Farm Ireland

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Rediscovering our hunger for tasty homegrown food

Joe Barry

Joe Barry

Now, I know I am always waffling on about how we should all be growing our own vegetables, but it was nice to see how popular this has become with so many people flocking to the Bloom Show over the June bank holiday weekend.

It's hard not to laugh really when you think that only a few decades ago, if we didn't grow our own spuds, turnips and cabbage, we probably went hungry. When better jobs and cheaper food became available, most people abandoned the vegetable patch and many just put in a lawn, or even worse, covered the lot with concrete.

Happily, that has all changed and we are gradually relearning the value of fresh, homegrown herbs, fruit and vegetables. Given the recent E Coli scares, it's nice to be able to dig and gather our own grub knowing it is not contaminated with any nasty chemicals other than our own local slugs, bugs and caterpillars, which are probably highly nutritious anyway.

This year's Bloom Show in the Phoenix Park was a spectacular success with 90,000 people visiting over the five days. The generally fine weather helped of course, but the show itself has improved each year and is now a genuine showcase for Irish horticulture and food.

There is a definite trend towards growing our own food and in gardening in general, and it was heartening to see so many visitors staggering out of the show with trolley loads of plants. Some cynics might remark that the rise in unemployment has motivated people to keep busy by filling their spare time digging and planting but that should not detract from the benefits that accrue from having such a healthy pastime.

The show gardens always attract the most publicity and the majority of them did provide a source of inspiration for those of us keen to improve our home patch.

Ken Byrne, winner of the RTE super garden award, produced a clever and genuinely inspiring garden using nothing but recycled materials, with a bright summer house made from a redundant lorry container and chairs made from recycled pallet wood. Scaffolding planks were also used in the construction and the entire garden showed how cheap and easily obtained materials can, with a bit of imagination, be used to create a display that easily rivals others with much higher construction costs.

Overall, there was a far 'greener' look to the show, with more use made of native plants and trees and an almost total absence of the hugely expensive designs of the past.

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We should celebrate and make the most of this trend, which is increasing annually in line with the manner in which our disposable incomes are decreasing. Like the welcome disappearance of those annoying helicopters from our skies, the absence of those costly imported trees and hard landscaping proved a great relief. This move towards more affordable and user-friendly gardens is long overdue, as is the practice of recycling and reusing pallets and fencing materials and growing things we can actually eat.

Undoubtedly the tougher economic climate has provided the motivation for many smaller new businesses that are now providing good healthy food and drink of a quality that is rarely matched by the large retail outlets. Necessity is the mother of invention and the number and variety of trade stands marketing attractive Irish home produce was remarkable. Large crowds gathered around the 'Grow it Yourself' stand, seeking advice and inspiration from the helpers, whose only motivation is to spread the gospel of producing food from one's own patch.

But, as ever, there has to be at least one complaint. While the show itself could not be faulted, the signage directing cars towards the designated routes was difficult to follow. The signs were small and confusing and several of my fellow gardening enthusiasts ended up in Phibsboro having missed their directions while driving up the dual carriageway towards the park.

But it was all worth the effort and as I write this my outdoor spuds are in bloom and I am harvesting the first earlies in the polytunnel. In under the plastic, the raised beds are bursting with salads and even a few early cabbages and cauliflowers along with peas, beans, spinach and carrots. The tomatoes and white turnips are looking good and whatever new taxes are imposed on us, at least this year I won't go hungry.

Indo Farming