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Potatoes Take Centre Stage At Ryton

Nearly 150 different varieties of potatoes will be on show at Ryton Organic Gardens this weekend when the vegetable takes centre stage for the eighth year in a row.

Budding gardeners can catch a glimpse of the different types on at the event organised by the Henry Doubleday Research Association, in collaboration with Waitrose, on Sunday.

A record line-up of 140 varieties will be on show at the unique events, which will be opened to HDRA members on Saturday by Geoff Hamilton's twin brother Tony.

Gardening guru Stefan Buczacki will be opening the event to the public on Sunday.

Gardeners will be able to buy individual tubers to grow and harvest, and there will displays and advice desks.

All the fascinating facts about potatoes will be revealed at a series of talks, and there will be cookery demonstrations. Potato-themed lunches will be on sale in the cafeteria.

The plight of the potato will also be raised, with many types dropping out of production.

Potatoes now have to be registered on a ‘national and EU list’ in order to be sold, which can be costly for seed potato producers and many have been dropped from the list.

HDRA, with support from Waitrose, is striving to keep these old and unusual potato varieties going.

By letting the public know that they exist and by continuing to sell them they stand a better chance of surviving.

Waitrose agronomist Alan Wilson said:

"Apart from the fact that a lot of these potatoes taste wonderful, we need to keep them in existence so that plant scientists can breed from them to create better potatoes in the future.

“With the climate changing as it is, who knows what characteristics these potatoes hold in their genes that may be vitally useful for coming generations.”

Waitrose is playing its part in saving old potato varieties by gradually re-introducing them into its stores. Red King Edward, for example, should be available for sale next year. It will also have limited stocks of three unique varieties – Fortyfold, Shetland Black and Mr Bresee.

Jackie Gear, HDRA’s Executive Director said:

"This year’s Potato Day has a history of seven spectacularly successful Potato Days behind it, with thousands of visitors coming from all over Britain to enjoy the event. It is our chance, once again, to promote potatoes as a prime, quality vegetable.

“We want to encourage families to be more adventurous in what they eat. Why buy chips all the time when you can get so much pleasure from growing your own distinctive potato varieties?

“You simply cannot beat the taste of your very own new potatoes, freshly harvested from the rich earth and boiled and served simply with a knob of butter and a sprig of mint.

“Everyone is welcome to Potato Day, young and old, novice or experienced gardener, ordinary cooks or professional chefs. There’ll be something to please them all on the day.”

Ryton Organic Gardens are five miles south east of Coventry signposted off the A45. The event is from 10am to  5pm and admission costs £3 for adults, children free.

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CWN / Environment / Ryton Organic Gardens / 1 Feb 01

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This page modified on 10 November 2008 09:49:15AM