Irish people can’t grow potatoes? We’ve been doing it for years!

Ireland’s ability to grow potatoes was questioned recently by an Australian political advisor who said we “can’t grow potaotes”.

The comments were made by Grahame Morris, which came as part of a debate on marriage equality where he said that the trigger for Australia being bumped into a vote was a vote in Ireland.

He then went on to say the following about Irish people growing potatoes:

Now I love the Irish, the parliament is full of Irishmen but these are people who can’t grow potatoes, they’ve got a mutant lawn weed as their national symbol and they can’t verbalise the difference between tree and the number three.

However, we’ve been growing potatoes for years. While it is thought that the potato reached Europe in the hands of returning Spanish explorers around 1570, how the potato came to be introduced into Ireland is not precisely known.

Popular myth credits its introduction at Youghal, Co. Cork by Sir Walter Raleigh, while others say the potato was washed up on the shores of Cork after the wreck of the Spanish Armada in the area.

Initially potatoes were used as a supplementary vegetable by all social groups, potato.ie says.

In the poorest section of society however, it gradually replaced other foodstuffs and together with milk or buttermilk became the main component of the daily diet, it says.

Its popularity was such that 10-12 lbs/day was the average consumption for an adult male and in 1845 2,516,000 acres, were tilled with potatoes.

This fell to just over 1m acres in 1846 and to a much-reduced 248,000 acres in 1847, at the same time as the famine, potato.ie says.

Falling Consumption

However, according to Bord Bia analyst Lorcan Bourke, if present trends continue, consumption in Ireland will drop from 162,000t a year at present to less than 100,000t by 2023.

“The potato remains Ireland’s number one carb and sales are still far ahead of alternatives such as pasta and rice, but it has been in a state of decline in recent years that will continue if nothing is done,” he said.

Earlier this year the EU Commission approved 50% EU co-funding for ‘Potato Potential’, a €4.3m programme to promote potatoes on the Irish and UK markets.

Take a look at the video, where Ireland’s ability to grow spuds is mentioned at 07.45:

Video credit: Campaigns and Communications Group.

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