The winter season here in France can sometimes seem to drag on and this year that is certainly true. The first flurry of snow came at the start of November, and as we enter March winter is once again upon us with a vengeance. Gardening opportunities at the moment are few and far between, so when one comes along I jump on it with pleasure, no matter how small the job, it brings a small ray of light.
Happily now is the month to chit. I know it takes less than 5 minutes to put your potatoes out in a tray to chit, but, first you have to choose which ones you are going to grow this year, and that usually means a trip to the garden centre; huge smile.
I think that choosing the right variety here in France can be somewhat daunting, the shelves are laden with different types so how on earth do you choose the right one? To be honest, no variety is fool-proof, a long hot summer here in France can spell disaster for even the greatest of yielding potatoes.
As with any vegetable, they need water and with potatoes, it’s definitely a case of the more the merrier. To produce a successful yield you need to regularly water your potatoes particularly throughout a dry hot summer, so make full use of water butts and any source you have flowing close to your home. During particularly hot spells here in France when temperatures can reach over 40c for weeks on end and when the little source which runs through our garden has stopped flowing, I can often be seen running to the lavoire at the top of the road, a couple of watering cans in hand.
It is best to decide which potatoes you want to grow before you go to the garden centre, as I said, the shelves are laden with the different varieties, and they tend to be put in alphabetical order rather than in growing period. Below is a list of my favourites, which will hopefully give you a helping hand, all of which are French varieties, when in France…..
First Earlies – Variété précoce or primeurs. Growing period: 70-80 days
Belle de Fontenay: a lovely waxy, firm potato which is great for salads or sautéed. I have grown these in the past and they are delicious.
Chérie: A pink skinned potato with a good yield and flavour, a lovely salad potato. The perfect potato for beginners, again I can vouch for its flavour.
Gourmandine: A lovely, smooth, firm yellow potato which is renowned for its wonderful taste and high yield.
Amandine: These potatoes have gorgeous creamy flesh and smooth skin. It is a variety which has good resistance to scab and is wonderful as a salad potato.
Second Earlies – Variété mi-précoce or demi-précoce. Growing period: 100 days
Bernadette: A medium-sized potato with smooth, clear skin and a good flavour which is ideal for salads or steaming. It is also a good potato for winter storage.
Charlotte: The classic potato for salads with creamy flesh and yellow skins, everyone adores the flavour.
Rose of France: This potato has pink skin, a lovely creamy interior, and good flavour and yield. It is ideal for salads and steaming. It also has a good resistance to mildew
Ratte: A classic french variety renowned for its waxy flesh which has a distinct chestnut flavour. This potato gives a great yield, I’ve grown it in the past and it was wonderful.
Main crop – Variété tardive. Growing period: 120 days +
Désirée: The classic red potato which has waxy, pale yellow flesh and is great for roasting and baking. It also has good drought tolerance.
Remember that potatoes will take up quite a lot of room in your vegetable garden, so unless you have plenty of space and eat loads of potatoes, do not go mad! If possible I’d grow a couple of different varieties and perhaps share the seed potatoes with a friend or neighbour so you don’t end up with too many.
As I currently do not have the biggest of vegetable gardens, I have this year chosen to grow only one variety rather than the two I have grown in previous years. We do not get through a great deal of potatoes, but do adore new potatoes which we enjoy with fresh salads throughout summer, so this year I have chosen to grow Belle de Fontenay.
I’d love to hear which potatoes you have grown here in France and what you thought of them so please feel free to use the comment box below
February 25, 2014 @ 11:08 am Cliff
I’m a newcomer to both living in France AND gardening! I’ve come from a tiny bungalow near York with a postage sized garden to a rural paradise with 7.5 acres and my own fishing lake – who said miracles don’t happen!
Anyway, want to try growing some veg – last year had some success with spuds, tomatoes and carrots so this year want to try some new potatoes in the poly tunnel – is that a good idea??
Thanks for the advice on your site re varieties – have printed it off and about to head off to find some!!
March 3, 2014 @ 3:38 pm Katherine
Hi Cliff, ssshhh don’t mention the fishing lake, my husband will be so jealous! I have a greenhouse but have never owned a polytunnel (I’m jealous now!), I don’t see why spuds planted now wouldn’t grow OK but you may still have to warm the soil up a bit first by covering with fleece, depends on whereabouts in France you are. If the ground is cold, and the nights still frosty, they won’t want to grow, even under the protection of a polytunnel. If you give it a go, I’d love to know how the crop turns out and what sort of yield you get. Have you bought your spuds now, if so what sort have you got? Good luck Katherine
February 25, 2014 @ 6:15 pm Chris Benson
Hi KAtherine, relative new to France – Champsac in Limousine, we have bought a run down 7 acre farmette! Need I say more, plenty of room but just the two of us we aim to be organic and be as far from using fossil fuels as possible. Love your site and hope to keep in touch. Saying that I am too busy to get on the computer every day, we also have an old farmhouse to revamp! So much to do and so little time! Cheers Chris x
May 8, 2015 @ 7:15 pm Vivienne
Not a comment, but a question. Is there a French potato variety in supermarkets anything like a Jersey Royal?
May 11, 2015 @ 10:58 am Katherine
Hi Vivienne, I have to admit that I’ve not really noticed what the supermarkets sell in the summer months as I always grow my own summer potatoes, but varieties like a Jersey Royal I’d say include Charlotte. Belle de Fontenay, Cherie and Amandine. Hope you find some, they’re all delicious.
July 15, 2017 @ 11:25 pm John Devereaux
International kidney is the more common name for the Jersey Royal. Only if grown in Jersey can the International Kidney be called Jersey Royal…new potato famous in UK…?. I am in Poland and my second name is Devereaux. I am growing gourmandise this year. My first certified organic French seed potato from France but purchased from an English based stockist. Regards,
September 21, 2018 @ 9:47 pm John
Jersey Royal is a trade name which can only be used for potatoes grown in Jersey, The variety’s normal name is ‘International Kidney’ which is how they are sold as seed potatoes in Britain, I haven’t seen them anywhere in France.
January 11, 2016 @ 3:40 pm Phoebe @ Lou Messugo
This was clearly not written this winter….a very different story as it’s hardly got going and no snow anywhere! But on to the point …potatoes. I’ve never grown my own, I’m hopeless in the veggie patch and I reckon living in a dry area it’d be tough I’m happy to buy from local producers and support their hardwork. Thanks for the tips though, if I ever decide to give it a go I’ll refer back here.
January 11, 2016 @ 4:10 pm Katherine
I agree, this winter so far has been bizarre, but then again so was last summer! Am hoping for some snow before long, I need a snow fix! Glad to hear that you support local producers 🙂
January 15, 2016 @ 3:51 pm Winter jobs for the garden | jardin-perdu
[…] chestnut flavour. For more information on French potato varieties, please see my earlier blog Get Chitting. I use egg boxes to stand my seed potatoes in and I’ve already started collecting them in […]
January 26, 2016 @ 6:36 pm Amanda
Just found your blog by accident !! Planning to grow earlier and main crop, I live in the Creuse so ideas for where to buy seed potatoes would be helpful
January 27, 2016 @ 3:44 pm Katherine
Hi Amanda. I always buy my seed potatoes from Jardiland. There’s one in Gueret, I don’t know how far that is from where you live? They are more expensive than some places, but I have always found their quality and range to be excellent. Hope this helps.
February 3, 2016 @ 9:51 am Rosie @Eco-Gites of Lenault
I noticed the first seed potatoes were in L’Eclerc yesterday so I shall have to get some soon. I like to get a few earlies going in the polytunnel. I do find the choice somewhat overwhelming in France and have finally found an early that did well for me (Armandine didn’t) – the boringly named BF15. I do also admit to getting a couple of varieties on from the UK – King Edwards and Kestrel and generally each year I try at least one new variety. A very late visit via the wonderful #AllABoutFrance
February 19, 2018 @ 12:42 pm Gordon
I am trying,without much success to workout the French calibre system ie: charlotte 25/32 what does it mean Mnay thanks Gordon
February 24, 2018 @ 11:15 am Katherine
Apologies for the delay in responding Gordon. The calibre, for example the 25/32 that you have stated relates to the size of the seed potatoes you will find in the packet purchased. So in this case the minimum diameter of the potatoes in the bag will be 25mm and the maximum 32mm. The smaller the calibre the fewer the number of growing shoots will be produced and therefore the ultimate quantity of potatoes harvested. It really depends upon the variety of potato you choose. I have chosen Belle de Fontenay this year and they are also 25/32. 25/32 seems to be the norm for Charlotte too. Hope this helps a little
March 2, 2018 @ 9:19 pm cathysrealcountrygardencom
Charlotte potatoes have grown well year after year in my plot in the east of France. We can get very hot dry summers and some summers are wet but the charlottes always produce, keep well in the cave and get eaten very fast!
March 23, 2019 @ 4:45 pm karen
I’ve lived and garedened in France for 30 years. I have a potager in a friends’ garden in Paris, co-gardening, although to be honest, I garden, they eat. I buy my seeds online from a supplier of heritage varieties called La Bonne Graine. They sell varieties, some French, but mostly Scottish, Hebridean etc with a heritage dating back to 19th century sometimes. They’re all very tasty and produce good yields.
March 29, 2019 @ 8:25 am Katherine
Thank you so much for bringing La Bonne Graine to my attention. I’d not heard of them. I’ve had a look at their website, they have a great selection. I’ll certainly be ordering some seeds from them