I would hazard a guess – for those in Ireland and the UK at any rate – that there’s hardly a man, woman or child who has not, at some time, been touched by the life’s work of one John Clarke. Certainly, if you’ve ever savoured a bag of fat, golden, creamy-on-the-inside, vinegared-on-the-outside chip-shop chips, what you’ve eaten owes a certain debt to this unassuming man of Antrim.
To say that Mr. Clarke (1889-1980) was a potato breeder of note is somewhat of a understatement. Though he left school at the age of 12 and had no formal scientific or horticultural training, he was responsible for the development of 33 certified varieties of potato, most of which bear the prefix Ulster, and some of which were subsequently cross-bred to produce varieties very familiar to us: Maris Piper, long the potato of choice for the chipper, is a second generation (or F2) descendant of a John Clarke variety, Ulster Knight, and most of you will have eaten Maris Pipers, even if, at the time, their name was a mite less important than their role as a welcome source of soakage.
John Clarke, Potato Wizard by Maurice McHenry
Don’t forget, there’s still time (if you’re reading this on Sunday 26th, that is) to add your name to the hat for some spuddy goodies from Keogh’s. Pop over here, leave a comment and come right back now, y’hear?
Flying the spud flag
So that’s it folks, another National Potato Day over.
It may seem a small thing but, when I started this blog almost four years ago, no such day existed. Then, in what was truly an inspired marketing move, spud-farmers-turned-crisp-manufacturers Keogh’s got the ball rolling last year with the inaugural potato shindig, and while they are still the main movers behind National Potato Day, it’s an event that, to me, has clear potential to grow in years to come (but, there again, I would say that).
I need some of these for my next party...
…or rather, these spuds are for one of you.
Yes, hang around here long enough and you’re likely to be the proud recipient of something spud-like, in this case a hamper of goodies – including a selection of crisps and easy-cook potato family packs – from those spud innovators, Keogh’s, whose second National Potato Day – this coming Saturday, August 25th – is nigh upon us.
The full extent of the festivities for the event will be revealed in the coming days and though – lucky girl that I am – I have been privy to a sneak preview of same, I have also been sworn to official secrecy on the matter. Suffice to say, however, that there will be no shortage of splendiferous spuddery on the day. In the meantime, while you attempt to keep the inevitable excitement at bay, there are a number of things you can do:
(1) Add a comment below sometime before midnight (GMT) next Sunday, August 26th, if you’d like your name in the hat for the spuddy hamper pictured above and if you are the proud possessor of an address in the Republic of Ireland to which it can be sent. I’ll pick a winner and notify the happy recipient on Monday August 27th and the spuds and crisps and I-love-spuds paraphernalia will be on their way.
(2) Pop over to Keogh’s and sign their petition to make the spud the official national vegetable of Ireland.
(3) To be in with a chance of other goodies, check out potato.ie and enter their National Potato Day quiz – with the rather fabulous prize of a short break for two in Catherine Fulvio’s Ballyknocken House and Cookery School, which includes one night’s accommodation with breakfast, a four course dinner (with spuds I hope!) plus pre-dinner drink as well as places on a half-day weekend cookery class. Wouldn’t mind winning that little lot myself!
Update 7/9/12: Congratulations to spud fan Aoife O’Regan, who fought off stiff competition in the selection of a number from random.org to nab the Keogh’s hamper, the edible contents of which I am sure have been well eaten by now!