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Category: Food and Culture (Page 1 of 18)

Spud Sunday: Spuds in Space

For those who may have wondered – and with good reason – whether this week’s resumption of service was but a flash in the proverbial frying pan, herewith a new installment in the Spud Sunday series.

Included below is a podcast from the fine folks at the Eden Project, featuring (among other things), an interview with my good self on all things spud. Though this dates from a few years back, it never got an official airing here.

In it, they consider the matter of boldly going to a new planet, and the set of plants that you might want to stash in your spaceship before you go. And yes, long before Matt Damon popularised the notion in The Martian, spuds have been on NASA’s radar as space-worthy starches. In more recent years, experiments conducted by the International Potato Centre in Peru in growing potatoes in simulated Martian conditions have shown positive results.

So, without further ado, here’s the episode (you’ll hear me from about 7 minutes in, on spuds, space and why an extra-long thumbnail can be a very useful thing).

The Big Dig

Big Dig Poster

So here’s the thing: if you find yourself in the vicinity of Strokestown, Co. Roscommon this coming Sunday and fancy getting some dirt under your fingernails, as well as the chance to participate – by way of digging potato beds – in an ongoing project which explores the very particular place that the spud occupies in our culture, then you should make your way to the Irish Famine Museum at Strokestown Park, where Deirdre O’Mahony will lead participants in making an “X” shaped lazy-bed on the Church Lawn at Strokestown House.

This is just one of many initiatives being undertaken by Deirdre – artist, academic and lecturer at the Centre for Creative Arts, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology – as part of her ongoing SPUD project, which has featured collaborations between farmers, artists and art agencies.

She envisions the creation of the lazy-beds at Strokestown as a collaborative, temporary famine memorial, an X-shaped bed planted with potatoes – blight resistant Sarpos, mind, not Famine-era Lumpers – creating a space in which to publicly think through present day aspects of the Famine’s legacy. The event on Sunday may also be an opportunity for attendees to see old-school sod-turning skills, as Deirdre tells me that some members of the Loy association of Ireland, who foster the tradition of using the loy – an old style, narrow spade with a single footrest – will be there.

Proceedings will start at 10 am on Sunday 29th. If you’d like to participate – and all are most welcome – then drop an email to the project curator Linda Shevlin (linda@lindashevlin.com).

You dig?

Spudless Sunday

Those who have read this blog over the years will know that I have written about the Dave Langford/Dermot Carey heritage potato collection many times.

Their 225+ varieties of potato, including many rare, old varieties of Irish interest which, for many years, they have displayed and spoken about at events countrywide, have made for a wonderful educational resource, a living history and an important part of our food heritage.

This past weekend I learned of an incredibly severe blow to the collection, a too-harsh lesson in the fragility of preserving old and rare varieties and of not better supporting the people who do that important work for us. While all is not entirely lost, there is much that is, and a challenge has been set for those who really believe that such things are worth preserving.

For the past six years, mid-March has been writ large in my calendar. Not, as you might imagine, because of St. Patrick’s Day in all of its greenery but rather, because it is at or around this time of year that the Organic Centre in Rossinver, Co. Leitrim, hosts its annual Potato Day.

Potato Day Sign

It’s an event presided over by Hans Wieland, and a time for people to stock up on seeds for the coming season, to get advice from expert growers, and to hear talks on subjects of interest to the gardener of potatoes, be it on the importance of soil (the subject of an excellent presentation given this year by Trevor Sargent) or on GM or blight resistant spuds, or even a spin through the latest in spud developments from around the world (which was my contribution to this year’s event).

And ever-present, every year, has been a diverse display of potatoes – the rare, old and unusual spud collection that has been amassed, maintained and nurtured over a great many years by Dave Langford, and ably assisted in that task for the past 8 or 9 years by master vegetable grower Dermot Carey.

potato display

From my first Potato Day excursion in 2009:
what was to become the familiar sight of varieties from the Langford/Carey collection on display

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