The Humble Potato
In honor of St Patrick’s Day, a discussion about the humble white potato. As discussed previously in my post, Irish Peppers and Pattons, the potato was a mainstay for all of Ireland. What is known as the Irish potato, or white potato, originated in South America, where it grows in the high plateaus of Peru and Columbia.
Early Spanish explorers introduced it into Europe as early as 1550 and it appeared in North America somewhat later. Legend has it that the first potatoes were planted in Ireland in 1585 by Sir Walter Raleigh at “Myrtle Grove”, his manor house in Yougall, County Cork.
Raleigh had brought the potato from Virginia. The plant was so productive in Irish soil that soon, it became the principle food crop, according to the book by Edmund Clark Walsh, History of Ireland, 1918, page 122.
The nation, within a short time, became economically dependent upon the potato and as mentioned, when the blight hit, was devastating to the people of Ireland.
Potatoes form the basis for many traditional Irish dishes. As a food source, the potato is extremely valuable in terms of the amount of energy produced per unit area of crop. The potato is also a good source of many vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin C when fresh.
Boxty is a traditional Irish potato pancake that contains a mixture of mashed and grated potatoes, resulting in a unique texture that’s part pancake, part hash brown. While suitable on an Irish breakfast or supper table, boxty pairs well with other dishes.
Irish Potato Soup: The Irish love their potatoes, and this soup truly makes the most of this humble, hearty vegetable. Sautéed onions and leeks are cooked with potatoes in chicken broth, pureed until smooth, and then served hot or cold and topped with chives and crumbled bacon.
According to Wikipedia, below is a list of common Potato dishes typically prepared in Ireland:
- Boxty – a kind of potato pancake
- Champ – main ingredients: mashed potato, scallions, butter and milk
- Colcannon – main ingredients: mashed potato, kale or cabbage, and butter
- Shepherd’s Pie/Cottage Pie – main ingredients: mashed potato, minced lamb/beef, and vegetables