I borrowed this word from a plotter on the Allotments4all forum. It’s used to describe the act of checking to see if the first earlies are ready to harvest. It would be a shame and a waste to pull the whole plant only to discover a few tiny pea sized, not-ready-yet potatoes, so instead plotters firtle about the soil with their fingers and pluck a few conker sized potatoes for that first meal.
According to Wiktionary, the word firtle is a Cumbrian term to describe someone who is wasting time. I’ve also discovered there’s another 21st century meaning for the word, which I can’t mention here but probably best to not mention that you’ve been firtling to a twentysomething!
Firtling for new potatoes is certainly a time intensive activity, but worth every minute for the pleasure of holding a handful of baby potatoes; even better is their hot, buttery taste a few hours later.
The variety is Casablanca grown in the poltyunnel, new to me but very delicious – tasting just the way new potatoes should.