One thing that has struck me since I started this site is that I have become some much more aware of where our food comes from. Sadly, this leads to some serious disappointments. The next time you go to your local shop – look at the origin of the fruit, vegetables and meat. An unfortunate amount of it comes from somewhere other than Ireland. It’s understandable that some food doesn’t grow so well in Ireland in large amounts, but for those fruits and vegetables that do grow here, I cannot for the life of me understand why we import them. Considering the serious job shortage here, surely the more produce that comes from our own country the better? It’s going to be fresher (it won’t be in transit for days), it’s going to create more jobs for people who need them here, and let’s face it, we do food well here in good old Ireland.
A few months ago, a group of us got a first-hand view of the setup of some of the salad producers that are based near Dublin – our own lovely Irish producers. They grow their food here, they employ more of our lovely Irish people, and they get their food to the shelves in record time.
We mixed it up, ‘salad style’ (Oh yes, I said it), by visiting the lovely Hugh Clarke, who grows the most beautiful fields of lettuce. Hugh grows his salad out behind his house, and has greenhouses and a few acres of land planted. Hugh was great, he willingly gave up some of his precious Saturday hours to entertain some eager foodies with a plethora of cameras. What struck me about Hugh, apart from his dedication and fantastic setup, was that he really changes his crops based on what people like. A few years ago, there was a lolla rossa craze, so he grew a large crop of it. This year he found a delicious (I speak from experience) continental selection of lettuce that has none of that bitterness I’ve come to expect from anything other than iceberg- a sign of how little I’ve deviated from what I had been used to.
Talking to Hugh, as he led us through his greenhouses and fields, was an eye opener. This was a man who loved what he did. His enthusiasm for his lifestyle (it’s clearly more than a job for him) was palpable, and clearly contagious- his sons are now becoming involved in the business! He takes pride in getting his food, packed and delivered to the shops within 24 hours (sometimes in as little as a few hours), and he checks on it himself regularly to see how well the shops have handled it- ensuring that his product isn’t sold in dire condition- an extra step I’m sure you’ll appreciate if you’ve ever bought a semi rotten head of lettuce (so disappointing). Hugh was great. His setup was fabulous, especially for such a small, family run business!
But as I said, we mixed it up somewhat. We also had the pleasure of visiting Keeling’s greenhouses.
Keeling’s are probably more of a household name in Ireland- they produce most of the country’s strawberry supply (I think I single handedly kept them in profit in June during exams – the girls will vouch for this – we ate 1-2 containers of their fabulous fruit every night as we talked through every clinical exam known to man and promptly forgot them with stress of impending DOOM of exams)(It’s ok. I passed. So did they). But when we were there, we took a look at their peppers. Keelings grow a massive amount of peppers in their magnificent greenhouses in Dublin. The rows upon rows of different coloured peppers were beautiful to look at, and even more beautiful to eat!
They also grow lettuce, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries amongst others.
I think it’s great- there’s a huge supply of fresh and delectable fruit at our fingertips now, that all comes from Ireland and supports the Irish economy. It’s been an eye opener for me. I’m so much more aware of where my food comes from. Since I’ve started sourcing local and Irish produce, I’m enjoying cooking much more. I know that the quality is always going to be amazing, that it could have been picked only a few hours ago, and certainly hasn’t been lying in a truck for days just to get here! I hope that this inspires you to check where exactly your food comes from, because meeting all these food producers and cooking with their food has certainly inspired me. Let’s keep up the support for our Irish producers, and enjoy our food as always!
A simple snack – mix it up a bit
So this isn’t so much a recipe as a new way to eat strawberries – but you must try this!
Wash and cut up some yummy Irish strawberries.
Finely grate some parmesan cheese into your bowl.
Grind some black pepper over the top, and taste.
I know it all sounds a bit unexpected, but it’s only gorgeous as they say! Enjoy 🙂
P.S. I’m sorry about the lack of posts recently- but this whole doctor shenanigans takes precedence!