Alan's Favourite Potato Books
Back then commercial growers were several thousands strong and allotment or garden production was enormous, making a kind of joint interest. This can clearly be seen with the inception of the National Potato Vegetable Society in 1903 and this quaint time capsule of graceful language and mutual understanding. Note the “new variety “ Golden Wonder.
An enjoyable romp through what was going on in potatoes nearly 100 years ago. Fascinating for its detail for growers and high quality production. The First World War had just ended and the potato was a hero crop keeping the nation from starvation. Growers were suffering huge losses to blight and storage and in the 1920s there was a real gap in agricultural knowledge that was to be filled by later government funded research. Great pictures including the one above of potato blight... in colour!
Salaman was the architect of modern potato research and his work is still widely used and quoted. This is a gem of a book building on the work he intimated in the National Agricultural Botany to sort out the many potato varieties trading under the same name. It's much more than a top line potato variety book with strong contribution on history, plant health, hybridization and in depth tuber analysis. Recently reprinted and available.
This is the one to get. It’s a great read and shows Salaman’s ability to communicate his outstanding plant science/botanical knowledge with a broad understanding of the place of the potato in the world. It maps the history of the potato with powerful insight into the early potato development (updated by the great JG Hawkes ) and of course lots about varieties as well.
A inspired historian with books on Florence Nightingale and The Charge of the Light Brigade, this tome of The Irish Potato Famine is the corner stone of our modern day understanding of how nearly 2 million people died or were displaced. While many other accounts have added good new agricultural and contextual information, Woodham-Smith’s account is a great and emotive read. If ever there was a lesson for world leaders in how to not go about things it lies here - but then maybe our leaders don’t read these kind of books!
Another tome on all things potato from the whose who of post World War potato research. Whitehead was chief plant pathologist for Wales, Mackintosh was director of seed testing in Scotland and also bred the variety Dr Makintosh and finally Findlay was superintendent of experiments at Craibstone college in Scotland. The book is a step forward and boasts good descriptions of potato varieties and - as the title suggests - more about the development of our understanding of pests and diseases.
Burton took on the post harvest management contribution. Our understanding of how to store, cook and use the potato came from this entry. It’s a clear and analytical survey of how the tubers evolve, mature and finally decline.
Written in the1960's this is another wide ranging record of scientific progress, particularly in crop nutrition and water requirements. There is a good historical piece by J. G. Hawkes, otherwise it is more overtly aimed at larger scale commercial production. This is still a landmark book and a major contribution and big help for many of us in the potato industry.
A charming small pamphlet type book, rarely seen but for keen home and allotment growers. It is simply what it says on the cover - a great guide for those wanting to become top dog of potato growing. I particularly liked Brian’s discussion on whether to earth up potatoes.
I may be a little biased in including this book on the same page as the others since I wrote it in 1991 to draw attention to potato varieties. This was enthusiastically supported by Alan and Jackie Gear and the members of HDRA (now Garden Organic) to whom I will be always be indebted. It’s a social and economic history with paintings by Faith Harris for whom this was her pictorial swan song. I enjoyed the experience of writing but it seems a long time ago. I have a few copies left if you are keen. Contact me via one of the contact forms on this website for details!
A quick table listing which potatoes are best suited for different cooking purposes.
© Alan Wilson 2017