Greenvale AP, a supporter and partner of Love British Food, is a leading UK grower of fresh potatoes with its own seed breeding programme and two potato packing operations that help it deliver 364 days a year.
Stuart Liddell has been with the company for ten years and is responsible for its salad and maincrop potatoes in the east of England. He grew up on a farm and went to agricultural college, before starting his career growing a range of vegetables from potatoes to carrots and asparagus.
He offers his insight into one of Britain’s favourite vegetables: “Maris Piper was the top potato variety grown in 2019 in the UK, and everybody knows how versatile it is.
“There are some fantastic potato varieties within our industry and, I dare say, some even better. There are more coming on stream each year, so we have the challenge of educating the end user about them and how they are best used.
“Some of the varieties grown now would be classified as more environmentally friendly, so while they still taste great, they also need fewer inputs – something that we growers are always being challenged about.
“At Greenvale we have longstanding relationships with potato breeders and have our own breeding programme too. It can sometimes take over ten years to bring a new potato variety to market, so you can imagine the investment that needs to be made.
“However, we have some very successful varieties that we’ve launched that both grow well and are versatile and, importantly, taste fantastic.
“There are 1600 potato farmers in the UK today, which sounds incredible, but this is only half what it was ten years ago.
“The type of land and access to water for irrigation will dictate where potatoes are grown and there are pockets of the UK where potatoes can’t grow as the land is too heavy.
“Over 28% of UK potatoes are grown here in the East which is the largest area. Looking after soil health is vitally important, so growers also need to used crop rotation and grow other crops in between the potatoes to allow the soil to be at its best.
“Potatoes can be an important part of a balanced diet, but we as an industry need to promote the health message more.
“Potatoes are naturally low in fat, rich in so many vitamins and nutrients and are also so versatile. It’s normally how you cook them or what you add with them that gives potatoes the bad press they get of being unhealthy”