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Spud Sunday: The Potato Pickers

Row of potatoes

Spuds in the field: what a Spud Sunday is all about

It can get a bit addictive, can’t it.

So observed one of my fellow potato pickers as the Wicklow light waned and vegetable grower John Swaby-Miller – a.k.a. Johnny English – turned the last row of potatoes at the end of crisp December day. For one Sunday only, our merry band of volunteers had donned wellies and gloves and had plucked and washed rows upon rows of newly unearthed Sarpo Axona potatoes. Now, muddy-kneed and rosy-cheeked, it was time to go home, each toting a 5kg hessian sack of said spuds.

These were the sacks into which the rest of the day’s harvest would be packed for sale in the run up to Christmas, to raise both funds for, and awareness of, SPUDS.ie, the voluntary community research group whose aim – by promoting the use of naturally blight-resistant potatoes, such as Sarpo Axona – is to demonstrate no less than the potential for sustainable agricultural practice in Ireland. SPUDS.ie founder, Kaethe Burt-O’Dea, also hopes to raise funds to support another run of her Crisps with a Conscience, made from potatoes of an unusual shape that are normally discarded. Those who buy these bags of Christmas spuds can be guaranteed some good seasonal eating and a lot of seasonal goodwill.

The fruits of our picking labours – packed in attractive 5kg hessian sacks – will be for sale from Dec 13 up until Christmas at the following Dublin locations:

Craft & Design Christmas Pop Up Shop at Block T, Smithfield, open Dec 12 – 15 & Dec 19 – 22 from 11:30am – 18:30pm, late opening Thursdays 20:00.

Dublin Flea and Block T Christmas Cracker, Smithfield, December 13-15

The Lilliput Stores Christmas Hamper Market at The Joinery in Arbour Hill from Dec 20 – Dec 23

Ploughing up the potatoes

John Swaby-Miller ploughs up the potatoes for picking

Potato picking

The potato pickers:
14 adults + 3 children + 3 dogs + 1 day = 2 tons of spuds

Potato washing

Newly picked potatoes get a rinse and spin in John Swaby-Miller’s homemade potato washer:
– the barrel is fitted with brush heads, has a perforated base & sits in a large container of water
– potatoes are tipped in & given several rapid turns in the water by means of a crank handle
– the barrel is then winched up, allowed to drain of water and potatoes gathered from the other side

Kaethe Burt O'Dea & John Swaby Miller

SPUDS founder Kaethe Burt-O’Dea & grower John Swaby-Miller, pictured with one of the 5kg hessian sacks of spuds that will be for sale in the run up to Christmas

Pig eating potatoes

Them piggies like their SPUDS too:
John Swaby-Miller uses pigs to clear his fields of the vegetables left after picking for market is done

6 Comments

  1. That it is Jane! And a very fine way to spend a Sunday too.

  2. Fine to see some familiar spuds (Sarpo ‘Axona’)getting a breather in December sunlight. These neat wee bags would be great under the Christmas tree.Even great for non-spuddites. Hope they raise a lot of cash! I like your photos, Aoife.

  3. Thanks David, they are indeed neat wee bags! And hopefully they’ll raise a good lot of cash too.

  4. High excitement indeed, Brian – Santa might just be needing a few extra sack of spuds on his sleigh this year :D

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