"If it's a potato...
I love it!"
"I am a potato enthusiast and have been for many years. My first encounter with potatoes was in 1976 when, due to the high price of potatoes, my dad thought it would be a good idea to plant our own instead. So I was despatched to the back garden and dug up a sizeable enough area to plant rows and rows of King Edward potatoes. Ignorance is bliss; what came up instead of our own home-grown batch of potatoes was a bunch of weeds! It was the worst drought in living memory and the next year I was raking the area level and seeding grass!
I have worked for Waitrose for over 40 years now, passing through managerial roles in buying and food technology and all the time being able to execute a bit more efficiently my passion for the potato, whether in my garden, local, organic, British, Jersey, Cypriot, Italian, Spanish, Majorcan, large, small, black, or blue.
If it’s a potato I love it!
The big issue is that many people don’t know how many varieties of potato there are and how easy potatoes are to grow. So in 1993 I wrote 'The Story of The Potato' and joined up with Henry Doubleday Research Association (now called Garden Organic) and organised Potato Days where lots of really great varieties were offered to the public in one place. These Potato Days have blossomed into many separate events which are held by garden groups and potato lovers, usually during the late winter.
Then in 2011 I returned to the subject with a more robust appraisal of all things potato. These rare and wonderful varieties hang on by a thread with very tiny acreages for seed multiplication. Even more worryingly is the decline in fresh potato consumption which can only spell bad news for all of us as the interests of consumers give way to the power of faceless multinationals determined to market their products with - sometimes - disregard for our heritage and landscape.
I have a long association with organic farming, championing this within Waitrose in its early days as farmers came to terms with a new way of farming, which is proving to be the springboard for a much needed renaissance in growing as well as a spectacular evolution of new growing methods.
I am happiest on my compost heap finding out how the garden and kitchen waste has rotted down ready to spread over the veg plots and sometimes the flower beds. Apart from potatoes, I grow most vegetables in varying degrees of success. My main varieties of potato which I grow are Kestrel for the first half of Winter and a special new variety that keeps through the Winter without sprouting.
When I am not at work discussing veg or in the garden growing veg, I can be found watching West Ham United, watching James Bond films - or most films really! - or travelling around our wonderful country. I love giving potato talks anywhere and I'm always open to discussions and new ideas!
I hope you enjoy this website and that together we can all save the potato!"
© Alan Wilson 2017