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Spud Sunday: Sligo Spuds

Prátaí ar maidin, prátaí um nóin
Agus dá n-éireoinn san oíche, prátaí a gheobhainn

Potatoes in the morning, potatoes at noon
And if we get up in the night, it’s potatoes we’ll get

Old Irish saying – so says my Da and he should know

If the notion of having potatoes morning, noon and night appeals, then Lissadell House in Co. Sligo is the place to be. The house and its residents may have been the stuff of poetry for WB Yeats in his day, but it was potatoes that had me treading, perhaps not quite so softly, in the footsteps of the bard last weekend. For Lissadell is now home to Dave Langford’s collection of heritage potatoes, around 180 varieties worth, and I spent part of last weekend being taken on a private tour of the gardens there, along with MGH, my agent on the ground in the North West.

A small selection of the potato varieties grown at Lissadell

A small selection of the varieties grown at Lissadell

Due to an unfortunate dispute over rights-of-way through the property, the gardens at Lissadell are not open to the public this year, which is a real pity, because they’re well worth seeing. Lucky for me, though, that Dave Langford himself, whom I met earlier this year at the Organic Centre’s Potato Day, had offered to show me around. Dave, along with Dermot Carey, head gardener at Lissadell, took us on a turn around the substantial Victorian walled kitchen garden, home to the spud collection, and to a host of other fruit and vegetables. We also got to see the polytunnels and areas where they do commercial organic growing, with the supply going mainly to local restaurants.

Getting down and dirty in Lissadell with Dave and Dermot

Getting down and dirty in Lissadell with Dave and Dermot

Dave is indeed a fount of knowledge on all things potato and regaled us with spud-lore as we toured about. I have, as a result, added several new potato factoids to my top pocket, to be drawn upon whenever I feel a potato anorak moment coming on.

I now know, for example, that a roguer is someone specially trained to scour commercially planted potato fields, spotting potato plants of the wrong variety (the so-called rogues) or plants diseased by, among other things, the dreaded blackleg. I can intrigue listeners with stories of the Black Bog, a dark stemmed and dark skinned spud that was often grown in mental institutions (though why it was favoured by mental institutions is, umm, a little unclear). When it comes to potato league tables, I will reference the Bambino, which Dave declared hands-down the worst potato he’s ever eaten, worse than the Lumper variety of famine times (which, he says, are actually not that bad to eat if the growing season has been dry, but if it’s been wet, then steer clear).

Oh my, but I’ll be popular. At least when it comes to table quizzes, that is.

Yes, not only did Dave display his in-depth knowledge of each and every one of the heritage varieties in his collection, he also told us that he is breeding some varieties of his own and will be finding out in a few weeks time if any of them are good for eating. In the coming years at Lissadell, they hope to set up a special display of Irish-bred spuds, no doubt with some of Dave’s among them. All in all, it was a fascinating visit, which put my own little potato collection just ever so slightly in the shade!

Passing through Ladies Walk, Lissadell

Passing through Ladies Walk, Lissadell

By the by, as you’re reading this, I’ll be swapping a walk around Lissadell for a walk along part of the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain. What that means is that, for the coming week, I’ll be doing a lot of not-very-fancy footwork along the Spanish highways and by-ways, and not a lot of anything on the super highways of the internet. You can expect me back next Sunday.

17 Comments

  1. English Mum

    Ooh, you lucky thang, a private tour?! Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that no more of my little tattie babies have succumbed to the dreaded blackleg, and I’ve started to dig them as they’re so big! Have a lovely time in Spain – will miss you ’til you’re back! xx

  2. jenn

    Wow…I never realized there’s so much variety when it came to the spud. You got pretty lucky with a private tour.

  3. sippitysup

    I love the “ladies walk” photo. But why “ladies”/ Don’t any gentlemen walk in that neck of the woods? GREG

  4. OysterCulture

    Have a wonderful time in Spain – my brother-in-law just got back from doing the walk about with his girlfriend and her Mother – It may have been the same one but I understand they are all over! Can’t wait to hear the details. They had a great time if you discount the blisters and sore feet from all the cobblestone.

  5. Natasha - 5 Star Foodie

    Can’t wait to hear about your travels in Spain! Have a great time!

  6. Jenni

    Have a great week in Spain, lady. I wanna hear more about that mental institution spud. I am Intrigued! :D

  7. Tangled Noodle

    You leave us wanting more spud! Have a lovely walkabout in Spain and safe travels. We look forward to hearing about your adventures!

  8. Heather

    a private farm tour?! i’m jealous! looks like you had a great time :)

  9. The Diva on a Diet

    Oh how I love Sligo and your trip to Lissadell sure sounds like it was a treat! Thanks so much for sharing it with us, Spud, and I hope you’re having a marvelous time in Spain! We’ll miss you!

  10. Marc @ NoRecipes

    Wow, I had no idea there were so many varieties of potatoes. Have fun in Spain!

  11. Sophie

    Indeed, i can’t wait to read about your travels to northern Spain!

    So, are you going to Santiago de Compostella, on pilmigrage?
    Have fun & safe travels!

  12. Chef E

    Blog catching up here…I love seeing photos of harvesting, and tending to the crops! I am on facebook Farm Town and take my avatar’s farming seriously :)…have a good trip, I leave to head back to NJ tomorrow, and am sad to go, but I love visiting as well…

  13. Daily Spud

    English Mum: thanks & glad to hear that you´ve had some spuddie survivors!

    jenn: yep, it was pretty lucky – hopefully it´ll be open to the public again next year for everyone elses sake though

    sippitysup: hmm, an interesting question – I witnessed some gentlemen walking there, so I guess it´s not that exclusive…

    OysterCulture: I´m halfway through my walking and a bit footsore but thankfully no blisters so far!

    Natasha: having a lovely time so far – will report in detail later…

    Jenni: I think the mental spud definitely warrants further investigation, I will take that mission on

    Tangled Noodle: thanks, will fill you all in when I get back

    Heather: it was lovely, I felt quite priveleged, really

    Diva: thanks – Sligo really is a lovely part of the world – as is the part of Spain I´m in now; lucky me :)

    Marc: thanks – there are thousands of varieties – I think I´m only scratching the surface here!

    Sophie: yes, I´m doing part of the walk to Santiago de Compostela – it´s lovely, I highly recommend

    Chef E: ah, thanks – hope you enjoyed the rest of your trip – I´m certainly enjoying mine :)

  14. The Other Tiger

    Wow, you came away with some very interesting factoids! The dreaded blackleg sounds quite dread indeed, and you really have to wonder about the mental institution angle with the Black Bogs. Hope you’re enjoying Spain! I hope to make it there someday.

  15. Daily Spud

    Yep, there was all sorts of strange and interesting information to be had. As for Spain, I can’t believe that I’m back already – it was a lovely week away, I highly recommend it.

  16. Val

    I was at Lissadell yesterday, couldn’t believe how many spuds there are!

  17. Daily Spud

    It’s a truly impressive collection Val. I was glad to hear that they had managed to get past the right of way difficulties enough to get the place opened up to the public this season. It really is well worth seeing.

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