Archive for the ‘Spiral of Life Garden’ Category

Amazing blackcurrant sorbet

Working for oneself has its ups and downs.  Sunny days often lead to cancellations in my clinic – I understand, who wants to see a dietitian on a hot day when you’re eating lots of salad, drinking plenty of water and very excited about exercising?  It’s all good. Today was probably one of the hottest we’ve had this year.  Everyone cancelled! At the moment, I’m really limited to catching up on weeding, harvesting, preserving in the long evenings.  The silver lining to my many cancellations was I got to spend the whole day between the garden and the kitchen!

We’ve gone past strawberries – the freezer is stocked with frozen whole strawberries, strawberry puree and I have jars of strawberry jam in the press.  It was time, the head gardener told me yesterday, to pull out the strawberry plants in one of my beds.  This is their second year to fruit.  Last year we took ‘runners’ off them – a process of potting the rooting part of the long tendrils strawberry plants send out after fruiting.  The runner, after taking root in a small pot of compost left under it, is then separated from the mother plant.  It can be planted (around September) into a fresh bed for fruiting the following summer and left there for 2-3 years, providing runners if required every year.  Today I dug out the strawberries before they started sending out runners.  They will be discarded.  You’ll see me below in the Massey Ferguson 135, which I haven’t driven for quite a while – a real treasure to the head gardener.

MF 135 & ME

To be taken away

Blackcurrants, raspberries and red currants have followed the strawberries.  Our blackcurrants are really at their best now.  I picked 6lb of them and decided to make the most amazing blackcurrant sorbet with 4lb and jam with the rest.  This sorbet is one of the best things to do with any soft fruit as far as I’m concerned.  It comes from a recipe in Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery Course Book and ascribed to Julia Wright. If you have blackcurrants make it!  It’s so beautiful and a great way to capture summer.

Blend 4lb blackcurrants in a food processor until you have a rough puree.

Pass the puree through a nylon sieve in batches, pushing it around the sieve with a rubber spatula.  This will take a while…..for 4lb maybe 20 minutes!

Now take 1.5 lb caster sugar and stir it into the smooth blackcurrant puree until it has dissolved.

Pour the mixture into an ice-cream machine and churn until set before freezing.  You can also just put it into a lunchbox and into the freezer – take it out to mix every 30 minutes for a couple of hours to prevent any ice crystals forming.

This is the time of year I relieve my presses of all the old jars & cleaned out cream-cheese containers and congratulate myself for being such a good hoarder.

This needs no accompiament – eat it all by itself.

You might be wondering what to do with the lovely pulp you have leftover.  I thought the same.  I still had 2lb blackcurrants, as well as 1.5lb fresh raspberries that I picked at the same time.  I love raspberry jam but made some a couple of evenings ago.

For this Blackcurrant & Raspberry Jam mix:

2lb fresh blackcurrants with 2lb blackcurrant pulp (that’s what it weighed) and 2 pints of water.  Bring to the boil and simmer until the blackcurrants just burst. Add  1.5lb raspberries and cook for less than 5 minutes. Next in is the sugar – 5lb of it – with a good stir so it all dissolves.  And bring to a good boil for at least 20 minutes.  Then it’s time to start checking for set – spoon some jam onto a cold plate and place in the fridge for a few minutes to cool.  Run your finger up the cooled jam – does it wrinkle?  That indicates setting point.  It should show a good wrinkling skin.  By this point your clean jars should be in the oven sterilising.  I boil the lids for a couple of minutes too.  At setting point, ladle the hot jam into a jug and pour into the hot jars. Seal, label and store for winter!

Pickling Wild Garlic seed heads

Heading to the woods to pick the seed heads from the wild garlic has been on my to do list for a while!  Nature waits for no woman, but luckily I found them still intact today.  I’m thinking this would be better done sometime earlier (like 3 weeks ago) since they do feel a lot tougher and definitely ready to pop.  The flavour, however, is still definitely of garlic and green.  And I’m not willing to wait until next year to try this process that I first heard through twitter from chef Enda McEvoy and later found this brilliant post with great pictures on The Hunter Gatherer Cook: (

So these are what I picked.

What’s left to do is use a fork to pull the heads from the light stalks and in a jar, cover with infused vinegar (Hunter Gatherer used pine needle vinegar which I don’t seem to have…).  He recommends infusing with mustard seeds and rosemary.  Well, all my rosemary died with the frost and I’m not sure if I have any mustard seeds but I’m going to make a pickle – maybe with cider vinegar and a touch of honey.  Will let you know how this delicacy goes.

I’ve been gardening a little too so my Circles are starting to take shape, if not a little later this year than last.  I have beets, chard, rocket and other leaves in one.  Summer sprouting broccoli takes another and I’ve just put 3 courgette plants into a third.  Last night I left out a little treat for the slugs who really love hiding in the stones that make the surrounds of my circular beds.

Slug Trap

A lot of slugs were harmed in the making of this blog post – today I counted about 20 slugs in the beer trap.  Sorry guys but we have to eat greens too!  I just used an empty tuna tin buried flush with the soil and poured in some out of date ale.  It really was quite satisfying to finally catch up with the slugs.  I’m planning a few more slug parties around the garden.

Back in January, Hugo from Cafe Azteca in Dublin sent me on some seeds for tomatillo and epazote, which I promised to sow for him in the tunnel.  Tomatillos are difficult to get here and go into making the green salsa for real Mexican cuisine.  Epazote is a herb Hugo used to flavour a black bean soup he made at his Mexican cookery class here.  It has grown just fine after being started on a heated bench in the glass house.  I transplanted some in the tunnel and outside to see how it gets on.  It was the dried version Hugo used so I should be able to harvest and store if it goes well.  A very distinctive aroma and flavour that’s difficult to describe (I wrote this before looking up widipedia!) but apparently very dear to Mexican cooks.  I would say it has an almost metallic/chemical smell that reminds me of chlorine.  Weird I know, but here’s what widipedia has to say on the herb:

Epazote is used as a leaf vegetable and herb for its pungent flavor. Raw, it has a resinous, medicinal pungency, similar to anisefennel, or even tarragon, but stronger. Epazote’s fragrance is strong but difficult to describe. It has been compared to citruspetroleumsavorymint and camphor.


The tomatillos are really taking off since transplanted into the tunnel a couple of weeks ago.

Tomatillo tunnel

Going to try some wild garlic seeds with boiled baby beets for dinner.  Garlic and beetroot – a great combination.  Try it!

The fruits of my Neglect

I was recently reminded by reading ‘my world’ on this very blog that I was been entrusted with the upkeep of these beautiful Spiral of Life Gardens.  As mentioned I’ve been somewhat neglectful.  The year has sort of spiraled out of control taking a few twists along the way.  But I’m learning.  When I count up all the things I’ve learned about growing vegetables this year it adds up to a lot.  Some of this things include side-shooting tomatoes, growing loads of herbs from scratch, drying marjoram and oregano, getting chillis in earlier, growing dwarf beans and plenty more.  The gardener must be patient – one must wait for the following year to put our learning into practice again.  A cook is not always so patient!  But she’s learning too.

So I pulled out some of those plants that I’ve been watching going to seed and fading away pitifully.  The dwarf beans are now out and the bed is nearly ready for green manure.  Those courgettes are still fruiting – but will be gone when the first frost comes.

Out with the Beans

This fennel root was fairly established and took a good tug to get out.  They are overgrown romanesco fennel.

Rogue Fennel Route

Fruits of my Neglect

Behind the barrow you can see where the head gardener has been sowing a late turnip in between the other crops.  They’ve got a bit of space now – slugs were going mad there so I threw in a few pellets – organic approved of course!!

This is what the head gardener gets up to while we’re not looking:

Cosy Shed

He’s got quite the eye.

Spiral of Life: Garden Update

I cornered the head gardener today to hold the ladder for me while I took some pictures from the roof of the shed.  Looking at the garden from this angle was a very beautiful thing – no reminders of all the work you need to do, just a lovely green view.  I should have organised a pot of tea for a garden-roof tea-party. Anyway enough of all that garden-gazing.  Here are the pics – First up a before (March 2010) and after-shot.  As you can see we’ve added a gazebo, apple trees and plenty of green.

Ariel View March 2010

Ariel View 22July2010

I love this chamomile/thyme path designed by Eric leading to the tunnel.

Tunnel Path

The mangetout twins are looking a bit worse for wear above, but they’ve nearly had it at this stage.

And who’s this guy lurking around?

Shady Character!

The sunflowers are out on Sunflower Organic Farm.  The first flowers and strongest plants are those that self-seeded last year.

Sunflowers 17th July 2010

The poppies are transient.  Despite my best efforts to grow poppies, this one self-seeded and none of mine came up!

Poppy 17th July

Veggies in abundance at the moment – courgettes, beets, cabbage, onions, broccoli, fennel, kohl rabi, kale, lettuce, baby carrots

Veggies coming on soon – green beans, broad beans, parsnips, turnips, squashes, garlic, tomatoes (tunnel)

Water Feature

Through patience and persistence the head gardener got our little water fountain to work and it looks great inside The Spiral of Life gardens.  Very peaceful to sit and hear the water gurgle.

Water Fountain

Garden almost complete

Spring has been in the form of making too – look how great this is looking.  I’ll be planting at the weekend! Just finalising the planting plan.

A brand new garden….

This is my blank canvas garden.  I am lucky enough to be entrusted with the green-keeping of this amazing area, which has been carefully created by Sesame Construction, Eric Humburg and Gerry Browne at Sunflower Organic Farm in Roscommon.

I’m planning what pretty and edible plants I’ll sow for cooking in my kitchen just a short few steps away!  I can hardly wait until they’re actually growing, but must because there are seeds to be germinated before the gastronomic rewards come…….good things come to those who wait….and sow.