokeshire potatoes coming into our greengrocer's shop in Bath. But ratatouille is just right with those courgettes, we had some on Saturday it was delicious.
As for the picking of fruit and vegetables, perhaps if there are shortages due to the drought people will be more careful with food.

Heather said...

You are right about Jersey Royals - I thought my taste buds were ageing! I shall look out for Lincolnshires and treat myself. I loved picking my own fruit and vegs at PYO sites but never fancied it as an all day job.

Penhill said...

I agree about Jersey Royals they certainly do not taste like they used to.My favourite potatoes now are the early Cornish ones, sorry but the ubiquitous Lincolnshires have no particular taste.Once on holiday in Blakeney we had some Norfolk Pinks they were wonderful.

Derek Faulkner said...

Would love to agree with you Pat, but here on Sheppey we are eating and enjoying the current Kent new potatoes - probably don't taste any better then the Lincs. ones but they're local.

jinxxxygirl said...

I never quite thought of potatos so fondly Pat.. lol I do love potatoes but i don't think of them in the context of where they came from and how they taste because of where they came from .. I just buy the cheapest bag of potatoes and check to make sure there are no rotten ones...lol I do LOVE the little red potatoes but i don't know where they come from and they are on the expensive side so i don't buy them often... Love hearing your stories Pat.. You should tell more.. Hugs! deb

Anne Brew said...

Going to have to agree to disagree on Jersey Royals; our local whole foods shop in Sheffield has been selling delicious ones. But now our own are ready to dig up and we can’t wait for that first taste. Lovely post today.

donna baker said...

I thought I had pretty good taste buds until I read this. I haven't ever noticed a taste difference in potatoes, except in the preparation and texture. Whatever, I like them. Our pickers come from Mexico and it is backbreaking work. My husband's grandmother went to California during the depression (Okies) and picked apples. Unbelievably hard work for so little recompense.

Dc said...

I once went blackcurrant picking. 2/- a bucket and I could just st about manage 3 buckets for the day! Never went back.

northsider said...

You can't beat homegrown fruit and vegetables. If you can peel the potato skin with your thumb or finger nail ,you know they are fresh. My Irish grandfather always grew British Queens and Kerr Pinks.

Sue in Suffolk said...

Gooseberry picking aged 13 was my first paid job, don't remember what we were paid but we got moaned at for any single leaf in the bucket
I've done raspberry picking too at a fruit farm when the children were at school, that was OK as it was standing up and tasty!

I've resolved never to eat mashed potato ever again. Chips, roast, baby new and any other way but no mash.

DUTA said...

I don't like white peel potatoes, only the red ones - and they come from Turkey. God help us if Turkey stops their export!

Jules said...

This post is making me feel hungry. I love freshly dug potatoes with butter. X

Share my Garden said...

I've never picked potatoes, other than in my own garden, but as a child I went field clearing with my cousins. We walked behind the tractor and trailer throwing in stones, so that the ground would be clear for the farmer to sow his crop. As an adult I was one of a team picking strawberries on the slopes of Cheddar for the annual junior school fête. Hot work - but tasty!
We have been eating our first early potatoes from the garden for several weeks, 'Estima'. At first the flavour is wonderful, but already it has gone, although the crop is clean and good.

Mac n' Janet said...

I picked berries one summer and cut apricots another and both jobs convinced me I didn't want to work on a farm.

coffeeontheporchwithme said...

Seasonal farm work is back breaking. I think there are better machines for harvesting now, but I imagine a lot of it is still done by hand. We lived across from an apple orchard growing up and my mom made a little extra money picking and sorting for a couple of summers. I think she actually enjoyed the company of local women.
The first new potatoes out of my garden is something my husband always looks forward to. -Jenn

Derek Faulkner said...

When I was a stevedore in the local docks, every winter we would get ship-loads of Egyptian new potatoes to unload. Spending all day unloading sacks of potatoes from the ship's hold was back-breaking work but they tasted lovely when we took them home!

Hard up Hester said...

I was born in Lincolnshire and used to go tattie picking with my grandma.

justjill said...

The area I live in, Lonmay, is the chosen potato around here. Lonmay Potatoes. What will happen this year with the strange weather for NE Scotland I know not. Half term in October is called Tattie fortnight when the school kids had a 2 week break to pick tatties. Still called Tattie fortnight but no school kids picking nowadays.

angryparsnip said...

Oh how I wish i could taste your potatoes.
I would have them with out mint though. I will eat them plain just like that later with some butter and salt and pepper.
I so enjoy hearing about your life.

cheers, parsnip

Librarian said...

I love spuds, no matter which way they are prepared, but there is nothing like new ones with just a dab of butter, is there!
Your parents were very wise to allow you to try out potato picking for yourself... you learned your lesson, which I am sure they expected exactly to be that way.

Ruth said...

You've jogged some precious memories again, Pat! As a young girl I went with my brothers and a group of other kids to pick strawberries. One day of it was enough! I've always appreciated the cost of strawberries knowing the backbreaking labor it is to harvest them - but I just saw You Tube videos of the way they're grown and harvested today. What a difference! They're grown in raised beds, of course! Potatoes are now harvested, washed and sorted mechanically. Times have changed in more ways that I was aware!

Growing up it was my job to peel a pot of potatoes almost every afternoon after school. My dad bought them in hundred pound burlap sacks, stored them in the cellar. I have no idea what kind they were, and I doubt mom asked for anything specific, just whatever they could afford. She always planted some so that we could have boiled new baby potatoes and creamed peas in the pod as an early summer treat.

In the spring we waited for the strawberry man to come round in his truck, calling "strawwberees!!" Mom would send me out with a dishpan to buy 6 or 8 quarts. We'd have strawberry shortcake (in a bowl with milk poured over) for supper. The rest went into jam the next day.

Maria said...

I choose different kind of potatoes, white, yellow, red, etc, depending on what recepy I'm making, if it's dumpling, mashing, boiling, frying or baking.
Greetings Maria x

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for comments everyone. I am hungry for more just reading your comments!

Hard up Hester said...

Hi Weaver, I was born in Sleaford but moved away when I was eight.

Gwil W said...

I'm another schoolboy potato picker who'd pick potatoes for a shilling. In my case Cheshire potatoes.

My grandad's brother was one of a crew of 6 on a coaster bringing vegetables, presumably mainly potatoes, from Lincolnshire to Tyneside. The boat was sunk by a German warplane but everybody on the boat managed to jump into the sea and swim towards the shore. Unfortunately the plane returned and strafed the swimmers with its guns. My mother said they were all killed. She said people standing on the beach saw what happened.

Lest we forget.

Simon Douglas Thompson said...

Fried potatoes and tuna sounds great to me!

Virginia said...

Hi Weaver, I have read your blog every day with great pleasure but won’t comment often as I’m in hospital after emergency surgery at midnight wednesday, for a ruptured bowel. It’ll be a long recovery, but thanks to a superb public health system I’m still here!

Amanda said...

My uncle was a dairy farmer. Every year he'd put in over an acre of what we called the "truck garden." It was mostly vegetables. They weren't much on potatoes but very big on beans. We'd spend weeks in the summer picking and canning green beans. One summer we had a batch of beans in the pressure cooker and had gone to the garden to pick more when we heard a dull "Whump." Ran back to the house to find the pressure cooker had blown up. That kitchen was like a green bean cave, beans plastered to every surface. Years and years later I married, and took my husband to the farm to meet my aunt and uncle, who'd become too frail to travel to the wedding. They'd gotten a new stove. When they pulled the old one out of its slot the wall and floor were lumpy. My aunt thought for a minute, then remembered the day the pressure cooker exploded. Never dawned on us to move the stove to go behind and under it during the clean up.

Cro Magnon said...

Several years back, I remember buying a small expensive box of Jersey Royals. They tasted no different to ordinary spuds! Very disappointing.

Midmarsh John said...

Mother always made bubble and squeak on a Monday. One of my favourite tastes.

gz said...

A vote for Ayrshire Tatties here...but I think the main thing is to have local grown ones...thats what makes the difference!!

A Smaller Life said...

We're eating home grown potatoes here at the moment.

This year I've grown in large pots instead of directly into the ground and it's proving very sensible. Whenever we are ready for a potato meal I simply up end one of the pots into a bed in the net tunnel, gather together the spuds and spread the lovely compost onto the bed ready for planting something else in. No putting a fork or a spade through potatoes and spoiling them in a vain attempt to find them all in the raised beds.

I agree that the Lincolnshire potatoes are far tastier than the Jersey Royals these days, but looking at the gorgeous black loamy soil you have there it's no wonder :-)

SharonLarkin said...

My family, on both sides, come from Lincolnshire ~ all from around Boston :)