Potato Day tips from Peruvian planters: the Inca trail to Kelso

Potato expert John Marshall with two Peruvian potato growers and their products

THIS IS AN UNASHAMED ‘PLUG’ for a Good Cause. Frankly, The Clarion is happy to publicise any worthwhile, preferably-not-for-profit endeavour. But this is a particularly important message.

There has never been a better nor more important time for amateur gardeners to get into home food production than on the eve of Britain’s departure from the EU, Borders Organic Gardeners (BOG) is telling its hundreds of members in north Northumberland and across the Scottish Borders.

Following Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s warning on last Sunday’s BBC1 Andrew Marr Show that “Yes, there IS a risk of UK food prices going up” in the event of a no-deal Brexit, BOG chairperson Ilona McDowell is urging  anyone with a piece of garden, an unused border or even a window box to come along to BOG’s annual Potato Day and Green Fair at Springwood Park, Kelso this  Sunday (March 3rd, 11am-3pm).

“It is the UK’s oldest, biggest and cheapest sale of seed potatoes, Britain’s favourite staple food,” said Ilona, “and with the threat of tariffs increasing costs of all sorts of imported food, growing the simple and nutritious ‘tattie’ at home is a great way to save money.”

I will certainly be there. I always go, and the event gets better every year. This year an astonishing 97 varieties of both Early and Maincrop potatoes – 31 of them organic varieties – will be on sale in the main hall of the Borders Union Showground at just TWENTY PENCE per tuber, cheaper than seed catologues and local gardening centres are offering and enabling gardeners to purchase the exact number and varieties of tubers they require.

To help newcomers, a team of potato experts led by well-known ‘tattie celebs’ Alan Romans and John Marshall (who recently spent time in Peru, home of our humble solanum tuberosum) will be on hand with advice a-plenty.

Cultivating potatoes in the Andes at 4,000 metres: find out how at Potato Day

John will tell you about his three weeks on the Inca trail, marvelling at potatoes grown in the Andes at an altitude of around 4,000 metres (and you think they’re hard to grow around Berwick?) and passing on first-hand tips from the people who gave the world spuds.

At Potato Day, all of the seed varieties, clearly marked and laid out for visitors to select and serve themselves, are supplied with recommendations for best use: mashing, chipping, salad potatoes and so on. Plus lots of friendly advice from BOG volunteers.

But there is much more to Britain’s biggest Potato Day extravaganza: the Green Fair offers 25 supporters’ stalls such as Woodside Garden Centre, Peelham Farm and Bread and Roses from Alnwick (their delicious sourdough is to die for!) alongside a good spread of suppliers offering fruit juice, honey, cheeses, and remedies and aromas as well as hardware and arts and crafts stalls.

If all of that’s not worth the £1.50 entrance there is also a cafeteria offering delicious, warming potato-themed dishes and a variety of drinks.

BOG Potato Day, traditional start to the spring growing season, promises a fine day out: hard or soft Brexit, deal or no deal, there is no better deal to be had in the Borders!

  • Borders Organic Gardeners Potato Day and Green Fair, Sunday March 3 (11am-3pm) at Border Union Showground, Kelso. Admission £1.50


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