Archive for the ‘Fruit’ Category

GREEN SHOOTS AND LEAVES – FIRST WEEK IN FEBRUARY 2011

Snowdrops and daffodils about to burst into flower out in the shady front garden. I like to think they see it as the next best thing to woodland! Out front also the rhubarb and comfrey have awoken and the new greenery bodes well for another productive year.

Out in the back garden, the garlic cloves from Fruit Hill Farm near Bantry, planted in November last, are now sprouting forth, in spite of the severe ice and snow.

Got to cut wood for tinder using dried prunings from blackcurrant bushes and apple tree which were in storage over the summer. May not get much time in garden between now and the General Election. Wildlife on the garden may well be pleased to be undisturbed for the next few weeks. Must remember to feed the birds at least.

ENJOYABLE VISIT TO SONAIRTE, LAYTOWN, TO TALK ABOUT GROWING FOOD – FOURTH WEEK IN NOVEMBER 2010

Speaking at Sonairte

Last Sunday in spite of the snow, I sallied forth to take up an invitation to speak at the Christmas Fair in Sonairte, the National Ecology Centre in Laytown, Co Meath. Some wonderful food and crafts supported by the brave members of the public which included Ian Lumley of An Taisce and James Nix, writer on sustainability issues and broadcaster.

VOICE, the environmental organisation had a very good display there too, explaining the way our food supply depends on a huge use of fossil fuels. On average, for every 1 calorie of food we consume, we require 10 calories of fossil fuel energy. So unless we revolutionise the way we feed ourselves, the queues at petrol pumps will be overshadowed by food riots.

The fossil fuel energy embodied in our modern food production requires more debate if humanity is to survive. Talk of replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources are a start whereas throw away remarks I hear such as ‘something will turn up’ are too flippant to be seriously considered.

The scale of the energy/food challenge is illustrated best by trying to imagine a store of solar energy in a very hot world. Between 360 and 286 million years ago, (the Carboniferous Period) the conditions existed to turn dead plants and animals on land and in the sea, into mineral oil, gas and coal. In the last couple of generations we have used most of the easily accessed fossil fuels which resulted from that 74 million years of solar energy.

Apart from not having any more cheap fossil fuel in years to come, the burning of this ‘ancient energy store’ is re-creating the hot atmosphere and extreme climate of the Carboniferous Period, a period too hot for humans or even for dinosaurs.

At a time when people feel let down and disempowered, growing food to save on money and fossil fuel use and growing trees to lock up the airborne carbon and provide fruit and timber, are practical measures to create a better world than the one into which we were born.

Right now the time is right to collect leaves for leaf-mould. Fill up a few plastic sacks, punch in some air holes, and store away for a year or two. After a year the leaves have broken down enough to be used as a weed free mulch on the permanent beds, where roses and asparagus grow etc. If the ground is not frozen, this is a good time to divide rhubarb crowns. When I get a chance, I’ll be pruning the apple tree and blackcurrants in this dormant season.

LAST APPLE JUICED AND HONEY POTTED, TIME TO CLEAR GARDEN FOR AUTUMN PLANTING – SECOND WEEK IN OCTOBER 2010.

Made a start on clearing the spent pea and bean stalks and haulms. I did not dig them out, just chopped them at ground level so their roots remained in the soil. These legume roots have nodules of nitrogen fixed from the air during their growing season. I’m told this is valuable for the cabbage plants I hope to plant in this patch shortly as all the brassica family are hungry for nitrogen.

Still have beetroot to dig up and bottle for storage over the winter. Before long I will need to spread the mature compost from the composter around the garden and make a new batch by layering the compost tumbler contents with the greenery from spent veg and hedge clipping. However I’ll need to set aside a Sunday sometime soon to get a good run at that job which comes around every 6 months, autumn and spring.

BALBRIGGAN FOOD FESTIVAL STRESSES LOCAL FOOD CULTURE GOOD FOR JOBS AND BIODIVERSITY – FIRST WEEK IN OCTOBER 2010

Ar an chéad lá de Dheireadh Fómhair, d’fhreastail a lán daoine ar Fhéile Bia Bhaile Brigín a bhí urraithe as Bridgestone. Deireadh Fómhair or October literally means ‘end of Harvest’ so the first of October was a good day for the first ever Balbriggan Food Festival. The sponsorship of Bridgestone was a big help and linked the Bridgestone Food Guide with the town where Bridgestone in Ireland is based and employs many local people.

Joe English as Chairperson of Balbriggan Chamber of Commerce and Zoe Nelson, a local business woman along with the Organizing Committee deserve huge credit for the effort and intelligent planning they brought to the project. All this resulted in over 40 stands showcasing a huge range of local businesses. The scope covered hobbyist food producers like me, GIY Balbriggan and Fingal North Dublin Beekeepers….to local restaurants….to nearby farmers like Clarkes Fruit Farm and Countrycrest feeding Ireland throught supplying the big supermarkets.

About 8 of the stalls were displaying under the award winning Balbriggan Fish and Farmers’ Market which feeds the town every Friday morning on the Square from 9am – 2pm as well as being a sociable place to start or finish a shopping trip to other town centre shops and businesses.

At my own stall (below) the apples, apple juice and honey from my 2 hives were a popular sampling point at the Festival.

Aisling Kennedy of the Fingal North Dublin Beekepers Association shares a glass of apple juice with Trevor

Michael Griimes, Co-ordinator of Balbriggan Fish & Farmers Market and John McKenna, Bridgestone Food Guide author, sampling some of Trevor's apple juice

NATIONAL ORGANIC WEEK JUICING WORKSHOP – SECOND WEEK IN SEPTEMBER 2010

Monday, September 13th was the start of National Organic Week which An Bord Bia organises every year to shine a light on who and what is growing organically and where of course. A couple of months ago the invitation was extended to farmers, restaurants and growers big and small to put on an event to highlight the range of organic activities in the country. As I was going to juice some apples on that day anyway, I decided to throw open the door and host a workshop.

So the Bord Bia calendar of over 30 events in Organic Week 2010 included Trevor’s Kitchen Garden for the first time. The Irish Times was good enough to mention the event as part of the Organic Week events, even if the reference was a bit tongue in cheek! ‘Fancy a nosey around Trevor Sargent’s garden?’ was the opening line in the magazine section last Saturday.

As a result a genuinely interested  and interesting range of people dropped in. Some neighbours walked. Some came by train while others drove from nearby counties of Meath, Kildare and friends from Wexford aswell. My own trusty ‘James Grieve’ apple tree has cropped well again this year but to paraphrase a saying, ‘it takes more than one variety of apple to make a juicing demonstration and workshop’.

So, earlier I had collected from Sonairte, the National Ecology Centre, near Laytown, Co Meath, three other varieties, with the help of Sonairte gardener, Kathy Marsh. I also appreciated the use of the Sonairte juicer which I had sponsored a couple of years ago.

Not only could we compare the flavours of different apple varieties when juiced but thanks to Sonairte we could also compare cost, speed and result from the two types of juicer in use. What began as a juicing demonstration turned into a workshop quickly enough when Caoimhghín answered the call to try juicing while I washed a few more empty bottles for people to take home some flavoursome samples for the breakfast in the morning or the school going lunch boxes.

‘Worcester Pomerain’, which yield up a pink juice was quite sweet and popular with Rita. The ‘James Grieve’, I’m happy to say, had everyone licking their lips in approval. A couple of the hard men in the company liked ‘Golden Spire’ because like a spire, it was a bit sharp! ‘Lady Sudeley’ was sweet and almost strawberry flavoured at first sip but then the after-taste was a little watery to my palate. Very pleasant nonetheless.

As my guests left clutching a couple of bottles of fresh apple juice a piece, thoughts turned to cleaning up. The key thing to do is wash juicers immediately or at least soak the disassembled parts in water. If the pulp is allowed to dry the cleaning becomes a chore. Lots more apples on the tree so the cleaned juicer will be pressed into service a few more times this month and the resulting juice frozen in container to be thawed in the months to come.

TIME OUT TO CELEBRATE WITH THE ORGANIC CENTRE, CO LEITRIM – THIRD WEEK IN JULY 2010

The garden at home is bursting with produce right now. The peas and beans, kale and cabbage, chard Swiss and Rainbow are all featuring in the kitchen. Courgettes and pumpkins are in flowers. The raspberries, strawberries and blackcurrants often don’t make it as far as the kitchen. The tomatoes are ripening and the sunflowers are reaching for the sky. However, one sunflower succumbed to a slug attack. They chewed all around the base, ‘ring-barking’ the plant so it wilted. It is now unable to take up water and nutrients from the roots. The wasps then feasted on the sweet sap exposed , but ‘it wuz the slugs wot dunnit’. So copper anti-slug tape has been wrapped around the healthy tall sunflower nearby so fingers crossed I have thwarted another sneaky slug attack.

Slugs or no slugs, this weekend was a great time to gather at The Organic Centre in Rossinver, Co. Leitrim for the annual Garden Party on Sunday 18th July,  for growers and eaters of home-grown garden produce. Neven Maguire, the legendary chef from Blacklion in nearby Co. Cavan kept a huge audience enthralled by mouth-watering ways of preparing chard, tomatoes and hake. He made pesto making look really easy. I could see tongues (almost) hanging out as he prepared a delicious tiramisu.

Then  famous vegetable gardening author, Joy Larkcom and her husband Don from West Cork did a fascinating presentation on growing salads of the cut and come again varieties, with good handouts and illustrations on PowerPoint.

The team at the Organic Centre, many of whom are volunteers, provided delicious soups and lunches, teas and coffees, cakes and all manner of refreshments for the 500 or so who came for a great day out in dry warm ‘Lovely Leitrim’.

Hans and Gaby Wieland and Andy Hallewell and all the Organic Centre team were thanked by me at the end of the day just before I pulled the raffle tickets for the Castlebaldwin Donkey Sanctuary. The Centre and the Sanctuary raised a few bob and need to raise much more, I have no doubt both people and donkeys went home happy.

The Organic Centre has some great courses coming up and other events. I learned a huge amount there about picking and preparing mushrooms. Check out their website at www.theorganiccentre.ie and go visit them, they need your support.

TIME TO BRING IN THE FIRST FLUSH OF THE BLACKCURRANT HARVEST – FIRST WEEK IN JULY 2010

Fellow kitchen gardener Cathy Gaffney from down the road and her daughter Jenny helped this year to pick and share blackcurrants while the weather was dry.

I get a generous crop from just two blackcurrant bushes – or ‘Ribes Nigrum’ as the Romans (or Michael Palin in ‘The Life of Brian’) might have said! A GIY friend was saying how the birds devour her blackcurrants and she needs to net the bushes. Maybe the variety I use is not so palatable to birds – but I certainly like it, as a dessert, on porridge or as a drink when juiced. I do not have time to make jam from it so I freeze any surplus in batches to use during the year.

I did not know much about fruit bushes when I bought and planted these two bushes in 1996. As luck would have it however, I accidentally gave them ideal conditions. A well manured deep soil and moisture during the summer, a regular mulch of lawn clippings and a pH of around 6.2 . The bushes are planted on the moist banks of the small garden pond so the roots never dry out.

The only snag is the fruit is difficult to reach with all the growth nearby. So I cut out and take away the stems using a secuteurs. I can then pick the mature fruit at the kitchen table. This makes the harvest an easier and more sociable activity. At the table a kitchen fork can also be used to remove the bulk of the fruit which speeds up the operation.

One drink using balckcurrants I have not yet tried is Cassis – apparently it is made from the juice mixed with a dry white wine and I’m told it goes down a treat on a hot day. Let me know if you can vouch for this or if you have other useful tips about  the beautiful blackcurrant.