Friday 22 November 2019

'There's so much you just can't eat unless you grow it yourself'

Top UK and Irish Chefs Announced for Harvest Festival 2012. Pictured at Waterford where Chefs got together for a photocall for Harvest 2012, pictured front center is JB Du Bois - Athnauem Hotel and Shannon Ni Neill - Bodega Cleaver.
Top UK and Irish Chefs Announced for Harvest Festival 2012. Pictured at Waterford where Chefs got together for a photocall for Harvest 2012, pictured front center is JB Du Bois - Athnauem Hotel and Shannon Ni Neill - Bodega Cleaver.

Mark Diacono leads the garden team and gives talks at River Cottage, as well as appearing in the 'River Cottage' TV series.

He runs Otter Farm, the UK's only climate-change farm, home to orchards of olives, peaches, almonds, Szechuan pepper, apricots and a vineyard. He hopes to revolutionise the larder by growing delicious food normally sourced from overseas. His book 'A Taste of the Unexpected' is published by Quadrille.

Where do you GIY?

I have 17 acres of land that has orchards, a vineyard, forest garden, veg patch and a perennial garden.

Why do you GIY?

Nothing tastes as good as homegrown food and there is so much amazing food that you just can't eat unless you grow it yourself. And I rather like the process of doing it.

What do you grow?

A huge range of the most delicious food I can think of -- grapes for wine, Szechuan pepper, pecans, almonds, quince, medlars, asparagus.

Your favourite veg to eat/grow?

Szechuan pepper -- nothing has its zing and flavour.

Your least favourite veg to eat/grow?

Celery -- it's a pain to grow well and although I love what it adds to soups and stews I struggle with it raw. I am persevering, though.

Your favourite GIYing moment each year and why?

Picking the grapes -- it is the end of a year of pruning, training, bud rubbing, figuring out when to do what and it means wine to come!

Your most useful gardening tool and why?

Felco secateurs -- I use them every day, they never fail, are made well and easily maintained, and they feel great in the hand.

What do you know now about GIYing that you didn't know last year?

That currants and many berries will do beautifully well without a summer to speak of!

Our finest hour in the veg patch was when ...

My wife and I ate our first incredible homegrown peach on a sunny August day, in the shade of the tree that grew it. It couldn't have been further from the ones we were used to buying.

• Mark Diacono will give a talk entitled 'The New Edible Garden' at this year's GIY National Gathering in Waterford on September 15 and 16 during the Waterford Harvest Festival. Other speakers include BBC 'Gardeners' World' presenter Alys Fowler, Klaus Laitenberger, Darina Allen, Ella McSweeney, Trevor Sargent, Joyce Russell, Kitty Scully and myself. Tickets €20 from www.giyireland.com

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