A GROUP of thieves have broken into a convent garden "in the dead of the night" and made off with half the nuns' Christmas crop of Brussels sprouts.
Sister Julie Newman, from the convent just outside Wicklow town, said she is "very upset" over the theft, describing it as a huge setback for the staff who have tended to the sprout plants for two years.
She told the Irish Independent last night: "We went up (to the field) this morning, and they were all gone – completely stripped – the stalks and everything.
"We had just been saying that we'd start harvesting this weekend for the farm shop and then continue harvesting right up until Christmas.
"It's not just the monetary value. It's when you think of the effort that people went to in caring for them," Sr Newman added.
She said the nuns believe that the sprouts will now be sold as high-end organic produce for the Christmas market.
The vegetables are biennial, so it takes two years to bring Brussels sprouts to full maturity.
While some produce at the farm has been stolen before, Sr Newman says the thievery was never on this scale.
"I feel sorry for our staff. They have minded them and cared for them all along, and someone came in the dead of the night and stole all of them.
"We would have the odd bit of pilfering of potatoes and onions, but this was deliberate. It wasn't just someone looking for a few vegetables for their dinner.
"We were up there yesterday admiring the Brussels sprouts, which we have on an eighth of an acre. They took about half of the crop", she added.
Sr Newman earlier told Joe Duffy's 'Liveline' radio show that every Christmas, the centre sells its Brussels sprouts at markets around Bray and Kilruddery. But not this Christmas.
"We sell them through the farm shop and markets.
"We believe very much in local, organic vegetables."