Monday, 5 March 2012
Pink Fir Apple Potatoes
The Pink Fir Apple potato is an heirloom fingerling which is very popular in Great Britain; it is not well-known here although that may yet change. It was one of a number of fingerling potatoes developed in France and Germany, and then around 1850 it was introduced into Great Britain. It was sold by Sutton's for a number of years in the 19th century, but was for many years a pass-around plant amongst allotment gardeners and small farmers until television chefs catapulted it into the limelight within the last few decades. Any claims that it is an aphrodisiac should be taken with a grain of salt and a pat of butter. On the other hand, it is clearly one of the oldest European potato varieties still being commonly grown and many people rave about the flavour and texture. It is also unquestionably a very charming-looking potato. The best specimens are long and narrow, with a thin pink skin, but it is common to get sub-potatoes forming off of the main potato root, and some strange and hilarious shapes can result. It's also not unusual to get potatoes which are simply very knobby.
The name is a rather awkward translation from the German, Rosa Tannenzapfen. Pink Pine-Cone would have been more accurate,or at least more euphonious. It is still found as a traditional variety in Austria under that name, although the British are convinced it came to Britain from France. It's perfectly possible that it did. Veggies do get around.
As a rather waxy-textured fingerling it is best for use in potato salads, but it also pan-fries and roasts well, although it should be par-cooked first. Some people complain the knobbiness makes them hard to peel, but really, with such a pretty, thin skin, why even try?
The plants are tall and rangy, with white flowers, although most sources say they do not produce any berries.
Ours grew well and without any problems, but we have a good garden for it, with sandy rather acidic soil and no real disease pressure. It`s generally regarded as a bit finicky in regards to its soil and water requirements. It`s a long-season potato, needing up to 120 days to fully develop. Pink Fir Apple also has a reputation for being prone to most potato diseases, including the dreaded late blight. Nor is it known as a good producer. Indeed, it produced the smallest crop of any of the potatoes that we grew last year, providing 27 pounds from a 25 square foot bed. Our best potatoes produced almost twice that amount, although I should also note that we planted a considerably smaller quantity of seed potatoes by weight of the Pink Fir Apple than of the Russet Burbanks, as the seed potatoes we got of the Fir Apple were quite small. We just planted them whole, and still had more than would fit into the alloted space. Like a lot of fingerling potatoes they grew quite close to the surface, and had I realized I would have mulched them better. You can see some green in the cut potato in the picture above, as the tops of some of the potatoes were exposed to the sun as they grew. This should be trimmed off thoroughly; green potatoes contain unhealthy compounds.
All of that sounds rather discouraging, but Pink Fir Apple has survived this long for a reason. They are very tasty, very attractive, and have stored the best of all of our potatoes this year, by a significant margin. They are widely known for keeping their just-harvested flavour even when stored for quite a while. As I researched them, I read a number of comments that they had better disease resistance than their reputation would suggest. Certainly, they have survived these many decades because they are widely regarded as very desirable potatoes, and they can`t be that hard to grow or people wouldn`t keep growing them. I`ll be interested to see when I grow them again from larger seed-potatoes whether we get a better crop.
They were available from Eagle Creek, but I see they are already sold out for this year. Maybe next year...