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)

Metchosin farmer shares how to invent 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.

ALSO READ: Little Free Plant Stands sprouting in Colwood


Do you have a story tip? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

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

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Four residents and two cats were displaced from their home in James Bay when a fire broke out Sunday afternoon. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
No injuries in James Bay house fire

Fire broke out at about 2 p.m. Sunday

A single-vehicle incident impacted the morning commute on the Pat Bay Highway. (Black Press Media file photo)
TRAFFIC: Single-vehicle incident closes section of Pat Bay

Northbound traffic down to one lane, southbound reopened

University of Victoria researchers received more than $9 million from the federal government for projects that aim to advance big ideas, discoveries and innovations. (Photo courtesy of UVic)
University of Victoria research boosted with more than $9 million in federal funding

The research funding will support a wide range of projects and study

LeoVegas's promotional art for their survey of Canada's funniest proviences (LeoJoker)
B.C. second-funniest province in Canada: online survey

Dry humour popular with B.C. residents – we’re also boisterous laughers

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

Most Read