TRANSITION TOWN AND GIY MEETINGS MAKE FOR ENJOYABLE SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS – THIRD WEEK IN DECEMBER 2011

It is heartening to be asked to visit and speak at meeting all over Ireland where people are developing greater self-reliance in food growing, but also in energy management, sustainable employment and all kinds of ways to live in harmony with nature.

Local people in Rush who are in tune with global challenges coming down the tracks have set up R.O.O.T.S., in other words Rush Open Organisation for Transition Status. Dermot Higgins, a local teacher with a young family, called the meeting and it was packed, in Rush Community Centre. In fact a bigger room in hindsight would have been handy. Nonetheless, everyone got involved, had their say and planned the next stage towards making Rush a ‘transition town’.

For my part, I spoke about the need to look seriously at how this countrycould feed itself, given that Irish imports of fruit and vegetables have risen from €344 million in 2003 to over €496 million in 2010. Buying Irish grown produce is vital. Likewise supporting farmers’ markets and local shops will help maintain local economies and growing a wider variety of fresh produce locally is key to making us more resiliant. The current quest for food security has parallells with the measures taken during the Second World War. ‘Dig for Victory’ was the cry then. Today the danger is not so muchm about merchant shipping being bombed, it is that everyday shiploads of imported food, tansport fuel and agri-chemicals could in time be unable to afford the oil they currently take for granted to carry on the globalised food business. 

Monaghan Grow It Yourself group understands better than most people the pleasure as well as the necessity to grow more of our own food.  Monaghan GIY asked me to drop in and do an apple juicing demonstration last night. I was delighted to take up the invitiation. The venue, Monaghan Market House is now beautifully restored and a very spacious, bright art gallery and concert venue as well a community meeting place. Having arrived and washed my hand, I set up the juicing equipment. While Gavin Shipley, who invited me, Seán PRO and the 30 or so GIY-ers attending broke in to pods to discuss the intricacies of growing, storing and using garlic, I dispensed a sup of homemade apple juice to  everyone there.

The waste of apples in neglected gardens and orchards around the country is  a terrible reflection of how ill-prepared we are as a country to store good homegrown food and feed ourselves. Meanwhile Ireland imports about €57 million worth of foreign apples every year. The value of Irish apples sold is just €6 million. Our biggest commercial variety is the cooking apple Bramley. Some great dessert apples are also grown and sold here like Elstar, but most of the Royal Gala and Pink Lady types are imported from slightly warmer climates. Warmer climate apples tend to have a longer shelf life as their flesh is often denser. They are not as good for juicing however, I find.

My objective in Monaghan therefore was to encourage people to club together, buy a good juicer, and juice any apples which would not store for long periods. This juice, if not drunk within 3 days, could be frozen in clean lunchboxes etc as ‘blocks of juice’, ready to be thawed and served any time until next year’s apple harvest.

The second objective was to suggest how apples can be stewed with some spices and sultanas and then cooled and frozen for use when no local apples are in season. I know many people who make and freeze apple tarts and many other such delicacies, but space in my freezer is too limited for all that pastry as well as apple. Others just chop up the apples and freeze the pieces for making pies, sauces and other apple dishes when required.

Many people at the meeting were already growing one or more apple trees. While the trees are bare at this time of year, the pleasure of enjoying the gift of a fruit harvest which keeps on giving throughout the Winter and Spring is just one more reason to become involved in G.I.Y. by looking up your local group’s contact details on www.giyireland.com.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Alec on December 24, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Any contact info Trevor for the ROOTS initiative?

    Reply

  2. Posted by Brid McGrath on January 15, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Hi Trevor, gach rath i gcomhair an athblian. Go bmeidh blian iontach agat.

    2 ceisteanan

    1) What should I be planting next
    2) where can I get buck;ed leaved sorrell? I had it in my last garden but it did not survive moving to this house. It was one of the most useful things I grew – great for salads, soups, fillings for omlettes and sauces for fish.

    best regards

    Reply

    • Hi Bríd,

      Sorry for delay in responding. Never sourced sorrel, so asking around. Will be back to you soon hopefully. Regards to you, Simon and the gang.

      Le meas,

      Trevor

      Reply

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