Johnny Gunter is a Pacific Northwest heirloom variety. The details of its origin are lost, but one of the more popular stories is that it was brought to the west coast by Spanish explorers, similar to Ozette and perhaps To-Le-Ak. We will probably never know its true origin with confidence, but genetic markers have revealed that this variety is more closely related to varieties of Chilean origin than to modern potatoes, so that is some evidence to back up the story. This variety was recognized and shared widely by Tom Titus, who collected it from his great uncle, Johnny Gunter’s, garden. It may have been obtained from Johnny’s younger brother Don in the Northern California town of Happy Camp and there is also some speculation that Don may have grown this variety from true seed. Regardless of its true origin, this variety is well adapted to the maritime Pacific Northwest and is very hardy. The potato was briefly offered by Ronniger’s (now Potato Garden), but has otherwise spread only hand to hand.
Known synonyms for this variety include Aussie Crawlers, Johnny Gunther, Red Indian, and Siberian. Red Indian is probably the longest standing name for this variety, but it is more widely known as Johnny Gunter, so I’m sticking with that.
Johnny Gunter has floury flesh, with thin skin. It is a good potato for roasting. It is reasonably all-purpose, also mashing and frying fairly well. The flavor is pretty bold, not quite rising to bitter. Tuber size and shape tend to be irregular, particularly under dry conditions.
Johnny Gunter makes a large and sprawling plant, with stems as much as six feet long. It is a late variety, which will grow well into December here if not killed by frost. At full maturity, yields can be very high and I have obtained yields of nearly five pounds per plant. Tubers have strong dormancy and keep well. This variety seems to have pretty good tolerance to common potato viruses, producing pretty well and looking apparently healthy even when multiply infected. Johnny Gunter is male sterile, as expected for potatoes of Chilean background. The flowers are interesting, often displaying unfused anthers. It sets berries readily when pollinated from a variety with fertile pollen.
True Seed (TPS)
The true seed of Johnny Gunter is open pollinated. I have grown quite a bit of the TPS and gotten reds, blues, and whites in that order. I have been impressed with Johnny Gunter as a parent and I have kept several good progeny from it, including Gunter Blue, Gunter Gold, and Gunter Red.