It was a spur of the moment Sunday.
Instead of remaining glued to my weekend pillow, this morning found me beating a path towards the Crawfordsburn Growing Festival in Northern Ireland’s County Down. It was a mission undertaken, as ever, in the name of spuds.
Now, the thing about Northern Ireland for a southerner like me, is that it manages to be both foreign and familiar at the same time. Whilst Belfast is nearer to Dublin than, say, Cork, it has always felt further away, involving a border marked by changes in accent, signage and coinage, to say nothing of history. Mark you this, though, whatever it is that may set north and south apart, we have in common a love of potatoes. Today, at the Crawfordsburn Country Park visitor’s centre, hard by the shores of Belfast Lough, it was all about the spud.
There were some 40 to 50 varieties of seed potato available for sale by the tuber, and, in the event that seed-buying proved a hungry task, colcannon, champ and cheesy mash were on offer, in addition to local breads, freshly churned country butter, cheeses and chutneys.
Meanwhile, posters dotted about the visitor’s centre reminded the public of what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to spuds.
Dave Langford’s heritage potato collection was on display, though sadly minus Dave, who is recovering from surgery at present. Dermot Carey, soon-to-be ex-head gardener at Lissadell House in County Sligo, was, however, on hand to tell me that he and Dave are on the lookout for another home for the collection due to uncertainty about the long term future of the gardens at Lissadell, following recent court actions. Would that I had garden enough to accommodate those 180+ heritage spuds myself.
Alas, the truth is that I am all but without a garden these days. That, however, that did not deter me from getting my seed potato fix, because where there’s a patch of spare ground and a potato bag, there’s a will. So I travelled back across the border with seeds for Epicure, International Kidney and the wonderfully-named Mr. Little’s Yetholm Gypsy – the only potato known to show red, white and blue skin.
What’s more, and as sure as spuds is spuds, I will be adding to that seed stash before the Spring is out. In addition to the annual celebration of the spud that is Potato Day at the Organic Centre in Co. Leitrim on March 13th, Sonairte, the National Ecology centre in Laytown, Co. Meath, are hosting their own Potato Day on March 6th, where they’ll have about 50 varieties available for sale as individual tubers. Methinks I’ll be needing a few more of those potato bags before I’m done.
That bread looks amazing. I dearly wish we had access to so many potato varieties. Great stuff.
The bread was lovely Lisa (all gone by now, though!) and it is great that events like this provide the opportunity to access so many different potato varieties.
I did not realize there was such a difference between N & S. Thank goodness for the spud! GREG
Ah yes, Greg, we have our differences, though the best idea for all concerned is to celebrate what we have in common!
Wow, what a fun weekend adventure. I have to say I was chuckling at the wive’s tale. I cannot wait to see what you do with your new stash of heritage potatoes.
Hey OysterCulture, I was chuckling at the old wive’s tale myself! And I’m hoping this year’s lot of potatoes go well – it’s always exciting to see what results from planting those seeds.
Did you happen to get the name of the people who were selling the really good solid poultry arks in Crawfordsburn – I took the leaflet but it seems to have gone missing.Want to ask them if they will give us one for Sonairte as advertising. They are by far the best I’ve seen for good design and ease of moving around the garden
Forgot to say we still have about ten varieties of organic seed potatoes to sell on the Sonairte stall at the Dublin Food Coop every saturday, from our own stall at the Sonairte farmers market this sunday or from our Ecoshop every wednesday to sunday
And Robert Gephard does a good potato bread in the Food Coop
Hi Kathy, unfortunately I didn’t happen to get the name of the people selling the poultry arks. Thanks for the update on the seed potatoes. I didn’t realise Sonairte had a stall at the Dublin Food Coop, I must drop down, especially if there’s some good potato bread going!