Posts

Coriander – Coriandrum

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Some say it is used as an aphrodisiac. Others know it as chinese parsley or the parsley substitute. But whilst it maybe most used in abundance in cooking… it maybe a lesser known fact to some that the seeds are that used to make curry powder.

Amn’t I just a mind full of trivial information. 😯

The Coriandrum [apiaceae/ umbelliferae] are a genus of 2 species of annuals that are quite suceptable to fungal wilt – so a good airy drafty spot in the glasshouse or kitchen window sill is essential.

That said they are one of the easiest herbs I have ever grown – this was very much a case of fill up some pots with compost and drop the seeds on top. Simple as. I sowed these on February 4th so they were actually one of few that made it through the really low [sub zero temeratures] that we had.

Got a spot on your window ledge or balcony…? buy a packet of seeds. Should cost about 3 euro. Fill and old broken mug with some compost. Water first and then scatter about 5 seeds on top. Easy peezy chalky cheezy 😀

Chives – Allium schoenoprasum

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A bit like the sorrel plant, in the sense that this is another one of those just plant it and your pretty much sorted for life in this department. A member of the Allium or Onion [alliaceae/ lillaceae] family – the same family that gave you wild garlic, the supermarket garlic bulb and these really beautiful bulbs.

I got a wee clump from a riend of mine some time ago and they have just multiplied themselves over the years. Some recommend that they are grown from seed – and whilst I have done that this season – my recommendation is that you pop your head over your neighbours wall and ask them for a clump. Lift he clump up and like knotted hairjust rip a section out of it and replant.

When I have too much I pop them in the freezer just after harvesting. As a by the way it doesn’t matter if they are flowering or not from your salad point of view. That said from a get the most out of the plant perspective I prefer they don’t go into flower. Mainly as I want the plants energy to go into producing green leaves rather than seed.

Noted as being a bulbous perennial with short rhizomes grown for its edible, cylindrical, hollow dark green leaves that can grow up to 14″ long. Its umbels can be up to 1″ wide whilst its flowers can grow up to 30 bell shaped purple flowers. The plant itself can grow up 24″ tall and 2″ wide.

Grow Your Own Course

  • course title: grow your own kitchen garden
  • where: ballyboughal [just outside Swords, north Dublin]
  • when: saturday 22nd May 2010
  • time: 10am – 2pm
  • cost: €60
  • numbers limit: 8/9 people max


Details:

After my talk with the GIY group and then after the last course was covered recently in the Irish Independent by Susan Daly….I don’t want to be farmer. I shall rephrase. I don’t wish to remortgage the house so I can garden full time. I don’t have time for an allotment and I don’t wish to grow enough vegetables to feed an entire village. If that is you..? or you wish to gather the simple basics to get started then… this is for you.

A little more concise in set up than the previous GYO class but with the exactly the same subject and content covered, the theory is is one session you will go home with enough skills to become self sufficient in looking after yourself from a grow your own – without the use of a tractor 😉

Whether you have a window ledge, a small patio or just wish to grow in pots on that amount of space, bearing in mind that there just enough time in life between eastenders and the 9 o’clock news.

Interested or book yourself in ? :

very simple….

  • leave a comment below
  • email me info[at]doneganlandscaping.com
  • telephone mobile 087-6594688
  • do so via the contact page

There’s an idea:

interested in having your very own personalised class done at your place of work or home for your group of friends or colleagues…. ? contact details above.

Irish Independent 10th May 2010

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It was the last course I did in grow your own and Susan Daly came out to my home in Ballyboughal [North County Nowhere, Dublin] and did the grow your own class. She then covered it in Mondays [may 10th] Irish Independent in the features section.

As disclaimers go…. Susan didn’t get a free spot to cover the class. She rang me two days before however to book herself in. If she wasn’t covering it for a newspaper I might have given her a free spot. For the sole want of getting a photo of me hugging a tree in the piece, I did however brush my hair parting to the left that little bit better and she did have an extra mug of coffee 😀

here’s the piece in full – I really want to do the course in the Wicklow mountains. I’m about half way down in this article.

Read Susan’s Blog – well worth a browse. The hair parting did nothing for me. 😉 It came under the title Apocalypse Postponed in the newspaper. I put the bit mentioning the GYO class in bold type below.

How to fend for yourself

Self-sufficiency is the buzzword in these challenging times, so Susan Daly gets a few lessons in fending for herself

Monday May 10 2010

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No-one knows what the future holds, especially now that it’s obscured by a cloud of volcanic ash. The view from here, such as it is, isn’t brilliant.

Turn on the radio and TV and it’s all economic collapse and climate change. Take a break and rent a DVD and you can choose between The Road (Viggo Mortensen wandering around a dying, post-apocalyptic world) or the Book of Eli (Denzel Washington, er, wandering around a dying, post-apocalyptic world).

On the bright side, some folks have never been happier. ‘Survivalists’ are people who firmly believe disaster, manmade or otherwise, is just around the corner and make preparations accordingly. For them, making a nuclear shelter and laying down 10 years’ worth of bottled water and tinned sardines is just common sense. They’re only waiting to be proven right.

Digging a bunker in the back garden might be overkill for most of us, but there are ways in which we can better prepare ourselves for difficult times, fiscally or otherwise.

Always the pessimist, I decide to deal with the worst-case scenario first. I’ve always wondered: How would I cope if I was plonked in the middle of nowhere without shelter or even a drop of water?

My first reaction would be to cry. Copiously. My second would be to ring up former army sergeant Patsy McSweeney (presuming my mobile still worked).

Patsy, whose hobbies include camping out in the Wicklow Mountains in snow without a tent, teaches bush craft survival courses at Loughcrew Estate in Co Meath. He takes one look at the way I’m sitting on the ground while listening to his instructions and immediately he can tell I’m a namby-pamby city gal.

“Always get something between your backside and the ground,” he says, “Even if it’s to sit on your heel. Otherwise, you’re on the quickest route to freezing yourself.”

Sir, yes sir. This is not my world, it’s Patsy’s, and I’m as helpless as a baby. To get me and two similarly soft pals in a more ‘survivalist’ state of mind, we are sent off to skim the tree tops on a sky-high zipwire. Physically exhilarated, we are then posed a number of brain challenges which force us to think laterally about our situation.

Team spirit elevated, Patsy gives us very basic tools to set ourselves up for the night. I cheat with a camping flint to start a fire. A piece of Patsy eccentricity that has been bothering me all day — he’s been picking bits of sheep wool out of barbed wire and stuffing it in his pocket as we walk — suddenly makes sense. It is perfect kindling to get the flames jumping.

The shelter is less easy to bluff. In the event of a ‘forced bivouac’ — sleeping outdoors without a tent, to you and me — this is the first thing to be sorted.

We get the basics assembled, a large stick laid like a crossbar across two branches and a lean-to of layered pine fronds. I feel like Bob the Builder without my little digger, carving out a catch-drain in a semi-circle with a stick to lead groundwater around and away from our precious shelter. Digging the latrine downwind is, mercifully, someone else’s job.

All of this is thirsty work. I am deluded from a childhood of reading Famous Five books into thinking that a nearby babbling brook should quench that problem. Not necessarily, warns Patsy. Rotting ferns or bracken can easily poison water. The test for this is to rub a few drops of the water on your lips. If it stings, you’re in trouble. ‘You first,’ I think.

“The Indians say that running water always runs free,” says Patsy. “But not if there is a dead sheep upstream it doesn’t.” Lovely. In the end, we establish that the best way to get water is to dig a hole in the ground, put a plastic bag in the bottom (there’s never a shortage of plastic bags blowing about the countryside, sadly), put a stone on top and let water gather overnight.

Rainwater is reasonably clean, and if needs must, boiling lake water twice is an option. Little tip: A twig with the bark scraped off, thrown into water as it boils, helps draw impurities and the smoky smell from it.

Food is an easy trout from a lake, scraped out in a stream and baked over a frame of sticks but, if we’re honest, we’d probably all die in a post-apocalyptic landscape. Surely the wildlife would be wiped out? In the event, nettles and dandelion boiled into tea is good for hunger pangs but that won’t sustain us long.

I’m still not confident I would survive long in the open air — Patsy left us for five minutes to sit and meditate on the sounds of the wood and I was freaked out by a cow moaning in the distance — but I think I can do something about the food.

Back in Dublin, I look into the GIY movement (Grow It Yourself). We rely so much now on air-freighted goods that are easily held hostage to random volcanic eruptions. Gardener Peter Donegan hosts groups of novice growers at his home in north Dublin. On a bright April morning, I head up there with the knowledge that I have killed every one of those ‘living herb’ plants I’ve ever bought in the supermarket.

Peter relieves me of my plant-homicide guilt. “Those things are force-grown and leggy,” he says, “They are not meant to survive beyond a few days.”

Other things I learn from Peter: seeds have a shelf-life of a year, but you can freeze them just like a bag of peas; I can grow lots of things in my tiny courtyard that never sees a shaft of light (solar panels work on cloudy days — so does photosynthesis); mint is invasive and should always get its own pot.

He also makes me squeeze a fistful of wet compost in one hand, and a dry fistful in the other. “People are afraid to get their hands dirty, but you have to get a feel for what is overwatering, and what is underwatering, the two biggest killers.” It’s like CSI — Cabbage Slaughter Investigation.

Nails duly dirtied, we set about separating and pinching seedlings, planting potatoes and onions, rocket and runner beans, beetroot and pumpkins, sorrel and strawberries.

One month later at home, the onions and potatoes are sprouting, the beans are running wild and the mint is trying to take over the world.

Of course, when it comes to really fending for ourselves, the best question to ask is: What would Darina Allen do? She had an ‘eat seasonally, eat locally’ approach long before it was fashionable. Her most recent book, Forgotten Skills of Cooking, suggests that growing our own beans might only be the start of it. Only two generations ago, Irish people knew not only how to produce their own food but how to kill it, cook it, make shoes and pianos from it. (I may have made that last bit up.)

I’m not up for making my own sausages — I don’t exactly have room for a pig — but I have a go at churning my own butter. Butter is like dust in our house, it ends up on everything, so it might be a good idea to have a Plan B in case creameries go out of business.

As per Darina’s step-by-step instructions, I whisk cream until it collapses and separates into buttermilk and fat. There is lots of faffing about with iced water and then comes the fun bit — squeezing the remaining buttermilk out of the fat. I thought the wet-compost test was bad but this is gross; slimy and sticky and I end up with butter behind one of my contact lenses. I now understand why Darina always wears those famous spectacles.

In the end, I’m not sure my finished product is right. It looks a bit pale and sickly, and doesn’t smell very nice. Perhaps my hands were too warm. Perhaps I cheated by not getting the cream from my own cow. I just have to hope that in the event of the apocalypse, Kerrygold is spared.

– Susan Daly

Irish Independent

Sorrel – Rumex acetosa

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Not to be confused with the common dock, also Rumex, which may cause mild stomach upset if ingested.

To the sorrel, I simply love it. It is one of the greatest plants I have ever invested money in. And one of the easiest plants one could ever grow in terms of culinary and kitchen salad plants.It also just keeps coming up year after year and all you have to do is pull its leaves off and eat them.

I didn’t grow these ones from seed, although I have sown some recently. I just bought them as established plants. Recommended propagation is suggested by root division [yeah right….] and and there really isn’t a whole lot to it after that.

My advice buy three of them. Once planted they are there for life. Extremely resiliant, tough and well able for the Irish weather.

They are great for salads and although it is recommended for soups I have never used it for that. I like to grab a big handful of the stuff, stems included, fine chop it and toss it in with whatever else is available in the garden. That said my good photographer friend Tommy Lehane tells me that sorrel soup is made as follows

Good chicken stock + a potatoe + small amount of cream/butter to finish. Drizzle with truffle oil … yum!

There is no point, in this case, in me talking about it being of polygonaceae etc… as the Rumex is a genus of about 200 species and all we are interested in, really, in this case, is the common sorrel.