Soil beds being prepared for potatoes on Inis Mór a couple of weeks ago. The dark material on the grass is seaweed.
I love potatoes. Mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, potatoes au gratin, colcannon, fried potatoes, roasties, chips or even plain old boiled potatoes – I love them all. I have memories of long, busy summer days on our farm spent bringing in the hay – a day only interrupted by an absolute haymaker of a lunch. Cabbage, bacon and lots of potatoes mashed with hot milk, scallions and rivulets of butter running through the mound of spuds…mmmmm [and everything bar the bacon grown in our own garden].
The caviar of the potato world are the new potatoes, harvested in summer. There is no better food than floury new potatoes, crumbling on the plate and seasoned with salt, pepper and, of course, butter. Until a couple of years ago, my Dad would grow a couple of beds of new potatoes in his back garden, and it was a good way of making sure that I visited more often! The beds [or lazy beds - clearly named by someone who never dug one] were a mixture of soil and farmyard manure [cattle dung mixed with straw] which gave a great boost to the potatoes.
On Sunday evening last week, I cycled past this plot on Inis Mór. It’s a bit more challenging to get a good crop of spuds on the Aran Island. Instead of farmyard manure, the farmer is using seaweed – laid down in layers between the layers of soil. Well, it isn’t really soil either – it’s mainly sand. The spuds will probably be small from these beds – but they will still be tasty, and what better meal to have on a summer’s evening on the island than a plate of new, locally-grown spuds.