In goes the fork, deep down into the soft earth; a wriggle, a tug, and up it comes, lifting the fat, rounded tubers of the season’s first potatoes. Hurry back to the kitchen to serve them with butter and freshly caught trout. It’s an image that inevitably appears when one is laying out seed potatoes in trays for chitting (sprouting).

Is there any thought so pleasant at this time of year as the anticipation of the culinary delights in store? Now, there is often the added frisson of tucking into a tattie with a back-story, as ‘heritage’ varieties have become more widely appreciated-and available-in recent years.

 The wine-red-fleshed Highland Burgundy Red, for example, which dates from the 1930s, sounds distinguished enough; indeed, history tells us it was bred to provide complementary colour to a meal served to the Duke of Burgundy at The Savoy. For the rest of us, it makes an adventure of eating chips, crisps or mash. Bluey-purple Salad Blue is a century-old novelty likely to encourage picky children to eat their vegetables.

As Steven Desmond points out on page 46 in the first of our series on heritage vegetables, the ones worth trying have passed the tests of reliability and desirability, but are unlikely to be seen in supermarkets. It’s time to get chitting.

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