Friday, May 10, 2013

Chitting Potatoes -- by Irene Shonle

 Potatoes are good crops for mountain gardeners to try, since they prefer temperatures very similar to ours.

We are excited to try a new cultivar of potato, developed by our very own Agricultural Experiment Station in the San Luis Valley -- the "Masquerade" potato.
According to Burpee, which is one of the only places where it was available this year, Masquerade has:
Striking good looks paired with delicious flesh.  Edible art. This is a really remarkable and attractive potato, and we've never seen anything like it. This skin of this one-of-a-kind bicolor is a brilliant contrast of purple and white biomorphic shapes. Moist, white flesh perfect for baking, mashing and roasting. Very high-yielding.

 Sounds awesome, right?

We decided to further get a jump on our potato harvest by pre-sprouting or chitting potatoes (this is a technique to break dormancy before planting).  It is commonly done in the UK, but not as often on this side of the pond.
Benefits of chitting include:
• earlier emergence after planting
•earlier potato harvest (by at least two weeks) -- great for mountain gardeners!,
•It breaks apical dominance of the top bud and allows secondary buds to develop, leading to greater yields;

Perfect!  Sign me up.

Trouble is, there are plenty of different instructions on pre-chitting.  One says to put them in indirect light for 4-6 weeks.  One says to keep them warm and dark for 2 weeks and then to bring them into indirect light for another 2-4 weeks.  Others say to keep them dark and humid.  Some say the more sprouts, the higher the yield.  Others say to rub off all but three.  Some think long sprouts are the way to go; others think long sprouts are too fragile, and will break off.

We experimented with three different techniques. Here's what they look like after three weeks:

1. Put them in indirect light:

  2. Sprout them in a warm dark location:
3. Sprout them in the worm bin (we only got this idea because potatoes put in the worm bin sprouted so well!

The proof will, of course, be in the production -- we'll let you know!


  1. How are those Masquerades coming? Great article, Irene. We planted them straight in the ground without chitting. We harvested just recently and found fist sized potatoes within about 60 days. Great potato and fun to find!

    1. Just dug the potatoes and will post the results shortly!