Over the last decade or so , much has been written about Sarpo potatoes, particularly about Sarpo Mira, the first variety to become widely available. Because of their unusual heritage (history), this unique family of potatoes has always had growing characteristics that are not mainstream. As such they have often been misunderstood and sometimes maligned for traits that we see as exceptionally beneficial.
The main general characteristics worth noting are :
- As a family, specifically bred for their resistance to late blight, most breeding has concentrated on main crop or early main crop varieties that would benefit from protection from this devastating disease. This is why there are no early varieties. We do have second earlies and are looking to breed eralier varieties suitable for organic production and home growers
- In built dormancy. This means that as long as they are kept at relatively low temperatures and in darkness, they can be harvested and stored without refrigeration or anti sprouting treatments for considerable periods.
- Slow to chit. As a result of the inbuilt dormancy that allows easy over winter storage, Sarpo varieties do not chit as fast as others. It is still advantageous to do this but only expect short spouts to appear before it is time to plant
- Full foliage early in the season. Sarpo potato varieties tend to be very vigorous. This results in the crop “closing cover” very quickly, stopping almost all weed competition. This vigorous growth results in sometimes very large yields.
- No or low senescence. This means that at the end of the growing season (Late September/October for main crop) the stems and foliage just keep on growing! This means that the grower has to keep an eye on the tuber size and decide when to “stop” the crop, either by removing the above ground part, mechanical flailing or using a desiccant.
- Generally superb virus resistance. Not usually an issue in the world of potato growing, where new certified seed is used each year. But essential if this is grown using seed saving.
If you need more detail, please look at our varietal attributes page here
What’s special about the various Sarpos?
Sarpo Mira, our first Sarpo to be introduced, is a bruiser and does well in most situations.
It’s a favourite of allotment growers up and down the country for its resilience. The vigorous plants just keep on growing and do not give up at the end of the season. It is up to you to decide when to harvest but don’t leave them until they are monsters with hollow-heart. The immature tubers even make useful waxy, new potatoes but when more mature, give a heavy crop of large tubers that store well for winter bakes and chips. If you find they break up on boiling, try the old trick of boiling in their skins. Or steam them.
We have reports of good tolerance of slugs and they even soldier on through drought due to their massive root system.
Don’t be fooled by spotting of the lower leaves towards the end of the season. Ignore this as it happens when soil nutrients are running out. Give them a bit more muck next time.
Sometimes Mira, like all our varieties, will get late-blight. But don’t panic as the infected patches on leaves enlarge only very slowly. But cut the tops off if the disease gets worse.
Axona, sister to Mira, is our second introduction. Plants are more compact and don’t grow so tall and fall over as much. The potatoes are less flat than Mira and are a better flavour. Again it is a heavy cropping maincrop that stores well and is getting a reputation for making a tasty mash and any recipe needing a floury spud.
Sarpo Una forms tubers early, sometimes within 65 days. It performs well in pots started inside when it can give an early bite in April or May. It differs from most earlies as it keeps growing for much longer when it will surprise you with big tubers for an early bake. It tends to be less floury and more waxy in texture. Keep a few seed back and try them for second cropping when its blight resistance is so useful.
Sarpo Shona (named after our founder’s wife) is a white-skinned potato that will mature a bit earlier than Sarpo Mira and Axona. Plants are compact and give good yields of potatoes that are praised for their flavour. It is a bit less floury than Mira and Axona.
Kifli is our salad potato with white skin and a slightly knobbly shape. It stays fast asleep all winter so best to waken up seed (chit) before planting. Some say it is the best tasting of the family and makes excellent potato salad. Growers often use it in their veggie boxes as it can be harvested fresh when needed over the summer months. Dig it up and take it straight to the kitchen for that great old-fashioned, new potato experience with butter and chives.
Blue Danube is an unusual Sarpo that does suffer leaf blight if the disease is prevalent but its resistance delays the development of the disease. It is best to plant early so that the tops can be removed if the blight is severe and the potatoes are already a good size. Tuber blight is very rarely seen even when the tops are blighted. This is a floury potato, much loved by our Scottish and Irish friends. It makes a mean mash and is said to make the best roast potato ever. The bright blue-purple colour boils out but remains a bit when baked or fried. Try slicing finely and making blue-rimmed crisps!
Do tell us how you find our potatoes – in the garden or in the kitchen. We like to know how they do or don’t perform. Remember that the soil and manure type, the weather and the age of the potato affect its flavour and texture. Some potatoes don’t eat well before Christmas but are great eating in the spring. Experiment!
Special features of Sarpo potatoes
- Sarpo Mira is the great survivor
- Mira will give you massive yields of large potatoes for chips and baking
- Ignore small spots on lower leaves. It is not blight.
- Late blight on leaves sometimes occurs but it rarely causes a problem
- More compact plants are great to smother weeds
- A dry, fluffy potato for mash, bake, chips
- Stores well into early summer
- Two-in-one: early or early maincrop – you choose
- Good second cropper
- Waxy texture and good for salads
- White skinned
- Compact plants
- Less floury and good flavour
- Chit this one carefully
- The best one for a real “new potato” flavour
- Dig, and use immediately through August and September
- A nicely shaped Blue that sets abundant tubers
- The fluffy texture is a great favourite of our friends in Scotland and Ireland
- Cut off the foliage if it gets blighted
- Its fans say it makes the best roast potatoes ever. It makes very smart crisps