December is a time of year synonymous with friendship as we exchange cards, gifts, hugs and best wishes. Last week a group of community gardeners and stakeholders involved in Gleann na Bearu garden in Bagenalstown, Co Carlow sat together and shared food. We were celebrating the achievements of the 11 people who had just completed a 12 week horticultural pilot programme I’ve been facilitating in the garden. I asked one of the community gardeners, Susan, if I could share the Kale and Spinach Soup recipe she made for the occasion using produce from the garden; you’ll find the recipe below.
Though the format was similar, this gardening course was different from others I’ve been involved with. It goes a step further in that the group will be undertaking three more modules in the New Year funded by Carlow County Development Partnership (CCDP), namely First Aid Responder, Manual Handling and Basic Machinery.
All this basic training will combine to provide members of the group with a Certificate they will be able to present to future employers, giving the community gardeners a helping hand back to work if they ever need to use it. Their work experience is ongoing, albeit in a voluntary capacity in the community garden.
I wrote a case study about how this garden began and their progression over the last two years on the Community Gardens Ireland website, but as we were all reminded by Denis Shanahan from Respond during the end of year celebration, “it was due to the willingness of all the stakeholders to work together, that the garden and the people who meet in it were given the best support we could offer them.”
Carlow Youth Services, CCDP, Carlow/Kilkenny Education Training Board, Respond Housing and Carlow Council through Local Agenda 21, as well as Greenside Up have all put time, money and effort into this project and in a way, Susan’s soup was a marker for us all on its success to date.
Gleann na Bearu Community Garden Went Live on Facebook:
As we shared the homemade bread, buns and sandwiches provided by the other gardeners and listened to the short presentations from a couple more about what the course has meant for them (you can read Frances Micklem’s summary here on her Harmony Hall blog), Susan, who lives in the middle of this rural town and who is now officially our best garden soup maker, summed up what being a member of this community garden has meant for her:
“I didn’t know how to garden until I came here, I’d never seen vegetables growing, or knew what most of them were. I didn’t really know how to cook other than the basic ham, veg and potato dinners but now I’m cooking all sorts.”
Susan had also mentioned in the past that the garden is the only place she meets people other than online or in her immediate family circle.
Gleann na Bearu community garden is full of laughter, singing and fun as well as work and learning. My thoughts are that it’s due to the diversity of people who come together every week to learn and socialise in it. I should also mention that Susan made vegan blueberry buns recently to cater for one of our gardeners and she also participated in the Community Gardens Ireland Better Together video entry below. It’s not just the flowers I’ve watched blossom in that garden:
Kale and Spinach Soup Recipe
At a time of year when we need as much energy as we can muster, we hope you’ll cook, taste and share this soup recipe. Kale and Spinach are packed full of vitamins, fibre and minerals that will help keep our digestions healthy. Susan assured us all that even the non cabbage eaters in her home enjoyed it and the gardening group can confirm, it was delicious! Apart from the ginger and coriander, all the ingredients listed below were grown in the community garden this year, making it an almost free meal for up to 20 people.
Susan’s kale and spinach soup ~ serving 20 people
6 bunches of kale
6 bunches of spinach
1 bunch of parsley
2 kg potatoes
6 cloves of garlic
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp coriander
4 vegetable stock cubes in about 3 ltrs of boiling water (enough to cover the vegetables)
Chop your onions and garlic and lightly fry them do not let them go brown.
Add your chopped up kale spinach and potatoes along with your seasoning and cover with your vegetables stock which you make using your stock cubes and water.
Bring to boil then simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are cooked.
Using a hand blender blend your vegetables to make a smooth soup and serve and enjoy.
Community gardening is so much more than planting a few veggies, digging or making compost. There are jobs for everyone and you can usually chose the one you like the best; the enjoyment one might get from digging can often be offset by the pleasure another gets from weeding. Community gardening is about friendship and sharing, it’s about empowering people, learning about food and the environment, biodiversity and working alongside others; it’s about supporting one another and inclusiveness. It’s as much about creating a community as it is about gardening.
If you’d like to learn more about community gardening or are looking for a community garden speaker, consultant or tutor in Ireland, contact me for further information. Let’s get community gardens growing everywhere.