Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Hungary?


The season starts in earnest with the classic chittin pic!  Although really just a chance to get the date on the blog - a one in every four years chance... This year the spuds are coming into the studio (although shhh don't tell my studiomate haleh) to chit.  After last year's bronze medal, this year I picked up the following varieties from the Bridgend Allotments Potato Day:

The coloured one (good for variety on Judgement Day): Red Duke of York (1st earlies)
The favourites: Maris Peer (2nd earlies)
The Scottish One: Arran Victory (Mains)
The one recommended by Alys Fowler in January, and apparently slug repellant: Sárpo Miro (Main)

The Sárpo story is quite an interesting one (albeit if you like potatoes, but then I'm presuming you have some interest if you're here...).  Firstly - Sárpo is pronounced Sharpo, so that it rhymes with Harpo...

The Sárvári family from the Lake Balaton region in Hungary have been breeding potatoes for high resistance to late blight for over 40 years.  Breeding started when Dr Sárvári Snr was director of Keszthely Research Institute (now University of Pannonia Georgikon Faculty of Agriculture, Potato Research Centre).  His Soviet bosses wanted a hardy strain of potatoes for growing across the USSR which would survive the ravages of climate and disease...

Left to right: Adam Anderson, Dr István Sárvári, Zoltan Sárvári  and William Wedderspoon
The Scottish connection: 

 While visiting potato trials in Romania, Scottish seed potato grower, Adam Anderson observed some plants surviving in a devastated field of blighted potatoes.  The hunt was on and Adam tracked the plants down in 1994 to the Sárvári family.  A company was soon formed to support the breeders, with Adam and other partners, including Scottish potato businessman, William Wedderspoon and the Danish Seed potato group, Danespo.  The company built a small breeding station near the Sárvári family home in the village of Zirc, near Veszprém.  The laboratory, greenhouse, potato store and experimental kitchen is surrounded by trial fields.  
 
Lots more info at the Savari Research Trust

I quite like to know more about how Adam hunted down the plants, and the commitment that required to go all the way to Hungary...