by Ollie Benson, Sprout Tasmania
Tasmanians are known for their love of the humble spud, and this year at Springdale Farm they are embracing the rainbow.
Mel and Luke Ryton-Benson run a market garden at Springdale Farm, in Collinsvale. They moved there five years ago from Queensland with no experience of market gardening and set about developing their green thumbs using chemical free, no dig practices while figuring out what grows well in Collinsvale’s microclimate.
Over the last year they have doubled their growing space and on average now supply weekly veg boxes to 10 families in their community. They also sell vegetables to Glass and Brown Paper Pantry in New Norfolk and to a selection of restaurants and cafes in Hobart. At this time of year, a typical Springdale Farm veg box will contain lettuce, spring onions, zucchini, snow peas, beetroot, onions, carrots, herbs, and potatoes.
For Mel and Luke, including staples such as onions and potatoes in their boxes is a must, and alongside more popular varieties such as pink eyes, they love growing a range of colourful and unusual spuds. They are currently harvesting purple sapphires, a stunning vibrant purple potato packed full of antioxidants. Burgundy blush are also a favourite, while the nutty, smooth La Ratte is a unique potato they’ve tried growing this year.
In Tasmania, most seed potatoes are planted after the last chance of frost (although pink eyes can often go in a little earlier) and are harvested once the tops of the plants begin to die back. This ranges from 90-120 days after planting. However, Mel and Luke have successfully grown them through winter in their polytunnel.
There are many ways of planting potatoes. Mel and Luke practice no-dig methods so for them they make a small a hole for each potato and once the leaves break the surface, they cover them with compost. This year they have also experimented using straw bales, a technique that makes for an ideal way to grow potatoes at home in the backyard. The seed potatoes were simply planted deep inside square bales of straw and although they are yet to harvest these and see the results, Mel reports that the plant growth has been better than the ones which were planted directly in the ground.
Mel’s favourite way to eat them is simple: rainbow roast potatoes! She’ll take a selection of purple sapphire, burgundy blush, and pink eyes, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and add garlic (while Mel loves potatoes, it’s no secret that garlic is her main passion!). These are then roasted until crispy.
THE FARMER’S FAVOURITES
Pink eyes. A Tasmanian favourite! A good all-rounder to grow for an early season crop, the name ‘Pink Eye’ refers to the cream skin with pink eyes that encases the delicious yellow flesh.
Burgundy blush. Great for baking, mashing and roasting, they have
a dark pink, marbled flesh which retains its colour during cooking.
Purple sapphire. A vibrant purple potato with deep purple flesh that keeps its colour even when cooked. This potato is particularly good for baking, mashing and gnocchi and has a nice balanced starch content.
La Ratte. A small potato with a unique nutty flavour and smooth, buttery texture. Similar to the Kipfler, it is great in potato salads.
MEL’S TRUSTY POTATO SALAD RECIPE:
A mix of freshly harvested potatoes
4 bacon rashers (optional)
“4 cup mayonnaise
% cup Greek yoghurt
1 garlic clove (who am I kidding. I never use just one clove of garlic. More like 3 or 4!) 30g chopped gherkins
¥% cup finely chopped fresh dill
4 spring onions
1 tbsp finely chopped capers
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring potatoes to boil and boil till tender (approx 10 mins). Drain then allow to cool. Cook eggs till medium-hard boiled, peel and set aside. Chop and cook bacon in frying pan until crisp, set aside. In a bowl, combine mayo. greek yoghurt and garlic. Cut potatoes and eggs in half and place in large serving bowl. Add bacon, gherkins. dill, spring onions and capers to potatoes and gently toss. Add mayo and yoghurt mixture to potatoes and gently combine. Season with salt and pepper fo taste.