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Month: March 2014

Spud Sunday: New Season, Old Spuds

If potatoes had personalities, you might describe them as a patient lot. Forget to dig them in autumn and they might surprise you come spring with their belated bounty.

And so it was this weekend. Though the potato calendar may have pointed to planting – and recent Potato Days, such as those at the Organic Centre in Co. Leitrim and at Sonairte in Co. Meath, provided both the spur to sow and the seeds to sow with – it was harvesting that was the name of this Spud Sunday’s game.

Potato Day Sonairte 2014

A rather cheery looking spud welcomed visitors earlier this month to this year’s edition of Potato Day at Sonairte in Co. Meath, with all of the usual spud suspects in attendance

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Spud Sunday: Super Spud Heroes

Somebody asked me recently if ever I worried about running out of spud news. On a week such as the one just past, the answer would be no, not really…

Last Saturday was, of course, time for my annual pilgrimage to Leitrim for the Organic Centre‘s Potato Day – which this year featured Dr. David Shaw of the Sárvari Research Trust and John Brennan of the Leitrim Organic Farmers and Growers Co-op. It’s an event which – though we may talk of blight and GM trials – always puts me in a positive potato mood (which, sadly, is more than can be said of the news reported by Suzanne Campbell earlier that same day on RTE Radio One’s Countrywide program, that prices paid to Irish potato farmers this year have gone through the floor, with many facing substantial losses).

Organic Centre Potato Day

Potato Day at the Organic Centre in Rossinver, Co. Leitrim: a fixture in any spud-head’s calendar.
Those who missed it might be interested to know that Sonairte in Co. Meath will also run a Potato Day this coming Saturday, March 22nd, from 11am-4pm. I’ll be there and will be hoping for a somewhat less eventful visit than last year

On the upside for the state of spuds in Ireland, though, it gave me immense pleasure last Wednesday to see the heroic efforts of Dave Langford and Dermot Carey in building and preserving a collection of 225+ varieties of potato acknowledged with an award from the Irish Food Writers’ Guild (IFWG). It was presented as part of the Guild’s annual food awards, which are based on nominations and voting by members of the Guild (of which I am honoured to be a card-carrying member, so I might, eh, have had some part to play in singing certain potatoey praises). Herewith a little history on what the pair have done, and all for the love of spuds.
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Spud Sunday: Get Growing

For those attentive souls who have noticed some longer than usual absences in Spud Sunday reporting of late, let me just say that housing – and, to be specific, the buying, the moving and the shortly-to-commence renovating of a new Daily Spud abode – is playing havoc with my attention to all things tuber.

Still, with the approach of spud planting season, there are a few items worthy of some attention:

Firstly – and following my brief appearance on RTÉ’s recently aired episode of Gliondar, which followed the fortunes of participants in West Kerry’s Spud-Off Mór – it came to my attention that the event in question is not, in fact, the only Spud-Off in town.

great british spud off 2014

I was contacted last week by Nick Moyle, one of the gents behind Two Thirsty Gardeners – a UK-based gardening and home brewing website – about none other than their Great British Spud Off (which I shall hereafter call the GBSO, just because I can).

Theirs is a different take on going spud-to-spud. Whereas the Spud-Off Mór was about comparing spuds on the basis of taste and texture, the GBSO rates the size of your yield from a single spud. To be more specific, take one container of your choice, one seed potato – of a variety of your choosing – and add whatever soil or compost you prefer. The winner will be the person who produces the heaviest haul and will bask in the glory of being the 2014 Spud Off champ. Simple as that.

Now, despite what the ‘Great British’ tag might lead you to believe, Nick and Rich – the aforementioned two thirsty gardeners – would love to see Spud Off entries from Ireland (or from any other country in the world, for that matter). Enough outside interest and you never know, they might have to rethink the name of the competition. Suffice to say that if you fancy a bit of a spud growing challenge – and a bit of fun – you should check out the details over here.

Potato Day Sign

As if that weren’t enough to get you thinking about getting your spuds into the ground and on their way, the annual potato pilgrimage to Leitrim fast approaches.

This coming Saturday, March 15th, from 11am-5pm, sees this year’s edition of Potato Day at the Organic Centre in Rossinver. It’s an event that’s been on the go since 1996 (and, as such, lays claim to being Ireland’s longest running Potato Day). It will also, on Saturday, be five years to the day since I first adventured up to Potato Day, with nary a backward glance since. I will, of course, make the trip again this year. I could hardly not.

Amongst the other spud heads in attendance will be guest speaker Dr. David Shaw from the Sárvári Research Trust in Wales – expert on all things blight – along with the usual lazy bed demonstrations and seeds aplenty to buy (new amongst the potato varieties on sale will be two blight busters from the Sárvári Research Trust – early main crop Bionica and late main crop Sarpo Axona – as well as Golden Wonder (my tops for roasties) and red-skinned – as opposed to red-nosed – Rudolph). The menu at the Grass Roof Café promises to run the gamut from boxty to bhaji. I’m getting hungry already.

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