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Food Heroes

Balls of Flour!

Recently I visited Michael Dunphy’s farm near Dunmore East to see how this year’s crop of “British Queens” were doing.  The quality of these potatoes is well known and appreciated by our customers and their arrival is eagerly anticipated. You haven’t tasted potatoes at their very best until you have tasted “Bena’s Queens”!

Bena was Michael’s mother and he learned the craft from her.  It is over 30 years since she began delivering potatoes to us. She was a character!  A small, wiry, bustling grafter, she had complete confidence in the quality of her product. Her potatoes sold well from the beginning and soon outsold all others while they were in season.  Bena delivered faithfully 3 times a week and I dealt with her many times, checking in the delivery and paying her cash from the till. (Always C.O.D. in those days!)  She would often get impatient with me for insisting that the bags were labeled in accordance with regulations - she reckoned that my threat to refuse her delivery was probably a bluff!  She died in 2006 and I still miss the bit of craic we had.

Anyway, enough of my reminiscences!  The important thing is that Michael reckons that the first of the queens will be ready this weekend!

I asked him why his potatoes are consistently so good.  I think I expected a simple answer but it’s actually quite complex.  It seems to have a lot to do with the preparation of the soil, which involves various types of manure and starts many months before the seeds are planted.  Michael explained that he will grow potatoes in the same field only every 4 or 5 years, to allow the soil to recover from the effort.  And there are the characteristics of the soil itself, which is a light reddish brown, well drained and slightly stony.  Michael values the stones, which he says adds to the quality.  I can’t remember why.

He doesn’t grow a whole lot of them, just enough to supply us and a local shop in Dunmore.  So if you call to us over the next few weeks, be sure to get some Bena’s Queens, some sea salt and real butter!

Enjoy the best potatoes in Ireland!

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