Is there anything tastier than a helping of new potatoes, plucked from the ground only an hour or so before they arrive on your plate, along with some heavily mint-sauced slices of lamb, a spoonful of garden peas and a generous glug of gravy?

It’s a gastronomic delight rivalled only by Christmas dinner, a Blackpool helping of steak and kidney pudding and mushy peas, or a steak so rare it moos when you try to stick your knife in it.

My love affair with new potatoes started like many good things in life on my uncle’s farm in Cumberland, where gleaning a bucketful of taties from the kitchen garden was a labour of love.

Armed with a large graip, my father would loosen the soil from around one of the many potato plants marching in serried ranks to the far horizo, and my brother and I would dive into the rich red soil to grab the white gold underneath.

Each plant seemed to yield several pansful of meaty tubers, and the large milking pail seemed to fill in no time at all.

Lifting the spuds was only part of the battle, for once we got to the farmhouse, it was the children’s job to peel the potatoes, for in those days, it was deemed slovenly to serve potatoes with even a scrap of skin still adhering to the surface.

Although we had knives, the peel usually just rubbed off with the fingers, with the knives only deployed to howk out the eyes.

Although I have no idea what sort of potatoes they were, they remain the most delicious I have ever tasted.

While the new potatoes we got at home were pleasant enough, there was no comparison - and they were hopeless for making chips, even when cut into scallops which never browned in the constantly bubbling chip pan.

My father never planted potatoes in our large garden at home, preferring to let it flourish as a wildlife haven which never saw a lawnmower or spade. There was a vigorous rose, and a lilac bush which somehow survived the neglect, and the autumn scorched earth policy, when my father got rid of all signs of life simply by sprinkling some paraffin around and setting fire setting fire to the whole lot.

I vowed that when I got a house of my own with a decent sized garden, I would plant potatoes, and lavish lasting care on them, in the hope of recreating the Cumbrian ambrosia of my youth.

The opportunity arose when we rented a cottage outside Bellingham, with a garden just crying out for an eager potato planter.

Our next door neighbour was a keen gardener, whose plot was a riot of cabbages like cannonballs, leeks standing as proud as Buckingham Palace Guardsmen, and swedes as big as Piers Morgan’s head.

There were no potatoes though and my neighbour said he had never tried them. He told me what to do though, and advised that to be successful, potatoes had to be planted on Good Friday, a notion I noted had a fair degree of latitude, as the Holy day can fall anytime between March 20th and April 23rd.

I diligently tilled the soil for much of the winter, and went to the garden centre in Hexham to acquire a hefty sack of healthy looking seed potatoes. I sowed them on Good Friday as instructed, and watched like a proud new father as the first shoots broccoli through the soil, heaping the soil up around them to protect the tender new growth from late frosts and the lambing storm.

Each plant grew with startling vigour, bursting into pretty white flowers. I had been told when the flowers wilted, it was time to harvest the bounty below.

The clock went back 20 years, with me wielding the spade and my own sons on their hands and knees ready to lift the crop,

The first hint I had that something was wrong was when one of the boys said in disgust: “ Eew, this one’s got a great big slug in it!,” to be echoed by his brother moments later: “Eew, so’s this!”

And so it was with the entire crop. Every individual potato had at least one slug it is, many boasting several, and it was only by dint of some clever wielding of the potato knife that we managed to get one single boiling of new potatoes - and they tasted rotten.

The crushing disappointment meant I have never tried potato production since - until this year, when I was lured by Bellingham Country Store into buying seven seed potatoes with a bag of compost and a big red tub to plant them in.

I can hear the slugs sharpening their multiple teeth already.