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Mary and Abbie get in touch with nature

AN EGG laid by an Aras hen, followed by porridge drizzled with honey from your own bees and all washed down with lashings of homemade apple juice.

Whoever the new president may be, they will be in for a sumptuous breakfast. President Mary McAleese congratulated her team of gardeners yesterday after the kitchen and flower gardens at Aras an Uachtarain were awarded organic status.

Fruit, vegetables and herbs from the gardens are vital ingredients in the Aras kitchen and grace the plates of the President and her guests each day.

In fact, the gardens are so productive that the Aras is largely self-sufficient when it comes to fruit and vegetables and even bottles its own apple juice.

More recent additions -- a brood of hens and three bee hives -- have added eggs and honey to the menu, while the Victorian hothouse produces more exotic fare including peaches, figs and grapes. The 2.17 hectare garden is the first within the Office of Public Works' portfolio of historic parks and gardens to be awarded organic status by the Organic Trust.

Mrs McAleese also opened a new 'Sensory Border', running alongside the gardens, packed with flowers, plants and fruits.

She was joined by Abbie Healy (9), a pupil at St Joseph's School for the Visually Impaired in Drumcondra, Dublin, who helped translate a message on a braille sculpture for the President which read: "You are welcome."

Congratulating the staff, Mrs McAleese said: "We had the best crop of strawberries this year. We had them at all the garden parties. They were so much nicer than anything you buy in the shops."

Irish Independent