The Daily Spud

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Spud Sunday: Mission Improbable

The following is the content of a letter to be opened in the event of my arrest and possible conviction for the (admittedly difficult to comprehend and almost unpardonable) offence of, er, smuggling seed potatoes into Ireland…

In which I plead my case for clemency and understanding.

I, The Daily Spud, do freely and of my own volition, admit that on Sunday last, the 24th of January 2010, I undertook to travel to the UK for the express purpose of acquiring seed potatoes to bring back to Ireland, knowing full well that, in the eyes of the nation, this is tantamount to an act of horticultural, if not national, treason.

Organically Grown Seed Potatoes

I say seed potatoes, you say contraband

I further admit that, on that same day, I made good my return to Ireland with samples of 9 different varieties of tuber concealed about my person, to wit:

  • Aura, a waxy number, predating the Charlotte potato and with reportedly better flavour.
  • British Queen, which, despite the name, has long been popular in Ireland due to its flouriness. I think that, the risk of potential criminal prosecution notwithstanding, my Da would approve of this one.
  • Edzell Blue, a blue-skinned and floury Scottish potato. Alan Romans reports that the hiring test for a farm cook in Eastern Scotland was the successful boiling of this spud in a pot on the range. Sounds like my kind of challenge.
  • Highland Burgundy Red, not just red-skinned, but red-fleshed, making it a relative rarity in the potato world. It dates back to at least 1936 when it was reportedly used to add suitable colour to a meal for the Duke of Burgundy at the Savoy.
  • Home Guard, an early variety developed and popularised, as the name suggests, during the Second World War, and also well liked in Ireland.
  • International Kidney, the more general name for the tuber that produces the famous Jersey Royal potato. I may not have Jersey soil, but I’ll give this one a go.
  • Lady Christl, a relative newcomer but seemingly one of the quickest varieties to produce baby new potatoes. Count me in, in that case.
  • Salad blue, blue inside and out and, despite the name, a floury spud, so a good candidate for those blue chips and mash.
  • Vivaldi, especially noted as a baking potato, with a creamy texture that (apparently) means you won’t want to add butter, though I’ll reserve judgment on that.

And while I may have successfully slipped back into the country with that lot in my possession, the fact is that they represented a mere fraction of the 80 or so varieties that were available for purchase by the tuber at last weekend’s Potato Fair in London’s East Dulwich, the target of my UK potato mission. Indeed, if I had chosen to travel this weekend instead, I could have gone to the Potato Day in Hampshire, where no less than 130 varieties were reported to be on offer.

Scenes from the Potato Fair in East Dulwich

Potato Fair, East Dulwich

And that’s the thing, you see.

Whereas the UK plays host to a whole slew of such potato days, we don’t have anything to compare to that here in Ireland, in terms of the varieties available and the ability to buy single tubers of same. Yes, we have the Organic Centre’s annual potato day, though it’s both late in the season (from a seed purchasing point of view) and what’s available to buy is much more limited in scope than any of the UK equivalents.

And there’s more.

The fact is that the potato appears to be enjoying a real resurgence in popularity in the UK, with particular interest in old heritage varieties. As your trusty reporter on all things potato, I felt it important that I travel across the water to have a looksee. And see I did, if nothing else, the genuine interest that was abroad, particularly in those heritage varieties. And I hoped that, one day, we might see a similar level of interest here, together with the ability to more easily source some worthy old Irish varieties, like Champion, one of my Da’s favourites.

So while it is true that I should be convicted, at the very least, on several counts of irony for bringing English potatoes into Ireland, I freely own up to the charges and can say only, in closing, that the blog made me do it.

16 Comments

  1. What was the purpose of this dastardly crime? Are you going to plant all your seed potatoes? What a crop that will be.

    The colourful ones sound lovely.

  2. The very next blog I opened after yours also talked about potato growing. I did manage to grow some potatoes last year and I was amazed by how easy they were!

  3. You are truly an Intrepid and Selfless Reporter, DS. If you do get thrown into a deep, dark prison, I will bake you a cake with a file in it so you can Make Good your Escape.

    By the way, if I ever get ahold of a Vivaldi, I’m buttering it, by cracky!

  4. Well now that you have admitted your offenses, the only penance I think appropriate is for you to sneak some of those potatoes my way. I don’t mean seed potatoes. You have committed a serious breach. You will need to provide me with full grown specimens, enough for 4 diners. GREG

  5. This is one of my all time favorite posts! Hilarious. I think I am going to have to save the phrase, “she should be arrested on several counts of irony”. That is a keeper. Can’t wait to see the results of your mission!

  6. I’ve just stumbled across your blog and it’s such a great read as well as full of tasty things! Great work!!

  7. A-ha! So the cloak in this cloak-and-dagger mission was a potato sack! We’ll vouch for your overall decency when the Garda or Interpol come knocking. But you have to promise to chronicle the growing of these here specimens. 8-)

    The real crime is that there are so few ‘potato days’ in Ireland!

  8. How funny, don’t worry it will be all worth it in the end, endless recipes! Oh how tasty

  9. sarah: Seeing as I have already incriminated myself, I may as well admit that the purpose is indeed to plant these seeds and watch them grow, though there is a long way between here and harvest and a lot can happen, so stay tuned. And I hope you get to grow some more spuds this year yourself – it really is a most satisfying endeavour!

    Jenni: It would be worth getting thrown in the slammer just to have a Jenni Cake arrive containing a bona fide file. I think your Van Halen Pound Cake (cleverly rebranded as the Van Halen Jailbreak Cake ™) would do the trick nicely. And I am with you on the butter thing, of course, but you knew that already!

    sippitysup: I’m working on it Greg, it may take me a few months, but you’ll get your spuds in some shape or form, promise :)

    Phoo-D: aw thanks, very sweet of you to say so – and I will be sure to report on progress with the seeds throughout the year

    Nut: very glad to have you along, hope you continue to enjoy!

    Tangled Noodle: yes, the villain is unmasked, but I do promise to make reparations by providing full follow-on reporting, ma’am :)

    sweetlife: I certainly hope that it will all be worth it!

  10. Oh what fun – I’d have no idea what I was looking for, and I assume they explain the different varieties but to be able to see them all collectively, had to be great. I wonder if there is a significant difference in the types they showcase at each show.

    I can only assume that the good Dublin airport does not yet have full body scans to allow you to have 9 spuds on your person. That would have raised eyebrows for sure!

  11. How neat to get all these variety – I hope they all grow successfully!

  12. OysterCulture: I’d imagine that there’s a fairly similar range of spuds available at the various potato days, though I don’t know that for sure – further investigation required… As for the airport, thankfully there were no full body scans involved, or I would have had a lot of explaining to do!

    Natasha: oh I hope they grow too – fingers crossed :)

  13. OMW – Oh My Word. I love you. And your spuddiction!!!!

  14. Daily Spud

    Monday, February 15, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    Oh Kitchen Butterfly – *blush* – my name is The Daily Spud and I am a spuddict!

  15. Another option to save your blushes of bringing potatoes back into Ireland yourself would be to just buy them online from someone like JBA (http://www.jbaseedpotatoes.co.uk) (they’d probably even wrap them in plain packaging to save you getting abuse from the delivery man!)

  16. Daily Spud

    Monday, May 30, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Hi James and thanks for the tip – I’d probably get into a lot less hot water doing things that way :)

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