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. Darjeeling

    My Dad told me that his family used to keep new potatoes in this way, specifically for their Christmas dinner, when he was a boy. That was in the 1930’s. We’ve gone full circle again.

  2. Hi Fiona,

    I also missed most of the Jamie series when it was on, but my dear in-laws bought me both the book and the DVD for Christmas – They must think I’m into cooking or something…!

    Raspberry jellies look lovely, btw. have you seen Nigel Slater’s love song to them by any chance?

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Clare

    Thanks for that. We don’t watch telly much (no time) so miss out on loads of stuff. I would have enjoyed the ‘Jamie at Home’ series, I think.

    Rhubarb trick is coming soon!

  4. Hiya,

    Just so you know, the “clamp” method (layered in damp sand) works for most roots, Jamie Oliver did it with Beetroot in his “Jamie at Home” series and they were perfect months later. I’ve heard of it with parsnips as well, so no reason why it shouldn’t work with carrots too….

    I look forward to the “rhubarb trick” fiona!

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Amanda

    I do hope that your pots are OK. The weekend wind has flattened a lot of the herbacious borders here but the potatoes are still upright!

  6. Amanda at Little Foodies

    We’re growing potatoes in old tyres this year – 2 lots are four tyres high. We’ve had high winds over night and they’re looking a bit flat. Hubs just went out and staked them – fingers crossed they’ll be okay.

    Great tips!

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pat

    It sounds like your barrel is going great guns!

    Hello Pamela

    Like you I am a sponge for information. Thatâ„¢s how I can write this blog!

    Hi Belinda

    The car tyre method sound good to me. Perhaps I should investigate as earthing up can be tricky. Thanks for the tip. Much appreciated.

  8. Belinda

    I grow my potatoes in stacks of old car tyres. This means it is easy for me to harvest them as I can dismantle it.

    And its an easy way to “earth up” the plants as well. Just keep on adding tyres & soil until the plant flowers.

  9. Pamela

    I never cease to be amazed by the most unlikely pieces of information and tips that people are willing to share in the least likely situations and as I have an endless capacity to store “useless” information acquired from myriad sources I regularly pass it on too.

  10. Thanks for the tips Roger and Fiona. I have a potato barrel that I grow mine in. At the moment it is overflowing with the stalks and leaves, hopefully there will be some potatoes.

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