It was the Markies that caught my eye.
Though there were six other varieties of potato, freshly dug and arrayed for sale at last Saturday’s potato-themed market at Kilruddery House and Gardens near Bray, Co. Wicklow, I was intrigued by these large, clay-covered Markies and wasn’t shy about getting an introduction (always keen to meet new and interesting potatoes, me). It seemed as if Marquis might perhaps be a better name for them, as these were potatoes of a noble size.
A Dutch-bred variety, they, along with the rest of the potatoes there, had been grown by Wicklow-based farmer, John Swaby-Miller. John informed me that Markies had become a much favoured option for chips and I could see why: their large size and long oval shape would make for good chip size, while their reportedly very low sugar levels would result in that sought-after pale golden colour when fried. Though classed as a dry potato, there is, as I discovered later that evening in baked potato form, a little creaminess of texture and good flavour too. If there was a competitor that could square up to Maris Piper in the chip stakes – Maris Piper being long the favoured choice of the fish and chips trade on these islands – then this spud, which was introduced to the UK in 2000, might just be it.
The Markies website (though admittedly biased in this regard) tells you that not only is feedback from the chip trade good but that growers like the potato too, as it can be grown in a wider variety of field types than Maris Piper. It sums things up thus: “Move over Maris, there’s a new chip on the block.” The message for the rest of us, meanwhile, may simply be that varieties do matter – a potato is never just a potato, nor a chip just a chip.
And yet, and yet…