Being a plant breeder and having a young family doesn’t leave me a lot of time for leisure gardening, but still, as an unashamed plant geek, I can’t resist indulging in a few plants and veg. This month is all about a humble potato.
In early February I started chitting tubers of a very special potato on my windowsill: La Bonnotte. Being French you may think I am a bit biased, but of all the potato varieties I have ever had the chance of tasting, this definitely tops my gourmet list. Sautéed whole in their skin, simply with salted butter and herbes de Provence, they are truly divine, with an unforgettable sea-like, sweet, citrusy and chestnutty note. It’s important to cook them in their skins to keep the taste, but the inward eyes would make peeling almost impossible anyway. I had ordered 2kg of seed potato and when they arrived, I was very tempted to cook some straight away… This was far worse than the Stanford marshmallow experiment, but I shall wait until harvest time!
La Bonnotte is normally grown on the small island of Noirmoutier, where the light sandy soil, oceanic microclimate and the addition of seaweed all participate in developing the unique flavour. It may also have to do with the absolute TLC every plant receives: La Bonnotte is planted by hand using the old technique of lazy beds – definitely not for the lazy gardener – which are essentially wide, parallel raised beds without any wooden borders. On the mere 5 hectares where they are grown, the tubers are planted on the 2nd of February and harvested before maturity 90 days later. The backbreaking job of harvesting and severing the growing tubers from the mother plant is again all done manually; machine harvest would just ruin the soft skins and delicate aromas.
With the mechanisation of agriculture in the 60s, La Bonnotte very nearly became extinct, but it was saved in extremis by passionate Noirmoutier growers and the INRA in the 90s. By April 1996, it was ready to go back on the market to the delight of chefs and gourmets alike. The first hand-harvested crop of 5 kg was auctioned and fetched the incredible price of €2,300, making La Bonnotte the most expensive potato in the world. Nowadays the price is more like €10 a kilo for the very first ones, still a high price for a spud!
Now back to reality. I very much doubt I’ll have the time and dedication to build lazy beds and add Irish moss seaweed when my own La Bonnotte tubers are finally ready for planting. I think I’ll plant some in the ground and some in bags. I’ll also be growing some tasty Jazzy as backup and comparison. Suffolk is a tad colder than Noirmoutier so I plan on planting in early March and won’t be able to taste them until the end of May. By then I’ll know if La Bonnotte tastes just as good without the influence of the sea, even if in Noirmoutier it has been nicknamed pomme de mer.
During his time with Thompson & Morgan, Charles has developed over 40 unique creations across a wide range of genera, while overseeing T&M’s unique breeding programme. It can take many years to develop a new variety that would be suitable for us to share with our customers and so we are always thrilled when a brand new variety is ready to add to our catalogue.
One of Charle’s proudest achievements is the Multi Award Winning Foxglove ‘Illumination Pink’ which not only was winner of ‘Plant of the Year 2012’ at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show but also Best New Product at the Anglian Business Awards and Best New Product at the Garden Retail awards. In addition to all these awards, James Armitage, Principal Scientist of Horticultural Taxonomy at RHS Garden Wisley, has announced Digitalis x valinii as the correct botanical naming convention for all existing and future crosses of D. purpurea and D. canariensis.
Wondering if you sale seedlings I live on a coastal region weather no hotter than 75 and foggy like to give it a try if i can find seedlings
Unfortunately we don’t sell this variety – it really is very specialist. Try looking on google to see if you can find an alternative supplier, as I’m sure that somebody must be selling it!
All the best
how much does it weigh at???
Like all potatoes they vary in weight depending on the size at which they are lifted. Lifted as a new potato you might expect each to weigh in the region of 50-60g.
All the best
Hearty most thanks Charles valin sir . for your gressful exercises .I want to grow la bonnotte in small scale . Please tell me how it will be possible.
Glad you enjoyed the blog. This is a rather exclusive variety and unfortunately we don’t supply it, but I’m sure you could find some with a quick search online. For growing advice, take a look at our this article. https://www.thompson-morgan.com/how-to-grow-potatoes
Hope that helps
Where can I buy these potato slips
Unfortunately we don’t supply this variety, and I don’t know of anywhere else to direct you too. They are rather niche. Maybe have a search online to see if you can track some down!
All the best
its the wow potato cant find it in the USA
hopefully it’ll make it’s way over to you eventually!
All the best
Where can I buy some seeds or buy a few potatoes?
We don’t stock this particular variety as it is rather exclusive, I’m sure a search online will hopefully yield results though All the best
I need this potato for my big garden please:) please help me to buy some
Where can i buy some seeds or buy a few potatoes?
Where can I find them? I would like to grow a few.
Charles, can I buy a potato from you i’m trying to find the la BONNOTTE potato, its says you bought some seed potato i cant find them for sale just need one and I’ll hope to get a couple of plants from it, ej
Congratulations Charles Valin. I great achievement. I shall try to obtain one of your special Foxgloves. It sounds wonderful.