Posts Tagged ‘The Organic Centre’

LIFTING THE ONION CROP WITHOUT BRUISING – 3rd wk in August 2014

A GIY expert told me once to lift onion carefully. It may be useful to imagine they are fragile like eggs. Bruised onions do not store as well as the perfect specimens. Overall our onion crop, which was planted through holes cut in black plastic to suppress weed growth, looks good with the tops wilting to indicate readiness for harvest.

Most of the sets planted were Sturon which are known to be better at storing. WE also grew a red onion called Red Baron which is also ready to be harvested. The early onion sets, Jet Set, sown on March 31st last, are intended to be used first. However, all need to be lifted and dried so they will keep well until required.

Some years ago on a visit to The Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co. Leitrim, I bought a two-pronged trowel, with a view to deep weeding to exact dock roots and the like. I now discover, this long pronged trowel is perfect for gently easing the onion bulbs out of the ground from below with a prong on either side of the root. As a result we have about 400

My trusty 2-pronged trowel gently lifts the onions without any bruising. Hopefully we can use the black plastic on another plot for next year's crop.

My trusty 2-pronged trowel gently lifts the onions without any bruising. Hopefully we can use the black plastic on another plot for next year’s crop.

well formed onions to store. We go through a fair number of onions as you can imagine – when pickling and cooking needs are considered.

Sadly, it is becoming more and more difficult to find Irish grown onions in the supermarkets. Some years ago, of the onions bought in Ireland, only 15% were Irish grown. Let us grow more and get that percentage up! A good onion to plant this autumn would be a variety called Radar.

LENGTHS OF PIPING HELP DIRECT WATERING TO ROOTS – 3rd wk in September 2013

In my own garden, I have a collection of up turned mineral bottles stuck in the soil near plants which need frequent watering. These bottomless bottles act like funnels which are filled with water and left to allow the soil soak up the water underground where the roots can benefit from the moisture. Other benefits

Yellow plastic watering pipes in a polytunnel at The Organic Centre, Co. Leitrim.

Yellow plastic watering pipes in a polytunnel at The Organic Centre, Co. Leitrim.

of this watering technique is that the soil surface stays drier, thus impeding the movement of slugs and snails. This drier soil also makes hoeing of weeds easier.

A variation on this theme was spotted on a recent visit to The Organic Centre in Co. Leitrim. The lengths of pipe were procured and buries like periscopes sticking out of the soil near the plants needing irrigation. This is certainly a more cost effective way of doing the same thing – if old plastic mineral bottles are in short supply.

POND IN A POLYTUNNEL – 1st wk in September 2013

I always look forward to a visit to The Organic Centre min Rossinver, Co. Leitrim. The place is full of unusual ideas – unusual to me, that is. On my last visit, the polytunnels were all looking well, mainly growing all manner of fruit and vegetables. One polytunnel, however, was chock-a-block with flowering plants, grown for cutting and arranging. Needless to say, these flowers were also attracting all manner of pollinating insect, which, in turn benefitted the fruit and vegetable plants also.

In the corner of the floral polytunnel was installed a pond. It was in itself were decorative, but I suspect the organic minds behind the idea, were first and foremost thinking holistically. This pond helps to sustain the pest controlling insects and frogs.

Pollinating

The pond in the floral polytunnel at The Organic Centre, Co. Leitrim.

The pond in the floral polytunnel at The Organic Centre, Co. Leitrim.

bees in particular need water and a pond amongst flowers makes for an ideal bee environment.

BEST COURGETTE CROP YET DUE TO GOOD SUNSHINE THIS SUMMER – 3rd wk in August 2013

For a vegetarian, the courgette cut lengthways  makes for two very versatile dishes. I have scooped out many courgette halves this summer and tried all manner of fillings, before roasting each nutritious ‘boat’ into a piping hot kaleidoscope of flavours.

Last summer was a disaster for my courgette patch and 2011 before that wasn’t much better. Whereas before, I was lucky to get three or four decent fruits, this year they are (as people say) coming out my ears! I know the weather was a key factor as the one packet of ‘Nero di Milano’ seeds from The Organic Centre in Co. Leitrim has lasted me three years. In my small garden, four plants is all I can really fit in the courgette patch.

Another factor may be that in 2011 and 2012, my seeds were sown under glass in mid May, whereas this year with the higher temperatures, I started seed off in 3 inch pots under glass on the 30th April. More sun, a longer growing season and a lower slug population all helped. When I saw they were growing well, I doused the ground with buckets of water from the washing up once or twice a week too.

It is a pleasure to have more food than I need for a change from my

Some of the courgette harvest, except for the big one. This is from the Goatstown allotment of Eve and Áine. Turn your back and courgettes become marrows!

Some of the courgette harvest, except for the big one. This is from the Goatstown allotment of Eve and Áine. Turn your back and courgettes morph into marrows!

small garden. Courgettes, I have discovered, make very acceptable presents. In return one tends to get unusual cooking tips. To learn about how to preserve them, I must book a course with food preserving guru, Hans Wieland, on Saturday 28th September for just €40 in Sonairte, Laytown, Co. Meath. See www.sonairte.ie. The course is called ‘Home Preserving – Traditional and Modern Methods’. See you there!

VISIT THE ORGANIC CENTRE, CO. LEITRIM, TO ENJOY BEING INSPIRED – 2nd wk in July 2013

It was a pleasure to be asked once again to speak at The Organic Centre, Rossinver, in County Leitrim. My presentation ‘Building Food Resilience in Local Communities – from Ireland to Uganda’ will be shortly on the website www.organiccentre.ie. Last Sunday was the Annual Garden Party and The Organic Centre looked stunning in the sunshine, as did the 2000 hectares of Lough Melvin nearby. The polytunnels were warmer than I can ever remember, but the tomatoes were loving every minute of that heat, as was Hans Wieland and the large group he was guiding from plots to orchards to polytunnels.

Over 30 varieties (of the 7,500 tomato varieties world wide) are being grown there at present. The idea is to carry out a tasting experiment to select the very best tasting tomato varieties, in the opinion of some very well trained palates. My good friend Neven Maguire is renowned for his palate, so I am sure his opinion on this taste test will be awaited with interest. The variety ‘Sungold’ is regarded by many as the top tasting tomato of those commonly grown in Ireland. The skin is an amber colour, not unlike one of

One of The Organic Centre displays describing some characteristics of different tomato varieties growing there.

One of The Organic Centre displays describing some characteristics of different tomato varieties growing there.

the Kilkenny colours in hurling. But like Kilkenny, ‘Sungold’ may not win every contest! In August, the tomato ‘All-Ireland’ will be decided at The Organic Centre.

IF YOU SEE NEVEN MAGUIRE AT BLOOM, ASK HIM ABOUT GROWING MICRO-GREENS! – 3rd wk in May 2013

Top chefs like Neven Maguire are setting new trends again. This time they are growing and serving very young seedling plants and sprouted seeds. This is what many people call ‘micro-greens’.

GIY Ireland fan, Mark Diacono and Lia Leendertz have written a book called ‘The Speedy Vegetable Gardener’ (Timber Press) in which they enthuse about micro-greens. These speedy gardeners tell us that,  ‘ As well as being the speediest possible route to leafy greens, micro greens are flavour bombshells. Added to salads of larger leaves they impart zing and liveliness, but they can also be used as a salad in themselves or as a flavouring – they bring a punch of vibrant taste to whatever they are added to.

Micro greens are just tiny seedlings of plants we usually harvest when they are more fully grown. They are sown into compost and grown in light like any normal seedling, but harvested just a week or so after germination when they’ve produced their first pair of leaves.

The plants that work best as micro greens are those with intense flavour and/or colour. Coriander, basil, fennel, radish and the oriental leaves are all great to try. At micro stage they contain the essence of their fully grown selves, only more concentrated, so you get a burst of flavour, stronger and often cleaner than it would be if you left the plant to grow to maturity’.

Áine and myself visited Neven Maguire in County Cavan,  at his famous Blacklion restaurant, McNean House, recently. Also impressive, but a little less famous, is Neven’s kitchen garden. With help from Hans & Gaby Wieland and

Neven's secret to great flavours, home-grown micro-greens sown in guttering in the polytunnel.

Neven’s secret to great flavours, home-grown micro-greens sown in guttering in the polytunnel.

 The Organic Centre nearby in Rossinver, Co. Leitrim, Neven, Amelda and their team are growing all manner of fresh veg and herbs in polytunnels, including micro – greens. You can read more about Neven’s growing techniques in his interview on pages 154 – 155 in (yes you’ve guessed it!) ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’ (www.orpenpress.com).

THE ORGANIC CENTRE, CO. LEITRIM – A WARM WELCOMING PLACE – 3rd Week in July 2012

Drawing a graph at my talk in the Organic Centre to show how human population growth has relied more and more on fossil fuels (since 1909). To feed humanity in a post oil world, town and country folk must grow more food.

A long standing invitation to speak at the annual Garden Party in the Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co. Leitrim, led to a very enjoyable visit there this week. Last Sunday, in fact. A programme of workshops was both entertaining and informative. The legendary Hans Wieland gave tips on growing a year round supply of salad leaves. For good health, he suggests a salad starter before a meal to help the body prepare for digesting the substantial food to follow in the main course.

Big supporter of the Organic Centre, local TV chef, Neven Maguire undertook a full cookery demonstration in a packed barn. Neven is a master of multi-tasking, as he can talk and cook at the same time … not a common male trait, speaking personally! His famous family was there too, much to the delight of the crowd, Amelda and the twins, Conor and Lucia. The sun shone.

Before Ingrid did her composting demo and Gaby Wieland did the herb workshop, I was asked to do a gardening presentation in the context of future food security. In effect the presentation was a blatant plug for the book ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’ which is almost sold out – must print more! However, as proceeds from the book sales are going to help SEED (Sustainable Earth Education Development) network, of which the Organic Centre and Sonairte etc are members, the audience was very generous in relieving me of a box of books. Must get on to www.orpenpress.com to see how many copies are still in stock.