Gardens

This is what you need to do now to grow perfect potatoes for summer, says Clodagh McKenna

It's time to get 'chitting'...

Clodagh McKenna
(Image credit: Chris Terry)

Celebrity chef Clodagh McKenna has revealed the one thing we should be doing right now to grow perfect potatoes come summer… Chitting. But what is does chitting potatoes involve, and how do you do it?

Clodagh lives at Broadspear cottage in the grounds of Highclere Castle (yes, also known as Downton Abbey), the family estate of her fiancé, thoroughbred racing manager Harry Herbert.

See: How to grow potatoes – a step-by-step guide

The couple have a stunning 18th century walled kitchen garden at Broadspear, which Clodagh is working on turning into a ‘sustainable homestead’, and spends much of her time gardening.

And the job of the moment? Chitting potatoes, apparently. The Irish chef shared a post to Instagram this week explaining that we should all be chitting our potatoes now if we want to grow delicious potatoes for summer.

She shared a post that read: 'Chitting Potatoes 🥔 💚 is what I’m up to this weekend! I know it sounds rude 😂 it’s basically what you need to be doing this week to prepare your seed potatoes before you plant them! 

'You can read all about it up on my blog, link in my profile. Let’s get chitting folks 🤸‍♀️ and in a few months we’ll all have delicious homegrown spuds 🥔 😍 Let’s get growing again!! #cloveggrowingsquad.'

What is chitting potatoes? 

Chitting potatoes is the process of sprouting your seed potatoes (also known as tubers) before you plant them. In her blog, Clodagh explains that chitting encourages 'strong shoots, fast growth, and heavier cropping'.

Seed potatoes are like potatoes you get at the supermarket, but are guaranteed to be virus-free, ensuring healthy growth.

How do you chit potatoes?

'Chit your seed potatoes by setting them out in seed trays, shallow boxes or empty egg cartons like I have,' says Clodagh. 'You need to place the seed potatoes so that the roots are facing upwards. 

'Then pop them in a cool, bright, frost-free position to allow them to sprout. I placed mine on the windowsill so they get the best light.'

Let the chits grow around an inch, and then rub off all but the three or four strongest chits before planting, says Clodagh. This will ensure larger potatoes, rather than a larger crop of very small ones.

When is the best time to chit potatoes?

Start chitting in late January with a view to planting your chitted potatoes late March or early April. These 'early' potatoes should be ready to harvest in June and July.

So... what are you waiting for? Time to get 'chitting'...