Schools take part in a food heritage project using the long lost ‘Lumper’

Children from Groarty Primary School help to launch the Living Heritage Project with community horticulturist Gareth Austin. From left, Anna 'Mc Closkey 6, Evelyn Mc Closkey aged 5, Gareth Austin, chef Emmett McCourt, Irish Food Heritage Project, Finn Campbell 8 and Michael McKillop, Glens of Antrim Potatoes.
Children from Groarty Primary School help to launch the Living Heritage Project with community horticulturist Gareth Austin. From left, Anna 'Mc Closkey 6, Evelyn Mc Closkey aged 5, Gareth Austin, chef Emmett McCourt, Irish Food Heritage Project, Finn Campbell 8 and Michael McKillop, Glens of Antrim Potatoes.

GLEN’S of Antrim Potatoes and its famous ‘Lumper’ potato has joined together with horticulturist Gareth Austin to launch a food heritage project involving 12 Northern Ireland schools.

The Irish Lumper is believed to have been cultivated all over Ireland prior to 1840 and was identified as the variety of potato ruined by potato blight.

After almost disappearing from cultivation, the Irish Lumper was re-grown, starting in 2008, by Michael McKillop of Glens of Antrim Potatoes.

Local horticulturist expert Gareth Austin heard about Michael McKillop’s success with the potato and decided to try and get a few of the schools in Derry/Londonderry involved in an educational project which involves growing and cooking the famous spud.

The project will see 12 schools from across Derry-Londonderry build a Glens of Antrim raised potato bed in their school grounds, so they can cultivate their very own Lumper potatoes. When the potatoes are ready, the kids will harvest them and come together with other schools to experience how the potatoes would have been cooked and eaten back in the 1800s.

Gareth, who also has a gardening slot on BBC Radio Foyle, talked about the project,

He said: “Gardening offers schools an amazing resource which crosses over into many areas of the curriculum, and this project obviously combines history, horticulture and cooking in one. Kids get to grow a potato which is unlike most potatoes they see in the shops, and relates to a period in time that they only ever read about.”

Michael McKillop, the man behind the Irish Lumper resurgence, said he was delighted to be working with school children and added that he hoped they would benefit from taking part.

“Since provenance is at the heart of our business we are delighted to be educating the young about where the Lumper came from and how kids can grow it themselves. It’s not just about planting and growing, we want to educate children about the heritage of our food here on the island of Ireland and the benefits of having a healthy diet.”

Local Landscaper Paul O’Kane is offering assistance to the school kids on building their beds and chef Emmett McCourt, who runs the Irish Food Heritage Project in Derry, is providing cookery and recipe advice.

The schools participating in the Irish Lumper Potato Project are: Oakgrove Integrated PS, Fountain PS, Longtower PS, St Paul’s PS Slievemore, St Eithne’s PS, Ebrington PS, Lisnagelvin PS, St Therese’s PS Lenamore, St Anne’s PS, Groarty Integrated PS, St Patrick’s PS and Greenhaw PS.