SPUDS campaign to re-brand St. Patrick’s Day as National Potato Day

The idea was put to us by a contributor to our SPUDS forum and we think it makes complete sense! Traditionally, St. Patrick’s Day is the day to plant your potatoes, but in recent years the emphasis on street festival and the pub has sidelined this family centered celebration of spring.

We all know the Irish drink too much anyway, so we are suggesting that St. Patrick’s Day be re-branded as National Potato Day, with an emphasis on our national hero, the SPUD, downgrading the pint to a supporting role, as the celebratory liquid used to toast the effort spent in planting and playing with SPUDS!

As you can see in the featured image, potatoes make an excellent substitute for the Leprechaun. In fact, when I first moved to Ireland back in the mid 1970’s, during the time when moving statues were commonplace, I remember a prominent media story about the discovery of a dead Leprechaun in a small town somewhere in Ireland. The tiny wizened body, dressed in a minutely detailed suit and hat, was laid out in a glass case in the front room of the family home where it was discovered.

For several weeks people traveled from all over the country and paid to view the phenomenon until it was discovered that the leprechaun was actually a shriveled up oddly shaped potato! Based on the fascinating output from our SPUDS Character Workshops last year, we are convinced that there is great millage to be had in this identity exchange and we are engaged in high level meetings with the Leprechaun Museum on the subject of potatoes as Leprechaun impersonators.

Our campaign has supporters from all over the globe. Here is a convincing argument from Karen Alloy , a campaigner from Minnesota USA, who provides us with a riveting history of the SPUD. Her high speed tour also touches on a subject close to our heart, the post famine horticultural development of naturally blight resistant varieties.

Help us kick off the campaign this year. We include some suggestions for activities to get you thinking below, but we are confident that you will come up with some better ideas:

  • Run a SPUDS character workshop with your kids and their friends. Pick out some oddly shaped potatoes, make them into characters (colouring, peeling, carving, etc.), dress them up as Leprechauns and wear them to the parade. Or, why not create your own parade!
  • Meet up with your GIY pals and plant a patch of SPUDS in your community garden or allotment. Collect a range of blight resistant potato varieties and hold a potato seed swap.
  • Volunteer to help a farmer plant some spuds and bring a chocolate potato cake for tea!
  • Invite the neighbours round for a pot luck dinner made exclusively out of SPUDS! See the Daily Spud for recipe ideas!
  • Engage in a guerilla potato planting party and bring a neglected piece of ground back to productive life using the Sheet Mulch Technique and organic waste sourced locally.
  • Get your street to run a spud & spoon race and other potato related games. Reward your guests with a simple inexpensive, but nutritious, feast of baked potatoes served with a selection of toppings which you invite participants to bring to the event. Provide a prize for the best topping.

We welcome your suggestions as to how we should take our campaign forward! Please post your comments below or enter a topic for discussion in our SPUDS forum. Next year we intend to demand our place in the Parade and continue our fight for the potato’s equal right to St Patrick’s Day!

Let us know what you get up to and send PHOTOS!

Sure, there’s nothing to lose, and a healthy harvest of fun and SPUDS to gain!


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14 Comments on “SPUDS campaign to re-brand St. Patrick’s Day as National Potato Day

  1. But don’t despair if you can’t plant tomorrow. Often, late-planted crops do better than early planted ones. What you are aiming at is planting when the soil has reached 8C. That way, the potatoes will start to grow immediately and will not have to wait around in cold, wet conditions until the soil warms up. Again, ideally, if you have a variety like Axona, you can get maximum yield by giving it a long growing season, so if you do plant tomorrow and you harvest first week in October, you have about 200 growing days. But if your spuds grow too big, they can form hollow hearts and you don’t want that. But hey, why not experiment and plant a few tomorrow and another batch in early April. For earlies or even early maincrops, you can still get a good crop if you leave it till May to plant. The spud is so versatile and accommodating!

    Another trick is to keep back some seed in a tray that can be left outside in a light place when frost is gone. Plant in July or even August to get nice new spuds after the frost has killed the tops. This works well with Axona. That’s when the blight resistance is really essential.

    • Great bit of advice David!

      Thank you for your contribution which doesn’t sway us from our campaign but improves our knowledge!

      I learned this last year when my ‘over achiever’ neighbours planted Sarpo Mira, as they traditionally have done for the last 10 years, on St. Patrick’s Day and I planted my Blue Danubes, almost 2 months later, on May 6th. Within weeks my Blue Danube plants were equally mature and produced a crop of fine big spuds before the Mira (they are an Early Main Crop though, Mira is a Main Crop). Some growers who planted on St. Patrick’s Day last year reported that they had lost their plants to frost, but they did revive and grew on to produce a crop.

  2. To chit or not-to-chit?
    Is there really an advantage to allowing the seed tubers to sprout inside the house? Yes, there is. Chitted seed will start to grow immediately when planted in soil that is not too cold. The plant will emerge from the soil quickly and will not have to sit around for maybe three weeks while the sprouts develop. The latter will sit in the soil for maybe three weeks before the sprouts break through the ground. When you sprout a tuber before planting, you are really advancing its age so that it will form its crop quicker and die quicker too. So, if you are not in a hurry and not wanting to get the heaviest yield, then is is good to chit. How best to chit? Set your seed in empty egg boxes or trays and place in a north facing window, not too hot and not too cold. You can watch the eyes open gradually and the sprout should swell into a sturdy wee sprout. If you find some of your seed has sprouted in the dark while you were not watching, don’t give up. Either plant them as they are, laying the sprout flat in the trench or kock the old long sprout off and it will soon form another. You can actually grow a plant from a sprout. Try it and prove me right!

    (a North window is ideal).

  3. Yes, after reading James Lang’s ‘Notes of a Potato Watcher,’ I became fascinated by the prospect of using one small tuber to produce many plants by gently breaking off the sprouts (which have little roots at the butts) and planting them directly into some potting compost. They did produce lovely little plants, but it was too late in the season for them to mature. Dying to give it a go again this year, particularly with rarer varieties of which I have been gifted one precious tuber to try…the ‘Tibet’ I got from Dermot Carey for instance!

  4. Suppose you are particularly parsimonious, like me, or have a really rare potato you want to multiply.Take a nice juicy long sprout (lengthen the sprout by keeping it dark and warm). Cut it with a sharp knife, or better still, a razor. Make cuts on either side of each bud on the sprout so that each segment has at least one bud. A good sprout can be cut ten times or more. Pot up each segment in a small pot and wait for the bud to develop and form a neat little plant to drop into the garden. Having used the sprout, leave the tuber to sprout again and do the same thing. It should be possible to get 100 stout plants for your garden from a single tuber. Try to make sure you use a certified tuber as you do not want to multiply virus disease.

  5. Wishing St.Sprout & St.Tuber a Bonny 2013 growing season.

    • A big thank you for your kind wishes for 2013!

      Judging from the weather here in Dublin, where we are enduring sheets of freezing rain under increasingly ominous skies, it looks like Dr. David Shaw’s advice will be taken, despite our re-brand campaign launch. No one in their right mind would be out planting spuds today! But sitting by the fire over a pipping hot plate of potato scones with rashers and tea…

      …now there’s a grand plan for the day that’s in it!

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  9. While I applaud your intention, elements of this idea, the article above and the image used are at the best offensive and at worst, border line racist.
    As an Irish person, an article featuring ‘stupid’ Irish people, leprechauns and potato-headed people is pretty awful. As a someone who enjoys celebrating Saint Patrick’s day for what it is: a religious and national holiday, I would object to trying to shoe-horn the potato in for some sort of commercial gain.
    I’m fully aware of the importance of potato to Irish history, society and modern agriculture. That being said, this is the wrong way to go about promoting it.

    • I appreciate your comments Shane, but it is clear that you have taken this tongue in cheek article far too seriously…

      I am also Irish and enjoy the way we Irish comfortably engage in self-depreciating humor. If you feel I called Irish people’stupid’ by referring to our drink culture I think this is unfair. The destructive nature of our national drink problem is well documented. If you were referring to the story about the Leprechaun that was really a potato, I see that story as testament to Irish ingenuity rather than degrading…and, as an artist, I would love to dress a withered potato in a little suit. The potato character project we did with the children last year was so much fun!

      As for “shoe-horning” the potato into St. Patricks Day for some sort of commercial gain: The SPUDS.ie project is a completely voluntary run research project. In 2012 we used a small donation made to our local community garden to buy 1.5 tons of potato seed which we gave away to growers. The objective of this exercise was to raise public awareness around the issues that are challenging Irish farmers and potato production in this country and to demonstrate the potential benefit of growing non-GM blight resistant potatoes to tackle our chronic problem with potato blight.

      Sarvari Research Trust who bred the blight resistant varieties we are trialling are perpetually on the brink of closure due to lack of financial support for their research and breeding programme. They require £100,000 a year to continue the development of a tried, tested and registered solution to potato blight as apposed to the multi-million investment that is currently pumped into developing GM blight resistance, the true benefit of which still remains uncertain.

      Although the article was tongue in cheek, it’s purpose was to re-engage public interest in our national staple, the potato (which has a traditional link to St. Patricks Day) and our ability to feed ourselves as a nation. Our Potato Farmers are struggling. Profits are slim at best, some believe last year was the worst year for blight since the famine and sales are down 50% due to competition from imports, pasta, rice, etc. Bord Bia are alarmed about this situation and have invested a portion of their budget to set up http://www.Potato.ie and other projects to help turn this around. In contrast, our project has no government money behind it…and is run entirely voluntarily, fueled by our passion for the subject…

      I am delighted you took the time to write and hope this explanation helps calm your irritation.

  10. Thanks for your reply. I fully appreciate the effort and hard work that has gone into this initiative. It seems like a wholly worthy attempt to re-engage the public with our social, cultural and horticultural history. No problem with that whatsoever.
    Whether ‘tongue-in-cheek” or not, I think there are elements of the article that are discomforting to say the least. In light of your very serious and well-intentioned efforts to expand our knowledge about the potato, I think this article lets you down a little; although I’m sure it was not intended to do so.
    Again, thanks for taking the time to reply.

    • Thanks Shane,

      I can take your point and will consider your comments in my future posts. From what you write, I believe you are also interested in finding new ways to re-engage with our social, cultural and horticultural history. I would welcome any ideas you might have on how this could be done!

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