Monday 26 January 2015

Lissadell House owner has spuds in his sights

Greg Harkin

Published 28/07/2014 | 02:30

Eddie Walsh in the kitchen garden at Lissadell House in Co Sligo. Photo: James Connolly
Eddie Walsh in the kitchen garden at Lissadell House in Co Sligo. Photo: James Connolly

IT has been the staple diet of the Irish for four centuries – and now the owners of Lissadell House are gathering one of the largest collections of potatoes in the world.

The humble spud – the pratai, the purdey, the potato, the patata or, to give it its Latin name, the solanum tuberosum – remains at the heart of our lives and our tables.

For barrister Eddie Walsh, you'd have thought he had enough on his plate with civil litigation and the not-insignificant relaunch of Lissadell House following a long legal dispute.

When the ancestral home of Constance Markievicz was put into cold storage four years ago, little was written or said about an important project on the Lissadell estate – Eddie's collection of spuds.

But he's back, and so are they.

There are more than 8,000 varieties of potato in the world and just over 400 of them are edible.

Eddie Walsh's Lissadell collection contains more than half of them from dozens of different countries, from the Congo to Comber.

Walking through his collection in the famous walled garden, he says: "They are part of who we are as Irish people; they are certainly part of Lissadell and its heritage.

"A century ago Lissadell was a huge producer of both potatoes and daffodils."

He goes through each of his 220 potato varieties, expert-like, explaining their origin, their taste and when you can expect to grow them.

And what's his favourite spud? "My absolute favourite is our own Lissadell potato, the Allanah, originally bred here and absolutely lovely."

In 1915 Lissadell exported 258 varieties of daffodil. More than 50 are already back.

"That's the next project," he laughs, "I'm looking forward to that. It's great to be back in Lissadell."

Irish Independent

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