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Festivals

Food & Drink, Travel

Two Squash Soup & Kilkenny Food Camp

October 28, 2012
Thanksgiving Cornbread from Ron Wise at Savour Kilkenny

Thanksgiving Cornbread from Ron Wise at Savour Kilkenny

Kilkenny is buzzing this week with the sixth year of the annual food extravaganza that is Savour Kilkenny currently taking place. There’s so much happening in the Marble City – from cooking demonstrations  competitions, foraging and markets, tasting, talks and tasty tweet ups – every year the programme looks better and better.

Unfortunately I’ve yet to spend time at more than the atmospheric weekend market or for the third year running, Food Camp, but maybe next year we’ll make it to one of the evening meals instead of watching them unfold on twitter from the comfort of the sofa.

Blight Resistant Potatoes

Blight Resistant Potatoes on the Parade

I’m a big fan of the Food Camp which I’ve written about before and would encourage anyone who hasn’t yet been to one to make a date for next year.

Food Camp is a place where anyone with an interest in food is encouraged to talk about it. This sharing of passion sends you home motivated, worried, excited and above all more informed about aspects of the food world than you were four hours previously (or seven if you’re there for the day). This year was no exception. It can be difficult to choose which topic you want to sit in on as three run at the same time, but I wasn’t disappointed listening to Sarah Baker share her passion for teaching children of all ages about where food comes from and how to cook it, William Despard of The Bretzel Bakery confused that parents would sooner buy fancy buns than decent bread or Natasha Czopar share her knowledge and enthusiasm for raw food.

Savour Kilkenny 2012

Savour Kilkenny 2012

The last topic of the morning that sent me home uncomfortable about our future however, was from journalist Suzanne Campbell when she talked about sky rocketing global food prices that haven’t quite filtered down to us but soon will do.

Make no mistake, next year we’ll see food prices rise higher and higher, and they won’t be coming down in the foreseeable future either so we’re going to have to get used to paying a lot more for our weekly shopping. The global weather conditions – including droughts in the US to the long wet summers in Ireland and the UK will impact heavily. With our weekly or monthly housekeeping already stretched (and that’s before the November budget) surely it makes more sense than ever for people to grow their own food? Anything we can do to help keep our food bills at manageable levels has to be good and I for one will be planning to sow and grow more for my family next year.

In the meantime, this year we’ve had lots of squash growing in the polytunnel so when thinking about what to cook for the Food Camp lunch, given the event that it was, choosing to take a seasonal recipe along to the pot luck lunch seemed obvious. Slight confession here in that I didn’t use one of the several large winter squash growing here as my children had pestered my to buy some bright orange pumpkins for carving and we didn’t grow any this year. I did however, add some courgettes to the saucepan giving this a slight twist on the usual pumpkin soup. This recipe could easily be spiced up with the addition of some chilli or even a touch of five spice for a Far Eastern twist.

Winter squash harvest

Winter squash harvest

Ingredients

Diced flesh from a medium pumpkin
Medium Courgette, diced
4 medium potatoes, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1.5 ltrs vegetable stock
25g (1oz) butter
finely grated nutmeg
freshly ground salt & pepper
150ml milk

Carefully cut the top from the pumpkin and scoop out the contents. Place the empty pumpkin to one side. Discard the seeds (or clean and roast) and spread out the pumpkin flesh on a roasting tray. Bake in the oven at 175ºC for about an hour.

Once roasted, melt the butter and cook the onion gently for 5 minutes in a covered saucepan, without colouring.  Add the potato, roasted pumpkin, courgette, carrots and vegetable stock.  Cover, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20 mins until the vegetables are tender.  Cool a little, then purée in a liquidiser.  Return to a clean saucepan and stir in the milk, grated nutmeg and season to taste.

To serve, empty the hot soup into the empty pumpkin and grate a little more nutmeg onto the top.

Ron & Mona Wise

Ron & Mona Wise  aka “The Chef & I”

My Savour Kilkenny experience ended by spending a few hours on the parade with two of our three children. Here we munched on the tastiest free range chicken baps, supped on Badger & Dodo lattes and hot chocolate then enjoyed meeting up with twitter friends and listening to Ron and Mona Wise talk and demonstrate how to cook a thanksgiving dinner…. mmmmm is all I can say to that, Ron’s stuffed turkey was something else and what a finish to a lovely couple of days.

The festival runs until Monday, 29th so you still have time to catch some of the events there.  See the website for more details.

 

Travel

Celebrating the harvest in Waterford

September 15, 2012

A Waterford dawn during Harvest Festival Week

For centuries people around the world have been celebrating the annual  harvest having spent months toiling the land growing their crops. Though the meaning of it has skewed slightly over recent years for many of us with the arrival of convenience foods, the festival itself is thankfully alive and well, and no more so than in Waterford city where they are celebrating FOOD!

Between the 10th to 16th September the Waterford Harvest Festival has been offering anyone with a love of food and drink the opportunity to sample local produce and I was very lucky this week to have been given the opportunity to spend a couple of days getting a taster of what they have to offer.

There’s so much in the packed programme I’ll be covering (a fraction of it) in a couple of blog posts as the organisers of this annual event have put together an impressive range of activities. From Viking banquets to exhibitions, delicious dinners and a bronze age Fulacht Fia, the week culminates in a food village on the Sunday that spans the length of the quay. Not forgetting either that the GIY Gathering is also taking place and I’ll be back there for the community garden network workshop and talk which I’ll fill you in on too.  For now I’ll share a taster of what you might experience if you take a slow food tour. Each daily tour has been different and often combined with a food producing garden visit too.

First up, what’s a Slow Food Tour?

Throughout the week Dennis has been safely driving groups of 8 to 15 people around in a minibus to different food and drink producers and gardens around the city with the very knowledgeable Donal acting as guide. Over forty business were earmarked for these tours and many have now welcomed visitors into their premises for mini tours, demonstrations and tasters, with business owners sharing their stories and most importantly their passion for what they do.

The Coffee Warehouse

The Coffee Warehouse

The only coffee roasting house in the South East, Mark Bergin’s family business imports only green beans and roasts them on site. I’m not a massive coffee drinker and have never thought about how the beans turn from a seed to an aromatic drink but Mark expertly explained this fascinating process. The Coffee Warehouse supplies many local hotels and restaurants and I was particularly impressed to learn that they are able to talk to buyers about mixing blends tailored to suit them. We arrived at the warehouse to aromas I wish I could bottle and left with a kilo bag that we’d seen roasted, cooled and packed! What a great start to the day.

Glorious Sushi

Glorious Sushi

Here’s where I own up to never having eaten sushi – the thought of raw fish has always put me off. Until now that is. Tetyani welcomed us into her unit, explained how she started her business, how she learnt her trade, taught us how to cook the rice, prepare the fish and vegetables then roll and wrap the seaweed. The group then had a go… if anyone remembers Bruce Forsyth’s Generation Game back in the ’80s that was us! Afterwards we were able to taste the sushi we’d made, but more importantly the delicious offerings from Tetyani. If you’ve always been nervous about trying sushi, this is the way to try it. Seeing it prepared, listening to the traditions surrounding it certainly helps to dispel any fears. Oh and if you do eat it and pick up a hint of the very hot wasabi, bare in mind that 1kg of the hot green stuff costs a staggering €300!

The Metalman Brewery

The Metalman Brewing Company

I wont deny this was a tour we were all looking forward to and we weren’t disappointed. Grainne and Tim showed us around their small independent brewery, explained malts, tasted grains and talked about techniques. At present their ales can only be found in kegs at various festivals and pubs which was a big disappointment after we tasted the delicious Alternator (a golden wheat beer) and the stronger tasting Pale Ale! It’s early days for Metalman so first things first but they have plans to start bottling so keep an eye out!

Kite Design Studios

Kite Design Studio

Not a food tour but included in our trips was a visit to The Kite Design Centre which houses several Waterford based artists from glass to silver to print and fashion. It’s open six days a week and you can watch the artists work, chat to them, order pieces or commission work from them. These guys have been fully supported by the council and Enterprise Board and it’s great to see that although they are seperate businesses in themselves, they also collaborate. The silversmith and printer produce pieces that compliment each other and are sold together – a necklace with a fish pendent would be accompanied with a handmade and framed print of a fish for instance. The price ranges start low and head upwards making the artists products available to all. This is a studio well worth popping in to.

M & D Bakery

M & D Bakery

Waterford is home of the famous Blaa and our tour of a bakery that specialises in this particular type of bap or bun began at M & D Bakery where we were able to see Blaas being mixed, rolled, flattened and baked. Unlike our group at 8.30 in the morning, Michael and Dermot were wide awake, welcoming, friendly and enthusiastic. Their day starts much earlier as deliveries to local shops have to be out of the door by 5am each morning. Here the guys explained the whole bread making process then fried up some bacon and buttered some blaas so we could enjoy the total experience. We went away with a pack of buns and bread and a recipe so that we can attempt to make the delicious blaas ourselves!

The Tours

Costing just €14 a head for a three hour tour I can’t recommend this experience enough though sadly they are only currently available during the festival week (which is now almost over) so you’ll have to wait until next year unless someone picks up the gauntlet and starts them up sooner! However, if you wish to take a tour of the invididual businesses you can contact them directly as they will gladly oblige.

If you’re interested in food tours in general Bia Sasta organise several that can be tailored to suite as do Fabulous Food Trails in Dublin.

Many of the small business springing up and operating in Waterford have been actively supported and encouraged by the local Enterprise Board and many other agencies and organisations who are working hard to encourage employment back into the city. In 2006 Waterford was listed as having a population of 49,000 people – just three years later 12,000 men and women were told they would no longer have jobs when the Waterford Crystal factory closed its doors. I can only begin to imagine the impact that news would have had on the families and communities surrounding it. This city needs all the help it can get not only from the agencies but also from those of us who visit it.

Many aspects of my stay in this historic city inspired me with the people we met being top of the list. They’re not giving up or giving in, they’re coming back fighting for their communities and are so very full of passion for what they do – be it hoteliers, artists, food producers, historians or council employees, they are giving it their all.

Where to stay & what to do…

Dooley's Hotel

If the snippets have tempted you to visit Waterford and sample some of the food and drink that’s produced locally, I’d highly recommend Dooleys Hotel located on the Quays as a place to stay. They offer large, clean, comfortable rooms with a hot, well cooked breakfast.

I’d encourage you to take one of the new “Telling Tales” tours of the museum, Reginald’s Tower and the Bishops Palace where real life characters bring history to life and would almost have you believe you’ve entered a time machine and landed in the early 1800s! The tours run hourly and cost €5.00 for adults (€4 concessions) with accompanied children U-14 free – money well spent. Advance booking is not required but take a look at the website for more details.

The Bishops Palace

So would you be tempted by a food tour and can you see the benefit of them?

If more local people took them and not just the tourists I can’t help but think how much more proud they would be of the people they share their communities with and would perhaps be more likely to shop and buy locally and support them. They might also feel inspired to give a business idea that’s been nagging away at the back of their minds a go too…

 

Travel

Eigse ~ Carlow Arts Festival 2012

June 7, 2012
Eigse ~ Carlow Arts Festival 2012

Valerie from Amhain Creations with Denis and Kirstin at the Bee Happy Cafe Pop up Shop Launch

The 8th June sees the beginning of the ten-day Eigse Carlow Arts Festival 2012 and what a great day to launch the new pop-up shops initiative from County Carlow Enterprise Board in association with Eigse and the town council. Carlow Retail Experience for Craft Producers also popped up this week at No. 33 Tullow Street with their Creative Carlow shop managed by Bernie McCoy and Thursday saw the official launch of the project where 17 Carlow based craftsmen and women are selling their products.

Eigse ~ Carlow Arts Festival 2012

Antique cash register at Bee Happy Cafe

Like many towns across the Ireland right now, high streets are experiencing the depressing site of empty shops and boarding but this wont be the case in Carlow for the next ten days. Six premises have been transformed with lots of hard work, funding and mentoring from the Enterprise Board.

At the official opening we were encouraged to support our local crafts people.

“Buy something small now and maybe save to buy something bigger later”.

Eigse ~ Carlow Arts Festival 2012

Art for Sale at the Pop Up Shop Project

Crafts are important, they make us happy. Knowing that an item we have spent our precious cash on has been imagined and handmade locally not only helps to support the producers and local economy, it makes us feel good too.

Eigse ~ Carlow Arts Festival 2012

Martin Marley Ceramics

So I bought an exquisite tiny bowl for my bedside table made by Martin Marley and will think about saving for something bigger!

Eigse ~ Carlow Arts Festival 2012

Ruth from Nutritious Nibbles and Madeleine from The Little Coffee Shop at the Bee Happy Cafe

One of the great things about Carlow is it’s charity shops that allow us to have a few extra cents for the ‘lovely things’. So after a delicious lunch at the launch I made my way to the Sue Ryder shop, picking up three gardening books for €4 before popping into the Bee Happy Cafe pop-up shop.

Eigse ~ Carlow Arts Festival 2012

Nutritious Nibbles Strawberry Cheesecake

What can I say other than the girls had done a spectacular job transforming the old shop. The window display deserves a prize if anyone’s giving them. The café has a lovely olde world feel almost taking me back to my childhood with aprons and bags, soap and candles, and of course it wouldn’t be a café without cake and coffee.

So if you’re heading into Carlow for Eigse where’s there’s so much to do and see, from music to exhibits, plays, art, comedy and culture, don’t forget to look out for these charming little shops and support local enterprise.

 

Travel

Bloom 2012 ~ Ireland’s Garden Festival

June 4, 2012
Bloom 2012 ~ Ireland's Garden Festival

The Greenhouse – Gold Medal Winner – Designed by Deirdre Prince & Patricia Tyrrell

Ahh, what can I say about Bloom, brought to us from Bord Bia, the name of the festival speaks for itself and I’m not sure how to begin to capture its essence in a few paragraphs.

A family event full of colour, gorgeous floral scents, warmth (human kind, not the weather), friendliness, music, crafts, foody aromas, friendship, fun and showcasing. It was there in bundles this year and of the three Bloom festivals I’ve attended – the first as a visitor, the second as a volunteer and the third – invited by Michael Kelly of GIY as a speaker on the expert stage to discuss community gardening with fellow enthusiasts. It was obvious the organisers had listened to the concerns of previous years (mainly space) as the  2012 Bloom festival was certainly the best so far.

Bloom 2012 ~ Ireland's Garden Festival

Designed by Carlow Designer Deirdre Pender – Silver Medal & Designers Choice Award – Machnamh/Reflection

All the areas were more spacious, walkways wider, marquees bigger (the biggest marquee ever built-in Ireland – an acre and a half!) and the layout of all the stands, gardens and stalls easy to navigate and find. There must have been miles of matting and metal walkways laid around the show grounds to keep our feet dry (it worked!) and the gardai did a great job of helping us park outside of the flooded (for one day only) car parks.

Scarecrow couple

Scarecrow couple

Due almost entirely to social media, this was a day of meeting online friends as well as looking around for new ideas and products as well as talking about a subject I’m passionate about.

I don’t recall attending an event where so many ‘virtual’ friends greeted with smiles, hugs, kisses and handshakes, but that’s Bloom for you.

After months of tweeting and facebooking Slated I finally got to meet the lovely Tara who gave me an adorable set of plant markers ~ the pencil doesn’t wash off making them an ideal gift for a gardening friend… Tara told me a tale of Twitter at it’s very best when she’d put a shout out for wellies and socks and was duly presented with some!

Slated Plant Markers & Slug Gone

Slated Plant Markers & Slug Gone Wool Pellets

In the marquee I came across a slug control called Slug Gone. Made from sheep dung and sheep wool it’s placed around plants, watered in and the tiny barbs on the end of the wool act as a deterrent that annoy the slugs and snails causing them to turn back instead of making their way to your tasty plants. As an organic mulch it can be dug in later. If you’re interested in trying out this product you can email David Brennan.

The OPW Walled Vegetable Garden

If you don’t like crowds, visit Bloom on a wet day! Bliss

It was great to finally meet Tim from BecauseWeCare who was launching his new Urban Composter at Bloom – a great idea for anyone who avoids composting for fear of rodents.

I seemed to find myself gravitating towards the  Caragh Nurseries stand on several occasions. Jo & Ian have one of the most helpful and cheerful daughters I’ve come across helping them for the day and I finally made a purchase of some Nepeta as Caragh’s plants were extremely well priced and healthy looking too.

Jo - Caragh Nurseries

Jo – Caragh Nurseries

Bloom 2012 was billed as a Ireland’s largest gardening, food and family event and I’m sure there will be many food blogs covering the huge artisan food village that was a popular attraction.

Bloom 2012 ~ Ireland's Garden Festival

Floral display – Kilmurry Nursery

However as a gardener, for me Bloom is and should be about the plants – from the indoor floral and nursery displays, to the 27 designer show gardens.

Campunala Ripicola 'sarastro'

Campanula Ripicola ‘sarastro’

I was slightly disappointed that unlike last year, vegetables weren’t used as much in the garden designs as there are many vegetables that are stunning in their own right – just think of cardoons and rainbow chard for a start. This was made up by the fact that purples and pinks were the most popular colours in many displays with Alliums, Digitalis, Lavender, Campanulas and Hostas very much in evidence around the show ground (I bought a Campanula ‘beetroot’ just because…)

Astrantia 'Gill Richardson'

Astrantia ‘Gill Richardson’

If you haven’t yet made it to Bloom, I’d highly recommend it as a day or a weekend to aim for next year…

In 2012 Bloom was priced at €20 for a day but concessions are available, children under 16 go free and many garden centres were offering buy a ticket get another half price. If you like gardens, crafts, foods or just a good day out with the family, Bloom’s the place to head to in Ireland in June.

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Food & Drink

St Patrick’s Day – Gardening, Parades and Potato Cake Recipe

March 17, 2011

St Patrick's Day in Ireland - parades, food and familyDetermined to take a day off, the holiday started well with a long lay in, mug of tea and a copy of Gardeners World. Unusually, and totally out of character, the children were all up and dressed in their scout uniforms (waiting for the local parade to start at 3.00pm) by the time I got up. It was 10.30am and a gloriously sunny St Patrick’s morning.

After a couple of free overseas mobile phone calls (thank you Vodaphone), I left the bacon to soak and headed out to the garden. The front flower beds are always the last to receive attention, with all work usually centred around the veggy beds.

However, feeling inspired by my earlier reading, I attacked the docks, dandelions and little tingly nettles with enthusiasm, imagining the scent and colour that will hopefully fill the garden in a few months time.

As Mr G can attest, gardening often gets in the way of mealtimes, but I tore myself away from the weeding, and with our middle daughter as a willing helper started to prepare the St Patrick Day’s lunch.

Freshly picked today

Even though Mr G was away for the day we’d planned a traditional lunch. Bacon accompanied by home-grown parsnips, kale, a few of the remaining swedes, and some french beans that were frozen last summer would all be on the menu, leaving carrots and potatoes to prepare from the shop bought veg.

I won’t harp on about boiling bacon and peeling veg, but I will share an old favourite potato cake recipe that I cook whenever friends of family visit from the UK, or on a special day like today. It’s a handy recipe to have up your sleeve too for those annoying times when you only have a few spuds left but have to feed a big crowd.

Potato Cakes

Potato Cake Recipe (feeds 4-5)

Ingredients

70g butter
225 gm self-raising flour
225g mashed potato, cooled
salt, pepper
a little milk

Method

Preheat the oven to 225oC. Sieve the flour into a bowl, then add the butter, rubbing it in. Add the mashed potato and seasoning and mix together. Add enough milk to bring the mixture together and make a dough.

Roll out the dough on a floured board, place on a greased baking tray, marking it in triangles and place in the oven for about 25 minutes.

I also made a mustard seed sauce to accompany the bacon but didn’t measure the ingredients, so I’m guessing to a certain degree. There’s just about enough here for two portions as the flavour’s are a bit too strong for the children!

Potato Dough

Mustard Seed Sauce

Pour 3 ladles of the bacon cooking liquer into a saucepan and boil until it is reduced by about half. Add half a carton of creme fresh and cook for about 10 minutes. Add a teaspoon of mustard seeds and a small knob of butter to taste.

Sadly, as also happens regularly in this house, the yummy dinner was placed on the table 10 minutes before we were due to leave for the parade. It’s always such a rush here! The good news was that we had a pudding to look forward to when we returned – strawberry and rhubarb crumble that Granny and middle daughter made and froze last summer. Numumumum!

Happy St Patrick’s Day

Travel

Bloom In The Park, 2010

June 6, 2010

It was thanks to a last minute complimentary ticket that I was able to attend Bloom yesterday, and after some juggling around and child swapping I set off yesterday morning with two enthusiastic lads to find out what Bloom’s all about.

I didn’t know what to expect but was keen to find out what’s new and happening in the horticultural world.  As an enthusiastic organic vegetable gardener (I’ve been hand weeding the drive this week, how sad is that!) I was therefore delighted to see that the growing trend in vegetable growing is very much in evidence.  When we started growing our own it was difficult to find suppliers but I’m delighted that this is changing.   There were a lot of exhibitors that I didn’t get to see in the three hours we were there but here are a few….

Mr Middleton’s Garden Shop was the first stand I came across with queues three deep.  I only managed to enquire about the biological controls available but they seem to stock them all –  Nemaslug (12 million nematodes that can be watered onto slugs outside between March and October), No Ants (again can be watered onto nests) and biological controls for red spider mite, amongst others.

The Organic Centre was mobbed (were they giving away freebies??) so although I would have loved to have spoken to them, I kept moving along.

Then I came across a really friendly guy from Irish Organic Weed Killer. They’re the only manufacturer of 100% natural weed killer in Ireland and claim that it will effectively control annual & perennial weeds, grasses and moss.  It temporarily (lasts for 48 hours) reduces the pH of soil making it uninhabitable for weed roots. The Irish Garden magazine will be talking to them next month.

IOFGA (Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association) have recently launched a Grow Organic scheme aimed at schools, allotments and community gardens to help people get growing organically.  Annual memberships is €50 which will give you access to the website, tips and factsheets as well as step by step information on getting started.

I’m not sure if Enrich (2010 Green Award Finalist) had a stall at Bloom but I picked up a leaflet from this manufacturer of peat-free horticultural products based in Co Meath. Check out www.enrich.ie for stockists.

The Federation of Irish Beekeepers were also represented, as well as the Tree Council of Ireland (who want people to tell them about any special trees), Bird Watch Ireland and chicken coop manufacturers, raised bed manufacturers and wildlife and biodiversity Groups.

Whilst I was looking around the stands, the lads on entering the Park headed immediately to the entertainment area where Mooge were about to start a two hour set.  They boys took their front row seats and were seriously impressed with the band’s performance, now feeling that they’ve experienced their first ‘proper’ festival (and complaining about hearing problems to boot)!  Perhaps next time they’ll hang out further back from the stage, and maybe even look at a few plants…

So I was left to wander around the gardens on my own.  I’ve made a mental note to attend future shows during the week.  Now living in a peaceful rural area, with gardening my hobby/business my tolerance to crowds isn’t great.  Bloom Show Gardens on a Saturday was not a great experience for me!
After shuffling through the hugely impressive Phoenix Park Victorian Walled Garden which is open to the public throughout the year (www.pheonixpark.ie for more details), I headed to the GIY Ireland show garden.
I can only begin to imagine how hard Michael Kelly, the founder of GIY Ireland must have worked over the past year and half in his quest to help GIYers.  Judging by the whispers around me he’s become quite a celebrity which, assuming he doesn’t mind, can only help to quash the perceptions that growing veg is difficult or just for farmers.  The more people who get growing the better for all.
The garden, designed by Fiann O Nuallain, won a deserved Silver Award.  It was a great example of how well a small urban back yard could be transformed into a culinary oasis, complete with chickens, greenhouse and barbeque, without looking like an allotment.  I especially liked the vegetable/flowering wall above.
I then moved on to find the winner of this year’s RTE Super Garden.  I was delighted to find that James McConnel had won the competition with his “Countryside in the Town” Design.  This was the only garden I’d managed to see in the series and loved James’ design.  He really held his own with the judges and managed to incorporate all the elements required by the owners of the the garden.  The way the garden was ‘miniturised’ for Bloom was charming.
I was glad I’d smothered myself in cream at this point as the sun was beating down relentlessly. I ducked into the tent behind James’ and had a chat with another friendly soul, this time from Bord na Mona.  They have a new range of specialist composts and soil improver’s which are diluted with a minimum of 20% sustainable green compost and available nationwide.

The show gardens were really busy, with long queues leading into the Urban Garden, whose plants were supplied by Pat Fitzgerald, a Kilkenny man who owns. Carlow was represented by Diedre Pender with Nemeton, who’s design included trees, fire pit and stunning foxgloves.  Many of the designs on show included vegetables and/or plants that encourage beneficial insects into their gardens, all of which will help me with my own thoughts and ideas on vegetable gardens.

However, as Hans Wieland from the Organic Centre pointed out on my Facebook page – the spacings of some of the veg weren’t great.  They were more for effect than practical growing with cabbages and courgettes, crammed in side by side.  However, anything that shows that veg can be ornamental in their own right and turns people on to growing can’t be a bad thing either.  They just need to attend our courses to learn how to do it better!

The above photo was the display by Sophie Grafin von Malzan who’s For Free brave design was either loved or hated.

My last mention and thanks goes to Veronica Molloy from Crossogue Preserves.  With my developing crowd phobia I only touched on the outer perimeter of  the delicious smelling food displays but came across a gap at Veronica’s stall and headed for it.  I picked her brain for tips on making strawberry jam (we may have a bumper crop if all the flowers are anything to go by) and after lots of tastings, finally chose three preserves to bring home to Ian in an attempt to make up for not buying him an anniversary present.  He was delighted with his Connemara Irish Whiskey & Heather Marmalade, Brandy Marmalade and Irish Coffee Curd and I hope he’ll share it at the breakfast table!

So will I go to a garden show again – YES – but only on a weekday when it’s quieter and next time I’ll be looking forward to checking out the flower displays too.  Oh, and I wont be buying snacks from a chocolate van ever again…. €9.50 for two small Pepsi’s, two Whisper bars and a Moro!  And there was me thinking that Ireland was changing….