Many Lessons Learned

I remember growing potatoes, and funnily enough onions, with my dad when I was a young lad of nine or ten or so. Back then it was what you did, we used to have a big timber box in the shed, we would harvest the potatoes after the skin had “set” and fill the box for the winter.

If we knew there was a few days of sun coming, it was my job to climb up on to the top of the shed and lay out the onions to dry, I liked that. I guess I must have learned something back then.  

When we moved back to Ireland 17 years ago, I started growing vegetables again. The first carrots I grew were amazing, and I was proud of producing our food right there in our garden. It seemed the most sensible thing in the world to produce food locally and naturally without chemicals. My time working in the chemical industry had taught me chemicals belong in a lab and not on our food.

There were many lessons learned (and many we continue to learn) going from a few beds in the garden to a 40 acre farm, but the over-riding principle of producing food sustainably has never changed.

It seems to me that it is increasingly difficult, and downright irresponsible to justify taking decisions that do not put not the welfare of the planet at their core. We can no longer justify growing 80% of our crops to feed animals and growing them with excessive use of chemicals and artificial fertiliser.

For some it is easier to pretend that nothing is happening, and everything is going to be ok, that the people in charge know what they are doing and that they will make the right decisions. Thankfully some do, some businesses are embracing change, some leaders are showing that there is a different way, but there is still so much to be done.

Time is running out. Sugar coating the inevitable is not going to make climate breakdown go away, but how easy it would be to change our behaviour. We are on the precipice of rapid change. A new era of sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, a reduction in consumption and a new outlook is upon us, business as usual will be relegated to the back of the closet where it belongs.

We (you and I) have such an opportunity to lead the way, to be at the heart of a food and carbon revolution and it can start with the simple step of changing what we put on our plates. The most amazing thing about sustainable food of course, is that not only is it better for you and I and the planet, but it tastes so much better too.

As always thanks for your support. You can sign up to a veg box subscription by emailing us or order direct from our website here. Not only do we delivery the best organic fruit and veg, but a wide range of organic groceries too!

Kenneth

Our Food System Needs to Change

Hannah used to love broccoli and then she did not and to this day that has not changed. I do love broccoli. I tend to love all vegetables really, and it is a good thing seeing as I run an organic vegetable farm.

It never ceases to amaze me how much vegetable food you can produce per acre, and how many people that can feed. At the very same time it also never ceases to amaze me how much our food system needs to change; it is broken and here are the three fundamental reasons why:

1. There are too many of us eating a Western style diet. Food inequality is huge and we in the West eat way more than our fair share.

2. Growing feed for animals is not an efficient use of a limited land space. To feed a growing population we need to change what we grow and what we eat. We cannot continue to produce and consume the same food in the same way there simply is not enough space on earth. (I know we have two rescue pigs, and they are eating machines, we feed them waste vegetables, but if we had to grow all the food that they eat, we would need acres just to feed them. Using land to produce vegetables to feed people is a highly efficient use of land.)

3. The supermarkets facilitate the expectation of cheap food and they control the food supply chain. Their pricing practice makes farmers reliant on a subsidy system. Our grandparents spent nearly 20% of their disposal income on food, today it is less than 10%. The main beneficiaries of our food system are the supermarkets, large agribusiness and large food corporations, not us the consumer.

A long-term view is often difficult to reconcile with our daily challenges and life stresses (holding a screaming child for instance, Hannah was not always that picture of calm!) But the climate is changing, the sea levels are rising, biodiversity is failing and change is necessary now.

We can open our eyes if we choose to, and take responsibility for our choices, we have much more power than we realise. We can’t change the food system over-night, but we can take positive action right now.

It will always be better to eat local food. It will always be better for our countryside and our health to eat more organic food. It will always be better for our health and the health of the planet to eat less meat. Here is what we/you can do right now:

1. Get a box from us, we do things right.

2. Cook from scratch, see our blog here for inspiration, recipes, and videos.

3. Eat no/less meat and dairy. If u do eat meat make sure it is local and organic where possible.

4. Dump the plastic at supermarket tills.

5. Talk about climate change, spread the word.

6. Choose to buy a little more local and sustainable food when you can.

7. Stop spraying chemicals in your garden.

8. Start spending your money locally.

9. Buy less stuff.

10. Plant one tree in your garden.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Meade

Kenneth

PS I know I am lucky I get to live and work on an organic vegetable farm, but we can all change our mindset and start seeing nature as an amazing resource that needs to be nurtured.

Barleyotto, Roasted Carrots & Carrot Top Pesto

I’ve been cooking so much with the gorgeous, super-fresh carrots from the farm recently. Carrots are one of those staple vegetables that often get overlooked as ‘boring’ and sent to the side of the plate or the base of the meal. I love elevating these humble vegetables and making them the star of the show. Once you taste the difference between watery, bland supermarket carrots and the real deal from the farm, you’ll see why I bang on about showcasing each vegetable in its own right.

Root to Shoot

I’m sure most of you already know that the carrot tops are edible too. In this recipe, and in many of my recipes, I show you how to make a meal using the whole vegetable, root to shoot! I hate waste, not just because I don’t have the cash to splash, but also because of the environmental impact. Did you know that reducing food waste has been identified as one of the most effective ways to fight climate change? According to Stop Food Waste, 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted each year. This directly contributes to food shortages, water stress, biodiversity loss and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Globally, more than one quarter of food produced is wasted: with food loss and waste contributing 8-10% of total emissions. So we should all do our part in reducing food waste by learning how to use the entire vegetable and putting as little as possible in the compost bin (and certainly never put food waste in the general waste heading for landfill). Apart from the environmental issues regarding food waste, it is surprising how much important dietary fibre and incredibly powerful nutrients are found in the peels and other parts of vegetables we often throw away. Good for your body, your pocket and your planet, what’s not to like?

Ingredients (to serve 4)

Method

Start by removing the leafy tops from the carrots. Roughly chop them and put them in a food processor with the blade attachment. Then slice the carrots lengthways into halves or quarters, put them in a roasting dish, dress them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and pop them in a hot oven (180C) to roast while you get on with the barleyotto/risotto.

Peel and dice the onion and start sautéing it in a heavy bottomed pan with a little olive oil. You could also add a knob of dairy free butter to the pan for extra flavour at this stage.

Dice the celery and garlic. Add 3 cloves to to the pot (along with all the celery) and one garlic clove to the food processor where you’ll make the carrot top pesto.

Season the onion, celery and garlic with a little salt and allow it to cook down and soften a little. Then add the mug of barley grains, the glass of wine (you can replace this with a small splash of cider/white wine vinegar or the juice of a lemon), the stock cube/bouillon and 3 mugs of water. (If you are using risotto rice, add the liquid gradually, stir often and allow it to soak in before adding more). Add the drained butterbeans and let the barleyotto simmer until the grains are cooked through. Stir regularly and keep an eye on the liquid levels, you may need to add more.

While the carrots and the barleyotto/risotto are cooking, focus on the pesto.

Toast the sunflower seeds in a hot, dry frying pan until they are fragrant and start to pop and colour. Then add them to the food processor with the carrot tops and garlic.

Add the juice of half a lemon or a tbsp of cider or white wine vinegar, a few tbsp of nutritional yeast (this brings an irresistible, rich, cheesy flavour to the pesto), a pinch of salt, some freshly ground back pepper and enough olive oil to blend the pesto into a bright green sauce. If you don’t have very many carrot tops you can also add some chopped kale or spinach to the blender.

Pulse the pesto until it comes together into a loose green sauce. Then taste it and adjust the seasoning if needed with extra salt, pepper, lemon juice or olive oil as you like and blend again until you are happy with the flavour and consistency.

When the barley or risotto is cooked through, taste it and check the seasoning, adjusting it if necessary. Then serve in bowls topped with roasted carrots and carrot top pesto. Any spare pesto can be kept in a jar in the fridge for up to one week. Use it in sandwiches, to top crackers or dip vegetables in, stir it through pasta or drizzle it over steamed greens or roasted vegetables.

Enjoy! 💚 Liz

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