Rainbow Salad

Happy Pride month to our wonderful rainbow of customers and recipe readers. You are all amazing just the way you are! Here’s a fun rainbow salad to celebrate. Did you know that ‘eating the rainbow’ is so beneficial to your health? Different coloured fruits and vegetables contain different vitamins and minerals, so to get the full spectrum, make sure you regularly eat the rainbow. This fun salad is so simple to put together, and of course it is endlessly adaptable. We served it with a zingy lime and mint dressing, but your favourite salad dressing would work well here. We recommend waiting to dress and mix it until it’s at the table, make the most of that beautiful rainbow of colours for as long as possible!

Liz x

Ingredients

  • red pepper, diced
  • tomatoes, diced
  • carrots, grated
  • yellow pepper, diced
  • cucumber, diced
  • red onion, finely diced
  • beetroot, grated
  • cooked chickpeas, beans or lentils – drained and rinsed
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • a large handful of fresh mint leaves (or any herb you prefer)
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • salt and pepper to taste (a big pinch of each is good)

Method

  1. Arrange your chopped/grated ingredients on a large platter in the shape and colours of the rainbow – red, orange, yellow, green, purple/blue…and add chickpeas or cooked lentils to add protein.
  2. Make the dressing by adding the lime juice, olive oil, mint, garlic, salt, pepper and maple syrup to a blender and blending until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
  3. Pour the dressing over the salad just before serving and mix well. Enjoy with salad leaves, bread, some crumbled tofeta… or as a side to a BBQ.

If You Stumble, Let it Become Part of the Dance

I remember my grandad in his garden growing sweet peas, and carrots and apples.  I remember my dad growing potatoes and onions and my mum growing raspberries and gooseberries. I remember a red jumper on a scarecrow, and I also remember our food. We ate many potatoes, but I feel as I look back now that I knew where my food came from. Growing food was a celebration of life, it was a connection to another energy force, it was a basic and primal link to the earth.

I was at my daughter’s graduation from her primary school during the week. The first event in the school since 2019 and it was a celebration of people and little lives embarking on a new beginning. Terry the principal had a wonderful quote that I loved:

“If you stumble let it become part of the dance” 

What a wonderful analogy for life, and indeed it has a place here on our farm and business too.

We all ride the waves life throws at us and sometimes we can get stuck in a rut and not even be aware that we are. We all stumble.

We started our business to celebrate our lives and our food, to produce and supply food that is life enhancing for you our customers whom we serve, and the people who work here and also to the planet and the land that gives us so much. 

Over the past two year we have lost our way at times, and at other times we have been stuck in a rut, more like a maelstrom of constant change that has been difficult to endure.  We have been in a constant state of stumbling and not even been aware. The waves have been big. 

But the essence of what we have been about right from the beginning never changed, and I guess when you stumble it pays to know who you are. Many times, you won’t get it right, you will make mistakes, stumble, and even fall. But getting up again, brushing the dust off your shoulder and marching on is inevitable when there is something else driving you, a purpose greater than yourself.

You may forget what that driving force is, but it is still there like a bright flame inside, and so here we are after so much change, and we are beginning to find ourselves again, to remember why it is we are doing what we do.

As the cucumbers blossom and produce their fruits, and as the first tomatoes turn red on their vines, as we harvest the gorgeous heads of lettuce and the different leaves for the salad mix, as we see the fox ramble by as we are harvesting the kale, it is not difficult to be thankful. 

We are celebrating life through food, through delivering sustenance that enlivens you and our land. 

We are celebrating the diversity of nature and the beauty and the vitality that can be found on our planet and in the food we grow.

Thank you for continuing to join us on this journey.

Kenneth

People are the Essence of all Activity

On our farm and in our business without the people there would be nothing, just quiet empty buildings, offices, and fields. Community is a gathering of people, and it is only when people come together that things happen for good or for ill. My favourite quote of all time involves people:

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

Last week we had the opening of our farm shop and the first public farm tour in well over two years, and we had people, many people. Thank you to all who came. 

It was truly amazing to see so many interested in sustainability and local food. The sun shone and there was music and laughter. There was interesting questions and conversations, there were young children and those somewhat older in years.

There was a question from a young child about snails, there were questions about vertical farming, and soil pH and fertility and trees and biodiversity and the climate crisis and so much more. 

We had an amazing talk from Gerry the beekeeper (whose passion for bees was unmistakable), the bees on our farm are native Irish black bees and they can fly at just over 9C which makes them a hardier Irish bee. It seems as I listened that I knew very little about bees.  They have a harsh life, the poor drone bee has his wings eaten off and he is thrown out of the hive to die at the end of the season!   

But through it all there was a common thread, an idea that united everybody there: that there is a better way to produce our food, a way that helps our planet instead of destroying it, a way that enhances the land instead of laying it to waste. A way that gives nature a fair chance.

We all have the ability three times a day to vote for the future we want.  Ultimately the food we choose to eat and how it is grown contribute greatly to how our planet will fare. 

If you are reading this on a screen or at home after receiving your order, know that you are making a difference. Your purchase and support of our farm does make a difference to the planet and the environment and what you put into your body will impact your health for years to come. 

If you visited the farm, then you would have seen our first kale crop. That kale was transplanted by Emmanuel and his team 6 weeks ago, it will be harvested by hand by the same farm team this week.  It will then be packed into compostable bags by Barry and the packing team. Every part of its journey right up to its delivery onto your doorstep wherever you maybe, we have overseen.

Right beside that kale crop is a 120metre strip of wildflowers. Last night our resident fox sauntered by that kale, the pigeons in the forest at the bottom of the field eye that kale hungrily (they will be getting very little!).

That kale is the essence of vitality it is harvested for you and could only be fresher if you picked it yourself from your own garden.

But that kale and our packing team and our farm team would not be here if it were not for you. So, thank you. Thank you for your support.

Kenneth

Farm Shop Re-Opening!

We closed our farm shop just over two years ago. 

We always meant to reopen it, but there never seemed to be enough time or energy, we never quite got back into anything that resembled routine, and so it remained closed, that is until this coming Saturday at 10am.

On many occasion over the past two years we came close to being ready to reopen then another lock down or another wave would raise its head and bang off we went again tumbling and rolling with all that was thrown at us.

The first lockdown for us was not too unlike being hit by a bus and over and over again, up and down it went for the last two years. 

It is funny though that now life seems normal again. I can never quite grasp how everything moves on. You think at the time you will be in the middle of the pain forever and then just like that, it is gone, over and we move on. Life is funny.

Anyway, philosophical ramblings aside we are finally reopening our farm shop and this time it is going to be so much different, better, brighter and on a Saturday which is what you all asked for! 

We have two amazing people that will be serving you Thiago and Anna, both lovely bubbly and helpful individuals. 

We have opened up our whole packing shed with all the hundreds of grocery, plastic free, sustainable and 100% organic products, plus of course the very best range of fresh organic produce in the country and nearly all plastic free. 

We will have a modern till system, and accept all cards for payment, in fact that would be our preference and going forward the shop will be cashless.

It all kicks off this Saturday at 10am and we have some amazing things happening. The line-up will go something like this.

Parking on site

10am shop open

12pm-2pm farm tour. (I’ll bring you on a tour of the farm, show you the polytunnels, and the fields walk down to one of our forestry areas see the bee hives and hopefully meet and feed Florence and George (our two rescue pigs). All the time you will be learning about sustainability, growing and biodiversity. )

1-2pm see the tractors and some machine demonstrations (get up on one if you are feeling brave!)

2-4pm live music, including classical flute music!

3-4pm kids natural art workshops run by Jenny.

There will be a pizza truck and a smoothie/juice stall and coffee too!  There will be even some home baked fresh cakes.

The event is FREE, so come along bring your friends and family and please let others know. The current weather forecast for Saturday looks amazing and hopefully it stays that way!

Thanks for all your support and looking forward to finally meeting people here again on our farm.

Kenneth

PS – our eircode is H91F9C5

Wonky Veg, Food Waste & Great Crops

Over the last 16 years we have seen a fair bit and although generally things are never black and white, one thing stands out for us as being just that: food waste. Whatever way you look at it wasting food based on aesthetics is immoral. We work really hard to reduce food waste, it is one of our core values. There are times when the quality just is not good enough and we will never ever compromise on the quality of what we send out. We will give food we cannot sell to our team members, or you may get a freebie or two in your boxes sometimes.

Stuff that really is not good for eating, either goes to our compost heaps to make fertiliser for our new food, or goes to Florence and George’s bellies (our two pet rescue pigs in case you didn’t know). But we grow our own food and so we have a very good understanding of what is ok and what is not. We make sure we harvest as close to packing the boxes as possible, we work with other growers to ensure we have the freshest best produce.

But there is one thing we never do, we never discriminate based on looks, on wonkiness. If a carrot is wrapped around another carrot, will we grade it out? Absolutely not, we will CELEBRATE it, If a potato is showing a little cheekiness well that is absolutely ok with us. In fact, we want vegetables like that. This ‘WONKY’ food tastes the same, it has the same nutritional value, it looks the same on our plates it has been grown sustainably on organic land.

It makes a lot of sense to us NOT to grade out vegetables like that. I guess we are pretty lucky that we do not have to conform to supermarket standards, that we set our own standards and we can do this because we know you our customers are ok with getting cheeky potatoes every now and again.

We know how hard it is to grow food and it is crucial to our planet to make the best use of the land available to us, and not throwing away food based on looks is a good start, at least we think so.

Last year we got our planting plan wrong, it is difficult to guage the market a year in advance, and ended up having to turn crops back into the ground. This year we have been a little more cautious and we hope a bit smarter with our time and energy.

This evening as I write, the sun is shining I have just finished my farm walk of checking the crops. The crops are progressing so well, the tomatoes look amazing as do the cucumber plants and the first lettuce, salad, celery, courgette, broccoli, kale, Romanesco and cabbage are well on their way, even the first parsnips, carrots, beetroot and outdoor spinach are poking their little heads above the soil.

Thank you for supporting our farm and know in doing so, not only are you contributing to reducing your carbon footprint, and reducing your waste burden on our planet, you are also contributing to reducing food waste and giving these cheeky potatoes a good home!

Thank you

Kenneth

PS we have some very exciting news! Our farm shop is finally opening next Saturday the 4th of June at 10am, we will have a farm tour at 12pm, and music, and children’s art, so come along!

Leeks on Toast

I don’t know about you, but for mid-week meals (or even manic weekend meals), I am always after something fast – but, it has to also be satisfying, healthy, affordable and delicious! This super simple supper ticks all the boxes. We have just completed a massive leek harvest and they are so sweet and delicious. Leeks have got to be one of the most underrated vegetables out there. They are exceptionally delicious when made the star of the show. Don’t just loose them in soups and stews, try them as the main ingredient.

Liz x

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 2 slices of sourdough bread
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • 1 leek
  • 1 tbsp butter (we use this vegan one)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • a heaped tsp of mustard – Dijon or wholegrain…or any mustard you like
  • a splash of milk (we use creamy oat milk)
  • a handful of nutritional yeast flakes (or you can use grated cheese)

Method

  1. Toast the bread to your liking then peel the garlic clove and rub it over the toast on both sides.
  2. Slice the leek in half, lengthways, keeping the root end intact. Then rinse out the mud in the layers. Slice the very end off the leeks which will have dried out a bit, but keep as much as possible. The green part of the leek it just as delicious as the white – it just needs a touch longer cooking time. Then cut the leek into cm slices.
  3. Melt the butter in a wide pan over a medium-high heat. Then tip in the green bits of leek and stir fry for 3 minutes or so until they soften. Then add the rest of the chopped leek, some salt and pepper and stir fry again until the leeks start to collapse and colour lightly.
  4. Add the thyme, mustard, splash of milk and nutritional yeast (or cheese) and stir fry for another 3 minutes or so until you have a bubbly, silky mixture which can then be poured over the garlicky toast and devoured!

Bees, Wild Flowers & Chemicals

Do you remember all the insects you used to see on the car windscreens when you were younger? Where have they all gone? 

I came back from Dublin on Wednesday evening and my windscreen was clean, once upon a time that same windscreen would have been covered in poor little deceased insects, where are they now?

Flying insect numbers have plunged by 60% since 2014 a new British survey has shown, by measuring insect splats on cars. 

By 2015 each hectare of land in the UK received 3.9 kg of pesticides in 17.4 applications and eighty-seven percent of the total toxicity being applied to fields in 2015 was due to neonicotinoids.

A damning indictment of the way we manage our countryside is the fact that it is now safer to keep bees in cities than in the countryside.

A six-fold increase in potential toxicity to insects in the period 1990–2015 corresponds closely with the timing of the 76% decline in flying insect biomass recorded in Germany in the period 1989–2014.

This very large increase in toxicity was mainly due to the introduction and widespread adoption of neonicotinoid insecticides from 1994 onwards.

On the 27th of April 2018, this class of pesticides was banned from all outdoor use in the EU and will give our bees and insects a fighting chance at survival, at least you would think. However in the years since, “emergency authorisations” for the use of these chemicals has been granted,  many cases these authorisations were granted repeatedly, or without any apparent evidence of an unusual or ‘emergency’ situation as justification. 

Banning the use of these chemicals was a fantastic and positive step. 

There are so many other positive steps that we as farmers and gardeners can take now to improve biodiversity and help the bees and insects.

We have beehives on our farm and they give us so much, bumper crops of courgettes for one. It is only right that we sow wildflowers and leave our kale to flower to feed them.

We purposely leave brambles along all our walls, their flowers are an early food source for the bees (as are dandelion flowers), we leave wild areas where plants can go to flower. Obviously, we are not spraying any bee killing chemicals. This has meant that the bees and so many other insects have a better chance of surviving and thriving.

But it was when we started planting wild flower strips that we noticed an astounding level of bee life. There were honey bees and several different types of bumble bee, and all sorts of other flying insects. We had created a farm reef for bees! On a sunny evening there are thousands of bees and insects humming away, and it is not until you look closely that you notice. 

These steps have meant that we have an abundance of insect life on our farm and I think it may be working in our favour. 

It seems that if we look after biodiversity, it will look after us and a more integrated approach to food production does work very well indeed.

Here’s to sustainable food and to the bees and to hopefully a return to the insects on our windscreens.

Kenneth

PS We are really excited, we have launched a new website please take a look here, and if you haven’t spotted it already to celebrate there is 10% off the build your own box this week.

Rhubarb & White Chocolate Blondie

Beautiful, pink rhubarb is in season now and it’s tangy flavour pairs perfectly with sweet white chocolate. We tried baking it into blondies and oh yes, it works! There is some debate as to what blondies are, but to me, the best blondies are simply a white chocolate version of brownies. I’ve based this recipe on my classic vegan brownie recipe and it’s a fairly straight swap – brown chocolate for white chocolate – but the lack of cocoa powder means you must add some starch or the texture is all wrong. So don’t skip the cornstarch (you can replace cornstarch with arrowroot, potato or tapioca flour if you don’t have cornstarch).

Good blondie recipes call for browned butter, but if you are making this recipe vegan as I am below, then you’ll need to use Naturli butter as other vegan butters do not brown like dairy butter due to the lack of certain proteins and sugars. Naturli contains almond butter so has the right proteins to brown beautifully. Give it a try, I think you’ll agree it adds a delicious nutty, caramelised depth of flavour to the blondies that help to balance out the sweetness of the white chocolate. If you don’t have Naturli in the house you can just use another vegan butter or coconut oil and simply melt it rather than browning.

Here’s my easy recipe, enjoy!

Liz x

Ingredients (makes 12 slices)

  • 50g Naturli vegan butter block, browned (see method)
  • 250g chopped white chocolate (50g kept aside to decorate)
  • 100g brown sugar (our whole cane sugar works perfectly here)
  • 230ml oat milk
  • 175g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 rhubarb stalks, cut into bite sized pieces

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180C and line a baking tin with baking parchment (I used a 20x28cm one).
  2. If you have our vegan block of Naturli butter in, you can brown it to create a nutty, caramel depth of flavour. If you are using another brand of vegan butter then just melt the butter, it will not brown. To brown the butter simply melt in a small pan, keep it swirling/stirring until it goes a gorgeous hazelnut colour.
  3. Then turn off the heat and tip in 200g of the white chocolate. Allow it to melt in the heat of the butter BEFORE stirring. Then add the sugar and milk and stir into a smooth, shiny caramel coloured sauce.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, salt, cornstarch, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder. Then pour in the melted butter, chocolate, sugar and milk and slowly whisk to just combine. Careful not to over-mix as that would activate the gluten in the flour and create tough blondies.
  5. Pour the batter into the lined baking dish and smooth out so that the corners are evenly filled. Then scatter over the reserved white chocolate and chopped rhubarb.
  6. Place the dish in the oven to bake until risen and golden. This should take around 30-35 minutes but ovens vary so check on it after 20 minutes. It is done when it is mostly set but still has a little wobble when gently shaken.
  7. Allow the blondie to cool in the tray then pop the tray in the fridge to set for a few hours or overnight (this requires heroic patience). Cut into 12 pieces and enjoy!

Wild Flowers, Leased Land & Glyphosate

It was one of those rare occasions, you know the ones, where you get a chance to take a break from your life for a day, to get away and do something that wakes you up again.  Sometimes it is from these breaks that you catch moments of clarity, that can be elusive during the busyness of life.  

Yesterday, myself and Jenny took a day and went exploring in the beautiful landscape of the Burren, which is only 40 minutes from our farm.

It had been some time since I had been up in the hills of the Burren. We got away from everything and it was truly amazing. It may be my maturing years, (last time I was up there I was on a mountain bike) but this time I was walking, and I noticed the abundance of flora. The Burren is renowned worldwide for the diversity of plant species that grow there, and on this particular day it was resplendent in its natural beauty.

Field after stony field were full of flowers, most of which I didn’t know or recognise. But suddenly as we rounded one corner a field of cowslips came into sight. It was a sight that transported me back in time, to a time when the fields next to our family home were full of these beautiful flowers. 

Sadly, today, these flowers are not to be found in most farm grasslands, they have all but disappeared (as have the button mushrooms that also used to be commonly found in meadows). The Burren is a haven for these flowers and one of the key reasons is the absence of chemicals. Those mountains are never sprayed, the land just gets to be.

Enroute to Clare we passed some land which up until last year we farmed. The sight of the fields was shocking, it had taken on a bright iridescent chemical hue.  

Earlier this year we finished the lease on that land.  We had been the custodians for the previous 5 years. Over those five years we treated that land very well, we increased the organic matter content, we brought up its fertility levels, we sowed red clover and left it under clover for two years, we picked truckloads of stones, but crucially we kept it alive, it was always alive while we were the guardians. 

This time last year, the last of the kale plants were flowering and those fields were alive with millions of insects and bees. Contrast that with what we saw yesterday. 

The land is only out of our care less then a month. The whole 9 acres is dead. It has been sprayed with glyphosate and it has a sickly bright yellow/orange tinge of chemical intoxication, all life is gone, all the plants are dead, all the bees are gone, all the insects are gone, and all the birds are gone.

As I reflected on the natural beauty of the Burren and what had happened to that land it was like an epiphany, it was a blinding shock at the glaring difference between the path of food production we follow and the chemical laden path of conventional food production. They couldn’t be more different. 

We came back to our normal lives and passed those fields again on the way home. I was sad that all our good work of five years had been undone in an afternoon. But anger and determination followed, and it made me even more committed to ensuring that we continue to do things right on our home farm, that we never ever use chemicals, and we protect nature at every turn.

Your support supports that mission. 

Kenneth

The Hungry Gap

Florence (one of our pet rescue pigs) decided to have a day of breakouts today, she gets a little restless sometimes, even with the 1.5 acres of forestry she calls home. Personally, I don’t think she has it that bad and George her compatriot rarely goes on these adventurous little trips.

But true to her nature Florence arrived up into our packing shed today demanding more food (she gets fed quite a bit) and again I think she was being a little unreasonable and has little to grumble about. But anyway, that is life sometimes I suppose.

It’s funny how the unexpected can make you take things a little more lightly, force you to stop your routine ruminations, force you to stop what you are doing and deal with the occurrence at hand.

Well today in the midst of pressure to get carrots and parsnips sown and the onions planted with the threat of rain on the horizon, we were forced to stop our work and go and bring Florence back to her forest home. 

There are I guess two ways to look at this, an unwelcome interruption that meant more pressure to get the sowing done on time, or a welcome break that could be enjoyed. My innate sense of grumpiness was edging towards the former, but thankfully Florence is just too funny, and I went with the latter. 

It made us stop and smell the newly cultivated soil, see the flowers and bees and all the other good stuff that was happening and the experience as a result was completely different. 

Not all interruptions can be dealt with in such a philosophical manner, some you just need to throw out a few choice expletives have a bit of a tantrum and move on, this was the case with our planter this week. 

It is temperamental old and cranky and every year there is a requirement to find mutual common ground between farmer and machine, this year that ground has been hard to find and has led to moments of promising our faithful machine that its days are truly numbered. (Of course, I didn’t really mean it, all was said in the heat of the moment!)

Nevertheless, if farming has thought me anything and it teaches a lot, is that perseverance is an absolute requirement to succeed no matter what happens. 

We have been very busy planting and sowing, for the last number of weeks we have been planting kale, cabbage, Romanesco, broccoli, lettuce, and celery.  We have been sowing, salad, beetroot, spinach, chard, carrots, and parsnips, not to mention the 1400 tomato plants that are soaking up so much time at present. 

We are harvesting too, but the old crops are finishing, and the new crops are coming from the tunnels, all the field veg is in the early stages, and as a result there is a lack of certain Irish crops, this period is called ‘the hungry gap’.  

There is no way to rush nature, you need to have patience and get your timings right, take good care of your crops and the nature around as the crops grow, and the harvest will come.

So, we work, we wait, and we harvest.

Kenneth

Thanks to the guys at sketchplanations for the schematic