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Happy Harvest Season

Photo by Angus McDonald

October is the time of year to start harvesting potatoes! At Arbikie we grow our potatoes in our own fields- such as Maris Piper, King Edward and Cultra varieties. Before Arbikie Farm introduced Arbikie Distillery we were solely producing potatoes for major UK supermarkets.

Fun Fact: If you ever pick up a bag of tatties in the supermarket and the label reads “Made in Scotland by Alex Stirling” they are from our farm! Just like the ones in the picture below:

Producing potatoes for supermarkets comes with a few specifications, including the shape and size of potatoes having to meet a certain standard, if they do not, these potatoes (and many other grown fruit and veg) are classed as ‘wonky veg’.

What is Wonky Veg?

Wonky veg is simply crops that don’t meet supermarket standards and unfortunately won’t be accepted by the supermarket. Wonky veg was counting for around 25% of our harvested potatoes!! So, the Arbikie brothers (John, Iain and David) decided to put this wonky veg to good use, and what better use than using our ‘wonky veg’ to create delectable Gin and Vodka.

Back to Harvest Season

When should you begin to Harvest?

October each year tends to be when our farm team will start lifting potatoes from the fields to be stored in our large farm sheds over the winter. When storing potatoes in winter it’s important to ensure our potatoes have stored as much flavoursome starch as possible. The farm team can easily analyse this from the potato plants by visibly checking that the tops of the vines are dead. If all looks good… harvesting begins!

What is used to Harvest Potatoes?

If you’ve simply planted potatoes in the garden and are planning on lifting them/ you’ve already lifted them. You would have probably used a shovel or a spading fork. However, if the farm team were sent out with spading forks they’d be there until April.

A haulm topper is a commonly used agricultural machine that will cut potato stems before the potatoes are harvested. What happens is the farm team will attach the haulm topper to the front of our tractors whilst towing a potato harvester behind the tractor.

A potato harvester uses a share, a share will lift the potatoes from the beds, then transfer the lifted potatoes and soil onto webs. The webs act as a sieve and get rid of any lose soil so it is returned to the ground and separated from the lifted potatoes.

Digging and Loading

This year, it took 3-4 weeks to harvest potatoes from all of our fields, but it also really depends on the weather. Our farm team will aim to dig and load our potatoes in dry weather conditions for numerous beneficial reasons. Starting with the temperature in the air and the soil. The soil will really dictate when it’s right to start digging up the potatoes. The soil ideally must be above 7 degrees Celsius as potatoes will suffer in harsh frost and cold weather conditions. Dry weather conditions are also admirable for our farm team when digging and loading as the soil is more compact, which makes it far easier to dig.

FUN FACT: Our farm team will harvest and load 500 tonnes of potatoes a day!!

Luckily Arbikie farm is located in one of the driest areas of Scotland so this benefits the quality of our potatoes and harvesting. However, we do get our fair share of rain… it’s Scotland after all!

Grading Potatoes

After loading, potatoes will be stored and heated-up to around 8 degrees Celsius. The reason for this, is when potatoes are first picked and stored they will only be around 2 degrees Celsius so, potatoes are easily damaged at cool temperatures and will bruise. Once the potatoes are at the right temperature they will then go through a grading machine. This process involves sorting through all the picked potatoes to ensure the best quality (the best looking ones) are sent out to the supermarkets. Any that look a little disfigured or bruised- the wonky veg- will be separated and kept to distil for Tattie Bogle, Chilli Vodka and Kirsty’s Gin.

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