Tag Archives: All-American Selections

All-America Selections: Clancy Potatoes From True Potato Seed

Clancy potatoes, photo courtesy of All-America Selections

Last week, I received seed packets of various All-America Selections (AAS), both National and Regional 2019 winners.  All-America Selections are plants, flowers and edibles, tested for garden performance by a panel of expert judges. The varieties that perform best over all of North America become AAS National Winners and the ones that perform well in certain regions are AAS Regional Winners. This is an independent trialing process to offer gardeners reliable new varieties. AAS has an excellent website devoted to gardeners, detailing each plant with growing instructions and beautiful photos.

All the seed packets that I received look very exciting–I cannot wait to plant them this year in my Virginia garden. However, the one seed package that really was different and new to me was Clancy potato seeds, bred by Bejo Seeds. Not seed potatoes mind you but actual seeds. These seeds are so tiny they are coated to make them easier to handle. Clancy is the first potato from seed that is an AAS winner. Clancy grows to about 3 feet in height with blue flowers and produces rose-blush to red skinned tubers with a white to yellow interior. These round to oblong tubers are about 4-5 inches in length and are good for boiling and mashed potatoes.

True Potato Seed is so small, is coated

Usually potatoes are grown from “seed potatoes” which are either very small tubers or parts of a tuber. These are planted in March in our area and eventually a bushy plant appears that produces more and larger tubers to eat. True seed comes from the resulting fruit of a potato flower. True potato seed (TPS) is resistant to diseases especially viruses and lasts much longer than seed potatoes.

Last year I grew seed potatoes in fabric containers from small tubers but I have never grown potatoes from TPS before. TPS needs to be started indoors under lights about 6 weeks before the average last frost (end of April in Northern Virginia). They are sown with a very thin layer of seed starting mix on top of the seed as light inhibits germination. The surface of the soil must be moist until seedlings poke through and then watering can decrease. After the seedlings have produced four true leaves, the plants can be set outside to harden off. I harden off my plants by putting them on the deck in the daytime when the temperature is about 50 degrees and back inside if frost is predicted or the evenings are too cold. When there is no more danger of frost, the plants can be planted in containers or in the ground. All potato plants need to be “hilled” which is a process of covering the plant with soil as tubers form so the tubers are not exposed to light. The top 6 inches or so of the plant is not covered to allow leaves to continue to photosynthesis. Potatoes require full sun with good drainage and loose soil which is easy to provide in a large container where I can add bags of potting soil. In the summer, the plants must be well watered. Clancy will probably be harvested in mid to late summer.

I am truly looking forward to growing Clancy but I am also looking forward to the other AAS winners such as Big Duck Marigold Gold, Viking Begonia XL Red on Chocolate, Holi Scarlet Zinnia, Melon Orange Silverwave, Pepper Just Sweet, and the many tomatoes cultivars! If you are looking for new plants to try with a seal of approval, look to AAS for flower and vegetable winners.

Various All-America Selections to try this year

Act Two: Enter Swiss Chard, Exit Pak Choi

Mid-June, Swiss chard time. A relative of the beet, Swiss chard is grown for leaves instead of a bulbous root. Usually the leaves are large and green, some with colored veins. The stalks, upright and crunchy, can come in a variety of colors, such as: red (Scarlet, Ruby, Rhubarb, and Charlotte); orange, purple, gold, pink and red (Rainbow); gold (Golden Sunrise); red and white (Peppermint Stick); and white (Fordhook Giant). Probably the most well known is Bright Lights, an All-American Selection in 1998.

Bright Lights, an All-American Selection, photo courtesy of AAS

Bright Lights, an All-American Selection, photo courtesy of AAS

Swiss chard is very easy to grow; very easy to start from seed outside. Because of the colorful stems, I use Swiss chard in the front of the house, just like zinnias and marigolds. So far I have had no pests or diseases although I am sure deer would find Swiss chard very tasty. There are small, container-sized varieties for adding color to the deck but usually the plants grow at least one foot in my garden, in full sun. I start them by seed in the beginning of summer and use them as a succession crop to my pak choi which has bolted by now. About a month ago, I planted some seeds in containers on the deck, thinking I would transplant them later. Then, about two weeks ago, because the pak choi had bolted so fast, I scattered the remaining seeds in between the pak choi and waited until the seeds had germinated and grown enough to be able to distinguish them from weeds. I then pulled the pak choi and weeds allowing enough sunlight for the Swiss chard seedlings to thrive. I transferred my transplants from the containers to the front strip in between the seedlings. So now my bed is a mixture of Swiss chard seedlings and 3-inch transplants. I don’t know how this patch will look in a few weeks but I know it will be colorful and edible. I had a variety of packages that I wanted to use up (Fordhook Giant, Lucullus, Bright Lights, and Red) but next year, I could try a bed of only Bright Lights or only Peppermint Stick (that will really add a “wow” factor!).

swiss chard transplants

swiss chard transplants

swiss chard seedlings

swiss chard seedlings

In a few weeks, I will cut the outer leaves for quiche or salad, leaving the remaining, younger leaves for the plant to continue to grow. Both leaf and stem can be eaten raw or cooked, like spinach. The stems are so colorful though, there has to be something more creative that can be done with them, like pickled or candied Swiss chard stems. Any ideas?