The microclimate on the Emerald Isle can vary from region to region, but in general the weather is moderate. Temperature extremes are not a problem for vegetable growing in Ireland, but heavy rainfall and dampness are problems that Irish gardeners must overcome.
Not surprisingly, the most common vegetables in Ireland’s gardens are cool season crops. These include broccoli, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, parsnips, and green onions. Cucumbers and tomatoes are popular spring crops. In addition to these familiar plants, here are a few Irish vegetables that may be of interest to US gardeners and others:
Claytonia – This heart shaped leafy green grows well in shade. Juicy Claytonia leaves are rich in vitamin C and are a welcome addition to winter salads and stir-fry. Harvest young, tender leaves as needed, as this prolific self-seeder does not store well.
Corn Salad – Consistent gardening practices keep nutty-flavored, ready-to-harvest corn salad greens through the mild winter months. The 10-week maturation time doesn’t stop snails from sharing their crops, so setting up beer traps is a must in an Irish garden.
Zucchini – Don’t let the name fool you, zucchini is the French name for zucchini. Usually harvested about the size of a pencil, they are a staple of the Irish vegetable garden.
Mibuna – This easy-to-grow oriental green is more tolerant of winter cold than summer heat. Spear-shaped, mustard-flavored mibuna leaves can be used in salads, soups, and stir-fry. Harvest as a microgreen or let the plant reach maturity.
Mizuna – Another popular Irish oriental green, mizuna has a serrated leaf and a mild mustard flavor. It can also be grown and harvested as a microgreen. Plant it in a shady corner of the garden, as it doesn’t require sunlight.
Oka – An ancient crop cultivated by the Incas, Oka is a disease-resistant root tuber. Bushy plants develop enlarged rhizomes in a variety of colors, including yellow, orange, and deep red. When raw, they taste like lemon. Cook tubers like potatoes for a nutty side dish.
Everlasting Spinach – A perennial green with a milder flavor than spinach, this plant is a favorite in Irish vegetable gardens. A member of the beet family, everlasting spinach, also known as chard or chard, is incredibly hardy and can be harvested year-round. Use it the same way you would use annual spinach.
Swede – Rutabaga (rutabaga), a slower growing relative of the common turnip, is one of the most popular garden vegetables in Ireland. This vegetable with yellow flesh and root ripens in five months. It is best to dig up and store the roots until winter to prevent spoilage due to damp soil.