The Extreme Gardener

Experiments in permaculture and
other gardening adventures in northeastern Vermont

Two sibling potatoes from seed

November 13th, 2008

In 1994, I grew out some true seed taken from Blue Shetland potatoes in our garden. Of the 24 seedlings, we selected six to grow a second season, and of those six, we have kept two over the years.

The Blue Shetlands, the parent, came originally from Will Bonsal in Maine via the Seed Saver’s Exchange, and have dark violet skin, yellow flesh, and a tendency to have a violet ring. Seed was collected from the plants in 1987. Blue Shetlands have some of what I call “primitive” potato characteristics, compared to the modern potato varieties most people grow. The more primitive potatoes tend to have smaller tubers, the leaves are a bit smaller in proportion to the stalks, and eyes deeper. They also may send the tubers out through the soil further away from the above ground part of the plant, so finding them all can be a challenge, especially the dark blue skinned types.

So, here’s our Purple Gold, a bit lighter and redder skinned than the parent’s dark violet, but the same yellow flesh, and tendency to have a purple ring.

Purple Gold potatoesPurple Gold potato foliage

…and Rose Gold, a reddish version. I love the rose star in the flesh. They both have that rich yellow-flesh potato flavor – our favorite for skillet fries and potato salad.

Rose Gold potatoesRose Gold potato foliage

If you do grow potatoes from true seed, when you judge the offspring, first look for culinary characteristics that you like, even if the tubers are smaller than you want. It can take a few seasons of growing out for a potato variety to really show its full potential for tuber size and yield.

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9 Responses to “Two sibling potatoes from seed”

  1. Rebsie Fairholm says:

    Wow! Those are fine-looking spuds.

  2. the extreme gardener says:

    Thanks Rebsie, and welcome, Daughter of the Soil to the Extreme Gardener. I enjoy your blog!

  3. Ottawa Gardener says:

    Quite pretty. I especially like the Pink Gold. Maybe it’s my girly side but it has such a pretty blush coloured starburst middle. Have you made any disease / pest observations? I am very intrigued by the idea of growing potato by seed. I remember one year, in the past, when I saved potato fruit with the intention of trying the seed on a lark only to loss it somewhere while it was drying out. I did not think of it again until I started reading multiple posts on the subject.

  4. the extreme gardener says:

    Hi Ottawa Gardener – well the Rose Gold seems to be favored by voles/mice, which is not too much of a problem anymore because we now have cats who take their garden duties seriously. Both spuds have proven good disease resistance here over the years – I don’t keep any varieties that don’t, because we don’t treat for disease – SOF (survival of the fittest). The Purple Gold seems to be somewhat less attractive to Colorado Potato Beetles. The foliage of RG this year survived more frost than any of the other potatoes, which was interesting.

  5. Alan R. Bishop says:

    I have yet to grow out a number of saved potato seeds from the past several years, so your blog post definitely makes it much more appealing and I may have to give some potato selection/breeding experiments higher priority in ’09, those spuds you have above are very nice! Thanks for posting this and for the inspiration friend!

    Alan Reed Bishop
    http://homegrowngoodness.blogspot.com

  6. Schlauchboot says:

    Hi I like your post “reme Gardener: experiments in permaculture and other gardening adventures in Northeastern Vermont” so well that I like to ask you whether I should translate into German and linking back. Answer welcome. Greetings Schlauchboot

  7. Jack says:

    I found you after some serious googling.

    My local speciality potato supplier gave me a small ‘green tomato’ looking object and said it was a potato seed.

    Is this what you are refering to?

    I have posted an image of it on my site as a mystery produce piece, just thought I should cross reference my info.

    Any help would be appreciated

    Jack

  8. the extreme gardener says:

    Hi Jack!
    It is indeed the fruit of a potato (fairly poisonous, BTW). If you cut it open, you will find many small seeds – called true potato seeds. You could plant them (same as growing tomato plants), but if you don’t know where it came from, I wouldn’t bother. Generally, potatoes are propagated by replanting pieces from a parent plant, so they are clones, and pretty much genetically identical within a variety. The seed from your fruit would yield genetically unique plants that might or might not resemble the parent… Growing potatoes from true potato seed is an act of plant breeding rather than a way to get a crop of spuds for table use in one season. It takes a few years of growing the plants out for them to reach their full potential so that the breeder can assess which are worth keeping.

  9. the extreme gardener says:

    Here’s a link to a very interesting article about Shetland potatoes
    http://www.shetlandtimes.co.uk/2008/11/07/so-what%E2%80%99s-in-a-tattie-plenty-of-goodness

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