It was a mighty busy week last week and no mistake. Amongst the various goings on, yours truly featured in last Friday’s installment of Dublin City FM‘s Sodshow with Peter Donegan, to which you can listen back below (and, yes, the interview was recorded much earlier this year – at Sonairte‘s Potato Day – hence the springtime talk of potatoes chitting in my hallway).
Curiously enough, it was when I reemerged from the recording of said interview that I stumbled into what I later christened The Great Potato Standoff of 2013 – an incident which had everything to do with the feverish interest generated by the return of the Lumper potato last March. And, as I learned this week, those newly-resurrected Famine-era spuds are far from a flash in the pan…
A feed of Lumpers
Back in March of this year, Marks & Spencer Ireland announced a limited three week run of Lumpers, grown for them by Michael McKillop of Glens of Antrim Potatoes. It signalled the first time that the Lumper potato – which had been the mainstay of the Irish peasant farmer in the pre-Famine era, and which had succumbed in such devastating fashion to the onslaught of blight in 1845 – had been grown in any kind of significant quantity in Ireland in around 170 years.
Spuds on the skyline: the view from Dublin’s new city centre rooftop potato patch
It makes for a very different kind of water cooler conversation.
Rows of former water cooler canisters, stacked in pairs, have been re-purposed as potato planters, the lower canisters acting as individual water reservoirs for the ones above, each of which houses a different variety of potato plant. There are 160 varieties in all – sourced from Dave Langford’s heritage potato collection – and which now peep, to varying degrees, above their funky plastic parapets. Stand around these water-vessels-turned-potato-pots for any length of time, especially with Andrew Douglas in the vicinity, and your conversation is likely to be punctuated with words like recycling, upcycling, community, education, employment and urban renewal.
Spuds to make you smile: Mona Lisa potatoes in their Dublin rooftop home
Sonairte Potato Day:
first held in 2011 and lovely to see it make a return this year
under the stewardship of Trevor Sargent, with the
Lissadell/Langford collection on display, lazy bed demonstrations, good potato eating in the café, and talks on potato growing and
on the fascinating world of the spud
I will think of it hereafter as The Great Potato Standoff of 2013.
The white-haired gentleman had, in my absence, clutched one of my two packets of Lumpers and was peering somewhat demandingly in my direction.
“Well, are they for sale or aren’t they?” he said. It was more challenge than question. He repeated it several times.