Sat | Oct 16, 2021

Appreciating Irish potatoes

Published:Saturday | July 16, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Freda Fraser (left) and Dianne Bailey sort through the crates of Irish potatoes in Devon, Manchester. Fraser carefully looks for the rejects as well as those for the local and international markets. - Photo by Christopher Serju

CHRISTIANA, Manchester:

I AM not particularly fond of Irish potatoes, but watching the ladies hard at work sorting through the different sizes of Irish potatoes and seemingly enjoying every moment of it, I have developed a new appreciation for the garden crop.

Irish potato is an important crop in the diet of many Jamaicans. In 2008, the total consumption was 12,454,000kg, with local production contributing only 4,929,000kg, or 39.6 per cent of the country's Irish potato demand. Therefore, Jamaica is heavily dependent on imports to satisfy the local demand.

Freda Fraser hails from Devon, an adjoining district in the Christiana area. She has been working at the Colleyville sorting facility for three years. While she sorted through the different sizes; those for the hotels, the higglers, the supermarket, and even the rejected ones, I realised there was so much to learn about this produce.

Of course, I watched and listened intently as she demonstrated how to detect the rejected potatoes. Swiftly combing through each crate, she displayed those that had green edges, stemmed end rot, greening, pink rot, knobbiness, common scabs, and were blighted. These, she indicated, would be returned to the farmers.

There is some truth that a little knowledge is indeed power. So, most definitely when I go to the supermarket or market I'll be looking more closely at the potatoes I'll be purchasing.

"I was a higgler before, but I like this job better. I even plant some Irish potatoes. It is quite good for the community 'cause when you plant one seed you get six big ones, small ones and even the rejections," Fraser said. "You can sell them and even help your neighbour, and even replant them."

The water content of Irish potatoes is about 75 per cent, and it gives 97 kilo calories per 100 grams. Potatoes are a good source of carbohydrate and provide only 1.6 grams of protein for every 100 grams. This protein, patatin, works as an effective antioxidant.

Dianne Bailey also added her voice to the importance of the produce to the community. She is from Silent Hill in the area, and thinks potato farming is a good investment.

"It provides employment for persons in the community so they can help their families. Job is scarce now, so it's good to be employed," Bailey said.