growing your own fruit, veggies and herbs getting dirty and generally living the good life

My Rhubarb: The First Crop of 2012

I’ve fond 1980’s memories of the ash from the old coal fire ending up on top of our stools. They sat in the top right hand corner next to the compost heap. The stools that were never split in their life time and such were their notoriety I doubt a specific book in the local library even existed on them.

Sometimes it is good to remember just how simple it can be be. But and on the other hand I spent eons reading up, cropping, planting, re-reading and forcing in my horticultural college days. Science and arts aside, if you want to give this quasi tomato-esque fruity vegetable a go, it just doesn’t get much easier than this.

Of note and on a side not is it’s similarity in appearance to the plant Gunnera. I have more than once hands worth of fingers used it is normal garden design, where a designated vegetable garden was not wanted for.

Back to it and my tips: Buy your stools well. Plant it. Never feed it. Ignore and neglect it. Pick it when you see it and have a mug of coffee next to it before you go to work. Sometimes I have a wee chat with mine. Planted in the darkest, dampest patch of my garden, this variety is Timperly Early. Enjoy 😉

rhubarb

Myth: Grow Your Own And Save Yourself Money

grow your own and save money image courtesy artofmanliness.com

[image courtesy artofmanliness.com]

I have heard too many green companies people for far too much of the what can only now be described as the grow your own pandemic use the cliché:

Grow Your Own and Save Yourself Money

The question is, does it ? Does growing your own vegetables actually save you money ?

superquinn vegetables

A quick glance between Superquinn’s prices [correct as of 05/01/12] and what potato seed and onion sets [2011 prices] cost make me wish to mildly scratch my head, a lot.

I and you can figure the maths out on an abacus.

seed potato onion sets

note: All prices from supermarket websites were taken January 5th 2012 and show their normal prices before and after discount. To the potatoes alone, I know I was able to buy 10kg for €2.49 in Dunnes Stores up until recent.

lidl carrots b and q grow your own kit

I had noted the B and Q grow your own kits way back in 2009. But it seem how we grow our own has evolved so much more, or at the very least the range of products available to you to do so has.

[image courtesy edibleherbsandflowers.blogspot.com]

If we trail all the way back to 1917, the cliché may make a little more sense. Here it’s slightly more honest in todays relevance and notes ‘to cut food costs’. That however was a time long before compost at €4-7 per bag ever existed.

I spoke before about the gentleman I witnessed in the hardware superstore buying organic compost with miraculous powers [4 bags @ 6 euro each] one pot [15 euro] and non-organic seed potatoes [6 euro]. Throw in some raised vegetable beds instead if you should like – and you possibly have the most expensive spuds per kg in the country.

Back to the original question. Can growing your own save you money ? Personally, I believe it depends on how you [in this case] grow your own.

potato planting by hand

There is a bigger picture in all of this. And if like camping in 1980’s Ireland and Britain and its recent revival, the trend is to continue I believe the PR firms need to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new slogan.

Maybe it’s just that as a 6 year old in Ireland in 1982 I chose to spend my pocket money on garden sieves as versus growing mediums, at a time when gardening wasn’t very popular and I was cutting grass to supplement my hobby – how times haven’t changed.

But from then til now aged 35 – I don’t believe my personal life outdoors [to an extent] and gardening has ever been about how much it cost me to enjoy my passion. It was more about who I spent the time with and in a different context, in my working life, what had or can be been achieved. Most of the time however it’s simply because I love what I do – and equally as important – I get to smile doing it.

ireland outside

Hyacinth, Daffodil and Gigantic Onions. January Gardening.

giant onions

Whilst my garden needs a total overhaul to cheer up the Donegan household at the start of what promises to be another great year, I thought maybe I should do something to make an even greater smile come to those who visit my home.

Don’t get me wrong I’m halfway there as my hyacinths are just peeping into flower ready to scent the house with all its glory. When that goes I will of course have my daffodils ready to come on as well and fill the kitchen with even more colour.

Mammoth Onion Growers unite (mp3)

But have you ever tried growing mammoth or giant onions ? Onions, edible and all – but – they can grow bigger than footballs and up to 15lbs in weight. Take a listen….

As a by the way hyacinth were the first ever bulb I grew at about 6 years of age. the bulb cost me 7 pence. I remember being told manure was good fertiliser. I spent ages collecting and covering that bulb in dogs doo [?]. Back to the giant onions ?

Want to give it a go….. ? Just let me know 😉

hyacinth flower donegan landscaping dublin

The Christmas Cooking Fresh Herbs From Your Herb Garden, List

herb garden harvesting - peter donegan file

If you are looking to use fresh only herbs in your cooking this festive season, a herb garden may not be the worst investment you could ever make. Looked after it, it will be there for you this time next year and the year after and….

A herb patch or garden, for it’s colour and scent is a great addition to any garden and I should add, would make an extremely thoughtful Christmas gift. Just so you know, I parked mine right outside the kitchen door. Stuck for space outside, there is absolutelynothing wrong with it grown as a potted arrangement.

From asking on twitter and facebook my extensive research, these are the ones that you use the most.

1. Rosemary

rosemary

Rosemary – Rosmarinus officinalis. Can be purchased and planted at just about any time of year. They work well in pots on their own or with others and also double up well as a shrub if you are stuck on space. Quite hardy so they should tolerate low temperatures.

2. Bay Laurel

bay laurel bay laurel

Bay Leaf/ Bay Laurel – Laurus nobilis. I love this plant. It’s a great evergreen and works extremely well as a hedge, which is how I have it planted [above] in my garden. It’s also beautiful when it comes into flower. No need for the dried version. For some strange reason[?]… I like to suck the leaf.

3. Mint Plant

mint plant mint shrub

Mentha – Mint Plant. There are loads of varieties of mint. Literally loads. And all are great in mohitos. That aside I have never grown these in a bed alongside anything else. It is the bully boy of the herb world and at all times should remain in a pot all on its lonesome. The root zone simply evolves like the base of a cheesecake and just takes over everything. Still, a must have.

Can be bought and planted year round and is nigh on indestructable.

4. Parsley

Petroselinum hortense – Parsley. I simply cannot get enough of this plant. I’d nearly sprinkle it on my porridge if I could. This batch has been with me a while now and whilst you can see the dead stems in the image, I just let it self seed and regenerate itself over and over. There’ll should be just enough there still come December.

Generally available year round as potted plants. That said I grew mine from seed.

5. Coriander

coriander

Coriander – Coriandrum. I’m not mad on eating coriander. I throw a bit in at Christmas time for the craic. But sparingly so. Nice to say that it’s in the pot and I grew it myself. Once again, I grew this batch from seed.

herb garden layout...

Others include:

Thyme – easily added and availble generally all year round as potted plants

Sage – available most of the year in pots.

Basil – I grew my Basil from seed. Cropped it and keep it in the freezer. If you have a kitchen window sill – I’d suggest you sow some seeds now in a few jam jars.

Chives – I like to crop my Chives throughout the year and freeze. the easiest way to get some chives is to grab a clump from your neighbours patch. That said growing them from seed in a jam jar or on a window ledge will also work fine.

Wild Garlic – if you know your wild plants and where to look you should be able to find a clump of wild garlic. Great in salads in the summer. At turkey time, I like to scatter some fine chopped over the spuds. Not readily available commercially.

What I have left out here is lavender, but that’s only because I tend not to use it when cooking. Any queries or comments, simply drop me a line or leave a comment below.

Contact Peter:

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Free Food From The Wild

The last post I did on eating out [?] was titled free fruit from the wild – but this one is more a days eating with some fruit. As you will discover, it’s not always necessary to bring a packed lunch, particularly at this time of year.

Once again, the golden rules of eating anything wild apply

if you do not know what exactly you are picking – Don’t Pick It !

1. Nettle

nettles

The common nettle or Urtica dioica is a personal favourite of mine. Extremely high in vitamins A,C and protein, I could give you the a recipe…. but this is more about eating on the go.

On that note and personally I like to eat the leaves as I’m walking. Do bear in mind the stinging hairs are on the underside of the leaf and like most green salads, the younger leaves are the better ones.

How to eat a nettle…. ? Scroll to 2 minutes 42 seconds – I love this bit of audio…

Micheál Galvin on the hedgerow walk (mp3)

2. Elderflower

elderflower elderflower berries

The scourge of many outdoor spaces, the Sambucus nigra is probably one of my all time favourites. It’s greatest use has to be the flowers which can be eaten straight away and how I had always done it. As it sounds, just munch on them like a horse might – but more than that, elder-flower with water and sugar is the most refreshing drink you will ever taste. Ever.

Which, if you leave it for a while will make booze.

My first taste of Elder flower champagne (mp3)

The berries can be made into many variations that are pretty much all jam-esque. I prefer to throw them in with whatever else is freely available and make a pulp. Yes I just eat it with a big spoon. Like Paddington Bear might.

3. Hawthorn

The crataegus monogyna. A dodgy image you may think, but – in focus are the leaves which can be eaten straight off the tree. Once again it is the younger fresher leaves that are the nicest – and I highly recommend the buds if you can get them.

A bit like a lot of the wild fruit the berries are great for jam-esque type boil the fruit to a pulp – but once again I prefer to mix these in with whatever is freely available as they are not that nice on their own, at all.

4. Crab Apples

The Malus – crab apple. Again, not that nice to eat on their own – but a bit like some of the other fruits I’ll eat a few of them if they’re the nearest thing to hand and I’m stuck a few miles further away than is necessary.

Once again, this fellow is nicest when boiled to a jam-esque type pulp and mixed in with others. In fact it works extremely well with hawthorn and elderflower berries.

5. Beech

The Fagus sylvatica is just your common beech tree. The nuts of the beech are my absolute favourite. A real treat to be honest. A pain in the tush to pick and peel en mass I find it better to pick a bunch and peel and eat from my pocket as I walk. It’s just nice to nibble as you go.

Once again – the leaves are edible but just like the rest of them, go for the youngest and the freshest.