Bards and tatties…

The area of Scotland known as Ayrshire is shown on the map above.

This week it is relevant across the nation – as we celebrate the birth of the National Bard, Robert Burns. Born in Alloway in Ayrshire on January 25th 1759, Burns grew up in hardship, working as a boy on the local farmland. His father was a “tenant farmer” (meaning he worked the land but did not own it) and the many children in the Burns family grew up not going to school as we know it but working hard in the fields. Much of his early teaching came from his father, but later on Burns was sent to Dalyrimple Parish School. However, this was only at times when the farm was not too busy – Burns was withdrawn from the school at harvest time to help bring in the crops.

Robert Burns’ association with farming and growing food is strong – he is often referred to as the Ploughman Poet or the Bard of Ayrshire.

Ayrshire itself is renowned for its potatoes and other farm produce. Go to any supermarket and you will find any of the following foods

  • Ayrshire bacon
  • Ayrshire milk
  • Ayrshire butter
  • Ayrshire cheddar
  • Ayrshire potatoes
  • Ayrshire lamb
  • Ayrshire beef

The land of the Ploughman Poet or the Bard of Ayrshire is very much the land of homegrown produce.

This week in ELP Gardening we will be looking at the foods of Ayrshire in celebration of Burns’ Night. How do they make up part of the Burns Supper? Where would they be grown and how would they be looked after?

Could we grow any of these products ourselves?

We will especially concentrate on two aspects of the Burns Supper – potatoes and neeps (turnips). Both root vegetables, we will find out what they grow from, where they grown and how the farmer tends them. We will ask important questions such as

  • what time of year do you plant potatoes and turnips
  • what do you actually need to plant? (seeds, bulbs, tubers?)
  • what temperatures and light do these plants need?
  • when are they harvested?
  • how can we grow some of our own?

We will also pop along to our school’s Home Economics department to see how they make up their vegetable bags for staff – all of the goodies that go inside these bags are home grown Scottish vegetables.

After making a list of the East Lothian grown foods in the vegetable bag we will try to find out how many of these foods are also grown in Burns Country.

Here’s a clue for starters!


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