Some of the new varietals of potato Fiona Hamersley Chambers has created at her farm over the past four years. (Submitted/Fiona Hamersley Chambers)

Some of the new varietals of potato Fiona Hamersley Chambers has created at her farm over the past four years. (Submitted/Fiona Hamersley Chambers)

Vancouver Island farmer shares secret for inventing a new potato

Using seeds anyone can name their own variety

Ever hear that to grow potatoes you just cut up any old tuber and plant the pieces?

Well, you certainly can plant tubers, though they’re far more productive if planted whole, but what about planting potatoes by seed?

Growing potatoes from potatoes gives a genetically identical product, like cloning. It’s how registered and named potatoes like Yukon Golds and russets are so consistent. (Same for apples such as Granny Smith and Macintosh, by the way.)

But if you’re lucky enough to get a potato seed, the tubers that form will be a unique varietal.

Flash back to high school genetics, and you might recall how genetic data is stored in cells. Growing potatoes by planting tubers is a great way to produce more of the same, but to access the genetic diversity of potatoes (haven’t you always wanted to?) it’s the seeds you need.

Farmer Fiona Hamersley Chambers was given a satchel of potato seeds from South America four years ago, and has been having a blast growing unique varieties of potatoes on the sea bluffs at her Metchosin Farm since then.

ALSO READ: Student-harvested, sorted, packed seeds set for sale at Langford store

And since gardening has become exponentially more popular during the pandemic (Metchosin Farm seed sales skyrocketed last year), she’s encouraging people to try cultivating their own potatoes. Which means you get to name it too.

“It could be an Emma potato or a Ben potato,” she said.

It can be a great family or class experiment that teaches food growing and science methodology.

New gardener? Her best advice is to not be afraid. “It’s hard to mess this up. Plants want to grow,” she said. Start with foods your family likes to eat, such as cherry tomatoes, peas — or potatoes. “You’ll succeed right away and everyone will want to do more.”

For would-be potato inventors

Here are Hamersley Chambers’ tips for growing potatoes from seeds. Keep in mind it’s a two-year endeavour.

1. Sow the whole package of seeds with 4 cm spacing, either in pots or a tray of soil with a shallow covering of soil and wait for the first sprouts. Wait longer for the second set of leaves. Now the plants are ready for step two. Some seedlings will grow better than others. Pay attention to which ones seem more robust, which ones are happiest to grow in their new home.

2. Choose the 10 strongest looking seedlings and transplant them into individual 4” pots (assuming you don’t want 100 potato plants). Let them grow until they fill out the pots.

3. Do a final transplant into the ground or a bigger pot. Note different characteristics like leaf colour, stalk strength and the flowers. Each of these potato plants is a never before seen potato, so they’ll all be slightly different. Start mulling over some names for your baby potatoes.

4. In the fall when the plant dies back it’s time to harvest. Keeping each plant separate, dig up the tubers. Reserve the largest five potatoes from each and store them in a cool, dark place with layers of paper. Label them so you remember who’s who next year.

The smaller tubers are for eating! Try boiling, baking and frying each kind to see what works best. Do they taste good? What colour are they? Now is a good time to name them.

5. Next spring plant the reserved tubers. This year the plant will show its quality, and by planting tubers instead of seeds, you’ll be propagating your own in-house brand of potato.

You can skip ahead by buying a bag of one-year-old tubers at the Metchosin Farm plant stand. They sell potato seeds at metchosinfarm.ca.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca

gardeningWest Shore

 

Potatoes have two genetic centre of origins, one from the lowlands in Chile and the other from the highlands in Bolivia. The highlands potatoes flower and produce fruit profusely, which is where the seeds come from. They contribute to exciting and ecologically imporant genetic diversity of potatoes. (Submitted/Fiona Hamersley Chambers)

Potatoes have two genetic centre of origins, one from the lowlands in Chile and the other from the highlands in Bolivia. The highlands potatoes flower and produce fruit profusely, which is where the seeds come from. They contribute to exciting and ecologically imporant genetic diversity of potatoes. (Submitted/Fiona Hamersley Chambers)

Just Posted

Rick Ruppenthal of Saltair will host a 12-hour talk-a-thon Friday, June 18 over Facebook live. (Photo submitted)
Talk-a-thon to focus on men’s mental health issues

Saltair man spearheading a campaign to generate more conversation during fundraiser

(File photo)
Poverty reduction survey identifies 10 poverty themes

Poverty reduction plan will be finalized in July 2021

Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly says he has no intentions of leaving the Green Party. (House of Commons image)
Island Green MPs have “no intention” of leaving the party after ‘heartbreaking’ departure

Manly, May only remaining Green MPs after Jenica Atwin left for the Liberals over internal disputes

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of May 30-June 5. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
COVID-19 cases drop again almost everywhere on Vancouver Island

Nanaimo had four new cases last week, down from 22 the week before

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

A still image from security camera video recorded June 8 shows an individual lighting trash on fire in the doorway of 19+ Cannabis Store on Victoria Crescent. RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue are investigating numerous fires set in downtown Nanaimo in the past three months. (Photo submitted)
‘It’s out of control’: More than 20 fires set in downtown Nanaimo in past 3 months

Authorities asking business owners to keep dumpsters locked

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Most Read