Bolivia is the home of the potato. There are more wild varieties there than anywhere else in the world. In La Paz you can wander round the markets and see many different kinds of freeze dried potatoes being sold by the local Aymara women. It's a long shot, as taking photos offended many of the street sellers.
I don't know about you but potatoes are a crop that I've always enjoyed growing.
I caught the tattie growing bug in Orkney when we cleared some land and our Farmer neighbour who grew tatties gave us several varieties to try. Since then we've always found space for a row of three or four different ones.
There's still that thrill of digging up the first crop of new potatoes and eating them lightly steamed with butter. We've tried growing them several different ways. Under plastic, ridged, on a bed of seaweed etc. And in recent years the seed potatoes have always been organic.
Why organic? Organic tatties are available to buy in Montrose but only in a certain supermarket and they're not a named variety. When cooked they tend to go to mush.
The other potatoes in the supermarket are often grown locally. We see the cycle of spraying and spraying and "finishing" (more spraying). Would you really want to eat them after all that?
If you want to read chapter and verse about how many times chemicals hit your potatoes before they hit your plate there is a full description in Rosie Boycott's excellent book "Spotted Pigs and Green Tomatoes"
One of the reasons Farmers spray their crop is the dreaded Potato Blight. Not only did it decimate the the potato crop in Ireland in the 1840s but also struck the Highlands of Scotland and led to mass emigration in both countries.
The late blight can be avoided to a certain extent by growing potatoes that mature early or by growing disease resistant varieties. As new strains of blight have developed these potatoes have been become less resistant. There is however a group of potatoes called "Sarpo" that are being developed by the Sarvari research Trust which seem to be more disease resistant as they are crossed with wild Mexican and South American potatoes.
Dave Allan who writes the gardening column in The Glasgow Herald wrote a fascinating piece about potatoes recently. You can read about it here
Last year however we noticed marks on the tattie leaves quite early in the growing season. As we don't spray at all we cut the shaws down and burnt them. The tatties were fine but a bit immature. The Pink Fir Apple in the next photo would usually be very nobbly by the time they are ready to be harvested.
The biggest shock in all the years we've grown potatoes was the result (allegedly) of manure contaminated with the weedkiller Aminopyralid. This chemical kills broad leaved weeds in grass crops. The grass is then fed to horses and ponies and goes straight through them contaminating their manure.
Poor unsuspecting gardeners and allotment holders spread it on their borders with catastrophic and enduring effects for many vegetables but in particular the potato family.
If you have been affected (allegedly, I don't want to be sued by Dow) by this chemical or want to know more, this link is useful.
I make no apologies for showing the photo again. I've kept it small to keep the shock element down.
The shaws were distorted and the potatoes failed to grow at all.
You can see my original posthere. After much research the worst case scenario was up to 6 years for the chemical to break down in the soil.
So the crop rotation is a bit strange now and tatties have never been planted in the area again. On occasions we put a couple in that bit of ground to see if there is still distortion.