Growing a garden kitchen with The Happy Pear
David Flynn, part of the renowned Happy Pear team, speaks about the benefits of growing food at home
"We've always been outdoor sort of people," explains David Flynn, referring to himself and his identical twin brother and business partner Stephen. "But it wasn't until after college that we got really green and into healthy food. We ditched the meat-eater diet and became vegan and vegetarian. That's when we started The Happy Pear. We took an outdoor lifestyle and just added growing to it."
For David, cooking and gardening go hand-in-hand, and using what mother nature gives us is what adds to the kitchen experience.
"There's so many different types of food you can grow in Ireland, but you should be aware of what works best at different times.
"For example, when strawberries come in in early spring it's a party for the senses! The strawberries grown in your home won't be ready until June, but when they get ripe, it's very exciting. They taste amazing and they smell fantastic."
In Ireland it can sometimes be difficult to judge what to grow because the season is small. Irish growers only have from around May to September to yield a good crop. However, David says there are some foods that don't need too much commitment.
"Potatoes are great because you can almost neglect them! Lettuce also needs very little maintenance. Simply give them a little bit of attention every now and again and you'll have fresh produce from your garden for dinner time."
Sprout in a smaller space
If you're worried that your smaller space is an issue, don't despair. According to David it's all about the growing experience and there are many ways to grow, even if it's inside your home!
"You can grow sprouts in your kitchen for example. It's really practical and easy. You don't even need to get your hands dirty. It's also great because you don't have to worry about pigeons, slugs or rabbits ruining your produce.
Inside, your plants don't have to contend with the weather and within five to 10 days you have a mini-crop to enjoy.
"Alfalfa sprouts, broccoli sprouts, sprouted mung and lentil beans and chickpeas are all ideal for growing in the kitchen. You simply soak them in water and after a few days they will have sprouted. Putting them in a nice jar also makes the kitchen look pretty!"
These foods are extremely nutritious, and a great source of vitamins and minerals.
"It's also great for kids," explains David. "With my own children if we have sprouts growing in the kitchen they're much more likely to eat them. You get them into the process by letting them water and soak the seeds. They're involved in the process so they end up excited to eat them. It's not just a parent saying 'eat your broccoli!' they actively want to enjoy their creation."
Herbs are key
Herbs are another great way to add to your kitchen garden.
"Different herbs work better in different environments. Chives and mint are great because they're so useful in the kitchen and easy to grow outside. Coriander and basel can be a little tricky in the garden because they need more heat so they could work better on your kitchen windowsill."
David's top tip is to always grow your herbs from seeds.
"When you buy them from a supermarket it usually comes from a warmer country, so in my experience, they don't really last."
Get out and get growing
Summer is fast approaching, David says that now is the time to get out into the garden and embrace the grower in you.
"The evenings are getting longer so it's really a lovely thing to do, especially if you have kids. Whether you're interested in growing flowers, vegetables or herbs it's a beautiful thing to get stuck into nature. And it doesn't matter if your garden is small or big, there's nothing like seeing tomatoes grow for months or picking a bit of lettuce to use for your dinner. It's just so rewarding.
"Growing your own food gives you an undeniable connection to the land. Being out in the soil really grounds you, taking you away from the constant connection with technology and busy day-to-day life."
* David and Stephen Flynn will be speaking at Town Hall Theatre, Galway on Sunday April 26th. For more information visit www.thehappypear.ie, or check out their YouTube channel for recipes and tips.
4 step guide to sprouting
Place the seeds or beans in a glass jar
Soak the seeds or beans for a day
Rinse and drain them once a day
When they've sprouted, eat them quickly to get their full benefit!