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Dublin: 12 °C Thursday 19 July, 2018
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GIY: 'This St Patrick’s Day I will be out (as I am every year) sowing my spuds for the year'

They are a brilliantly easy veg to grow – blight aside – and harvesting your own spuds will be like Christmas morning, writes Michael Kelly.

Michael Kelly Grower

ONE OF MY big food bug-bears at the moment is why we seem to be so obsessed with sweet potatoes (always imported, usually from north America) when our own potatoes are just as nutritious and have the advantage of being local and almost always in season.

Take away the copious quantities of fat that we often add through cooking (or post cooking) of potatoes and you have an exceptionally healthful, naturally fat-free food that is a great source of fibre, potassium, salt free, low in sugar.

It is also generally speaking an entirely unprocessed food and let’s be honest, the same simply can’t be said for pasta.

Sowing spuds

Weather permitting, this St Patrick’s Day I will be out (as I am every year) sowing my spuds for the year.

Potatoes can be grown pretty much anywhere and will actually improve poor soil. They produce a high yield from a relatively small space and store well. No wonder they have been a staple diet for Irish families for centuries.

Effectively there are two types of potatoes – earlies and maincrop. Earlies grow quickly, have no skin worth speaking of, and are usually out of the soil before blight arrives in summer.

Maincrop develop later, produce a higher yield, develop a thick skin and can therefore be stored – they are, unfortunately, more vulnerable to blight as they are in the ground during the summer months when blight conditions prevail.

Easy to grow

Potatoes are grown from “seed potatoes” which are potatoes saved from the previous year’s crop. It was traditional for Irish GIYers to save their own seed potatoes but this is generally out of favour now – better to buy certified seed potatoes each year, in case your own potatoes carry over a virus.

They are a brilliantly easy veg to grow – blight aside – and harvesting your own spuds will be like Christmas morning. Speaking of Christmas morning, I’ve heard of some GIYers who bury a biscuit tin of harvested spuds in the summer and go out and dig it up on Christmas morning. What a cracking idea.

Things to Do This Week – Sow Spuds

The soil in which you are planting potatoes requires a generous application of well-rotted farmyard manure, compost or seaweed before planting (ideally a couple of weeks before).

Sow first earlies in mid March (St Patrick’s Day traditionally) in single rows, 15cm deep, 25cm apart and 45cm between rows. Maincrop spuds are sown in mid to late April. Increase spacing to 35cm.

It is vitally important to include potatoes in your crop rotation as they are susceptible to disease if grown in the same ground year on year. Check earlies in mid June to see how they are getting on. Earlies will be ready about 14 weeks after sowing. Maincrops take 18 weeks.

I typically leave my earlies in the ground and dig as required. They do fine in the ground until September at which point we move on to maincrop. Maincrop can stay in the ground until the first frosts – lift them then and store in hessian sacks.

Recipe of the Week – Oriental Green, Carrot and Noodle Salad

shutterstock_280902533 Source: Shutterstock/diamant24

With the fine weather this week, I was in a salad mood and grabbed some carrots from storage and oriental greens from the polytunnel to make this delicious recipe. The noodles bulk it out and make it a fine meal in itself.

This will serve two people, but you can make it go a lot further simply by increasing the amount of oriental greens. The garlic and chilli-pepper add a great kick to this so beware.

Ingredients

  • A colander full of oriental green leaves – eg mizuna, tatsoi, pak choi, rocket, mustard etc
  • 1 or 2 raw carrots – cut in to fine strips
  • 8-10 small florets of sprouting broccoli, lightly blanched (2-3 minutes)
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 chilli-pepper, de-seeded and chopped
  • 1 portion of egg noodles
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce

Directions

Cook the noodles in a pot of boiling water, drain them and put aside.

Put the greens, broccoli and carrot in a large bowl and mix. In a small bowl put the sesame oil, soy sauce, chilli-pepper, garlic and ginger and stir well. Pour this over the greens and carrot in the large bowl and toss well.

Add the noodles. Toss well again and serve.

Michael Kelly is founder of GIY and GROW HQ.

Click here for more GIY tips and recipes.

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Michael Kelly  / Grower

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