Potatoes are usually grown from what is called "seed potatoes," seed potatoes are not true seeds. They're potatoes that are meant to be grown to produce more potatoes. Seed potatoes are dormant, like any other tuberous garden plant, when you buy them. Chitting is a method used to sprout seed potatoes before planting. Last year I grew my potatoes in a bucket on the porch and had great success, even though I never chitting involved. This year I decided to give chitting a try.
Here is what the seed potatoes looked like in March shortly after buying them from the D. Landreth Seed company. On the right is a Peruvian Purple potato and on the left is a German Butterball, both of these are heirloom potatoes.
The Royal Horticultural Society, where I turn to for a lot of garden advice, has instructions for chitting seed potatoes that I find are more complicated than they really need to be. Basically, the RHS recommends placing seed potatoes on cardboard egg cartons in a cool & dry location with moderate light. If you have ever bought potatoes you know they'll sprout right in your kitchen. So, I just left my seed potatoes in a paper bag in the pantry and let them do what they normally do. The photo of the potatoes above shows what they looked like as they started to break dormancy a week later and the tubers began to sprout.
No, this is not an alien egg it's a seed potato after a week of chitting. As you can see most of the eyes have sprouted and the potato is ready for planting two weeks since I started chitting them. See how wrinkly they are compared to the seed potatoes above? The stems are feeding on the energy reserves of the tubers but they'll be alright. One thing to keep in mind when storing seed potatoes after you've bought them and while chitting them is that they shouldn't be kept too warm. The shoots grow fast and leggy when kept too warm.
Planting them was easy, I just laid them in the container like I did last year when I grew potatoes in a bucket and covered the stems with soil as they grew up above the soil line. My biggest challenge in growing food in an urban garden is that I lack space and so I have to cut corners and improvise a lot. Chitting seed potatoes before planting them may be useful with gardeners with lots of room to store things and those with short growing periods. After chitting the seed potatoes are ready for planting in the garden, but the process seems unnecessary to me. By the time the tubers had sprouted indoors they would've already been growing in their respected buckets in the container garden. I'm content with doing things my way and planting the still dormant seed potatoes in their container and letting them sprout naturally when the soil warms up.