The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

How to eat your own new potatoes on Christmas Day

new potatoesAs a woman, I move in a strange world. Filled with ladders, vans, dust, men and the occasional dog that observes me closely as I pass by.

There are very few women at the builder’s merchants where I buy my paint. In fact I have never seen one buying anything alone. A woman is always accompanied by a man.

So my progression in the builder’s merchants from Oddity to UBOK (Unusual But OK) has been a bit of a rocky one. Finally, after five years, I know and like the guys behind the desk. We chat when I need to have paint mixed. Sometimes about paint (yawn) but often about other things.

“Do you know how to get your own new potatoes for Christmas?” Roger asked as he swung the hefty can into the paint mixer and focussed unblinkingly on my face.

As I shook my head I imagined the answer would involve an oil drum and loads of earth and patience.


“When you dig up your new potatoes, divide them into two piles. Wash and cook one pile. This is the taste that you will be enjoying at Christmas. Put the other pile of uncooked, unwashed new potatoes into an old biscuit tin. Fill it with sand (silver sand. The sand that you’d use for a children’s sandpit. Rather than sharp sand, it’s builder’s sand and far too salty). Bury the tin fairly deep, three feet (100 cm). Dig it up on Christmas Eve and you will have perfect new potatoes for Christmas Day. They will taste as fresh as on the day that you buried them.”

I haven’t tested out this tip but I’m going to give it a go.

As I was imagining the steaming new potatoes in a dish on our Christmas table, Roger changed up a gear whilst the dot matrix printer flexed its muscles to produce my invoice.
“I used to grow loads of veg but having children I had to think lawn. So it’s mainly lawn and flowerbeds now. This year, I rebelled and I’ve just grown carrots in a big tub. They’re terrific.” His hand hovered above the counter to indicate the height of the massive tops.
“Have you heard about the rhubarb trick to avert the problem of carrot fly?”
I hadn’t.

Secret method to be shared soon.

As I walked away from the desk he called me back.
“You know when you dig up your potatoes you get those teeny ones?”
A well known builder nodded from the queue.
“Well, be gentle, don’t dislodge them from the plant and just replant the plant plus the tiny potatoes. Water them well and you will have a second crop in a few weeks time. Easy if you know how.”

Roger, you are a star. Thank you.

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  1. Hey Fiona, we had problems with carrot for some years and all the usual ideas were tried(not the rhubarb idea i must add) we now grow our omions and shallots next to the carrot bed and no longer have and problems. Must try the new potatoes for Xmas, sounds good.

  2. Ishrath

    I remember seeing that Jamie at Home episode where he stores the root veggies in a box and states that they will remain fresh for a long time to come. I was pleasently surprised with that. One good lesson. Love that show, host, the garden and the good food.

  3. Thank you Fiona – By the time I plant more carrot seeds outside the rhubarb should hopefully be ready to sacrifice a stick or two. It’ll be worth it to keep the little blighters at bay.

  4. Hi Fiona I wondered if my last question about Roger’s carrot fly trick got caught in your spam filter. I know sometimes you spot them ages later & reply so didn’t bother to follow it up but I guess maybe you’ve missed this one. Rhubarb’s now doing well & I’ve just planted some carrot seeds – in the greenhouse in the hope of some better protection.

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi KarenO

      Yes, I think that your comment got lost in the spam filter. Many apologies. The spam filter does save us hours a day but sometimes vaild comments are deleted. I do and try amd check the ones in the net but yours was not there.

      Roger’s trick – burying slices of rhubarb along with your carrots does work apparently.

  5. Hi Fiona

    Living in the mild South West my rhubarb crown is just showing a tiny red shoot so won’t be long before it’s in full swing. Any news from Roger yet on the carrot fly trick? I loved the idea of new potatoes on Christmas day but we’re fairly new to the veg gardening bit & our daughter got married last April so everything in the garden was a bit late and there weren’t enough potatoes to save unfortunately. I’m looking into potatoes in tubs this year to see if the yield to space ratio is better.

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pete

    Thanks for this great tip. Clubroot has been a menace in our garden.

  7. another good thing about using rhubarb is that if you are unfortunate to have clubroot in your soil that can spoil a brassica crop is to pop a small 1 inch piece of rhubarb down in the hole as you transplant your brassica and hey presto no clubroot

  8. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Clare

    Uh Hah! DVD’s I must remember that! The jellies are truly delicious. No I haven’t seen Nigel Slater’s love song to them. Must get out more…!

    Hello Darjeeling

    I reckon that we are going full circle. Well some of us, anyway.

    Thanks for dropping by!

    Hi Hank

    Just thinking about you today and your wonderful stock recipe.

    I’m going to try this. Just eaten some delicious new potatoes from John Coe’s garden tonight! Wonderful texture. Ours will be late as they went in late this year.

  9. Fascinating. I had heard something like this and will now have to try it. I grew Swedish fingerling potatoes and am always overrun by them when they come due. And then they get all soft on me. Wah. Must go buy sand….

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