It's natural to think an Irish vegetable garden contains potatoes. After all, the Irish potato famine of the 1840's is a history book icon. The truth is vegetable gardening in Ireland isn't too different from elsewhere. Gardeners on the Emerald Isle deal with weather and battle pests and diseases like the rest of us. Often, these issues determine which Irish vegetables can be successfully grown and harvested. So, let's take a look at what Irish gardening is really like.
Vegetable Gardening in Ireland
Microclimates on the Emerald Island can vary from region to region, but generally the weather is moderate. Temperature extremes aren't an issue for vegetable gardening in Ireland, but abundant rainfall and soggy conditions are problems Irish gardeners must overcome.
Not surprisingly, the most common vegetables found in Ireland gardens are cool season crops. These include broccoli, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, parsnips, and scallions. Cucumbers and tomatoes are popular summer crops. In addition to these familiar plants, here are several Irish vegetables that U.S. gardeners and others might find interesting:
- Claytonia – This heart-shaped leafy green grows well in the shade. The succulent claytonia leaves are high in vitamin C and are a welcome addition to winter salad and stir-fry. Pick the young, tender leaves as needed since this prolific self-seeder doesn't store well.
- Corn Salad – Successive gardening techniques keep the nutty flavored corn salad greens ready for harvest throughout the mild winter months. The ten week maturity time doesn't deter the snails from sharing the harvest, so setting out beer traps is a necessity in the Irish vegetable garden.
- Courgette – Don't let the name fool you, a courgette is the French term for a zucchini. Usually harvested when they're pencil sized, these are an Irish vegetable garden staple.
- Mibuna – This easy-to-grow oriental green is more tolerant of winter cold than summer heat. The spear-shaped and mustard flavored mibuna leaves can be used in salad, soup, and stir fry. Harvest repeatedly as a microgreen or allow the plant to attain mature size.
- Mizuna – Another popular Irish gardening oriental green, mizuna has a serrated leaf and a mild, mustard flavor. It can also be grown and harvested as a microgreen. Plant this one in a shady corner of the garden as it doesn't require full sun.
- Oca – An ancient crop cultivated by Incas, Oca is a blight resistant root tuber. The bushy plants produce enlarged rhizomes in a variety of colors including yellow, orange, and deep red. They have a lemon flavor when eaten raw. Cook the tubers like potatoes for a nutty tasting side dish.
- Perpetual Spinach – A perennial leafy green with a milder flavor than spinach makes this plant a favorite in the Irish vegetable garden. A member of the beetroot family, perpetual spinach, also known as chard or leaf beet, is incredibly hardy and can be harvested year-round. Use it in the same manner as annual spinach.
- Swede – A slower growing relative of the common turnip, swede (rutabaga) is one of the most popular vegetables found in Ireland gardens. This yellow fleshed root veggie takes five months to reach maturity. It's best to dig and store roots before winter to prevent spoilage from soggy soil.
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Laura Miller has been gardening all her life. Holding a degree in Biology, Nutrition, and Agriculture, Laura's area of expertise is vegetables, herbs, and all things edible. She lives in Ohio.
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