Saturday, July 31, 2010

Connemara Blackberry Chutney

To me one of the quintessential tastes of Connemara is soda bread, butter, homemade blackberry jam and sweet tea.

This recipe, an accidental find, is a blackberry chutney that expands the options for a readily available and free resource.

But it is a change, and a new idea in terms of how to use blackberries to make something other than jam - Blackberry Curd is very fine option, as is Blackberry and Beetroot salad.

The cool thing is that fruit, with their high acid content, are less likely to go wrong during the preservation process, so this might be a good one to start with - particularly with the added acidity of the vinegar.

Its going to be a bumper crop this year, that much is obvious from today's walk to pick blackberries.

It was great to see so many blackberries reaching maturity this early in the year, and the plants are weighed down with immature fruit.

Although I struggle with briar's in the veg patch I am lucky in the fact that the walls here are covered with briar's, and with little or no traffic they are clean.
I came across the basis of this recipe due to taking a spin!! As Brillat-Savarin - perhaps in hubris - once wrote "The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of mankind than the discovery of a star"

A good friend of mine owns a local store and needed a hand with taking a delivery from a cash and carry.
I went in to see if I could get some allspice, for a Jewish recipe I found for turnips - but no luck there.

However what I did find was Kilner jars - a thing I have wanted for a while, especially after seeing onion preserves photographed on food, flora and felines. Bit sad, but it is a question of catching up with the Joneses, cant have those southerners having their food look better than mine - the cats would never forgive me.

Anyway, getting the jars, they gave a recipe for blackberry chutney. I have never even heard of it so I did a bit of research.
Apparently it is basically a Devon/Cornwall recipe, which is a part of England I love for the food, the surf and the people.

There are a few variations, but he basics are blackberries, chili's, ginger, onion, sugar and wine vinegar.
In this recipe the weights are for standard, but I added a few bits and bobs.

1 tsp Olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 cm ginger, finely chopped
2 large red chillies, finely chopped
1 lb blackberries
45 grms brown sugar
30 ml (one fluid ounce) white wine vinegar

1 cooking apple, cored, peeled, diced
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp honey
1/2 combined tsp (i.e. - 1/2 a teaspoon of all, not of each) of:
Mustard seed, crushed
Coriander seed, crushed
Cumin seed, crushed

1: Heat the olive oil in a heavy based pan, add onion, chili and ginger
(I also at this point added the spices and lemon zest)

2: Fry gently for 4-5 minutes until softened, do not overcook.

3: Add blackberries and cook for 3-4 minutes
(I also at this point added the apple, lemon juice and honey)

4: Add sugar and vinegar, mixing well

5: Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 mins or until thickened.

6: While the chutney is still hot, transfer to into hot, sterilised jars.
Then move to canning bath as described in Malt & Mustard Pickles

Delicious served with goat cheese and crusty bread, but it can be used as a chutney with other dishes, I'm looking forward to having it with bacon wrapped rounds of goat cheese.
I will add photos to this post in about 3 weeks, unless I am back at work.

This recipe has a real salt and sweet flavor, but should not be eaten for at least two weeks after jarring.
That's easier said than done, every pickle so far has either been eaten or given away as a gift.

And that kind of brings it to mind - why, with the availability of good, cheap pickles, preserves and chutneys do I bother with so much work? It does seem quite impractical
Well, I think it is important to know how to preserve food, I can milk a cow, catch a fish, skin a rabbit, butcher a lamb etc. - so there is that primary drive for knowledge.
There is food miles, I wrote before at how shocked I was to be buying garlic from China and onions from New Zealand - when these are not particularly seasonal foods.
But, perhaps, most importantly, maybe it is a labour of love.
For many people, pickling and preserving are a family way of life - a custom handed down through generations.
Its also great to have home grown, fresh from the garden preserves, pickles, chutneys and jams that can provide variety to the table.
On having variety and range in food - and cooking -Again I must quote Brillat-Savarin once wrote "The Creator, who made man such that he must eat to live, causes him to eat by means of appetite, and for a reward gives him pleasure in eating"
Most importantly of all perhaps is the giving of food as a gift - this is particularly true of food you have made or grown yourself.
I am not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination, but there are so many references in the bible, koran and other texts it is hard to ignore how fundamental and intimate the sharing of food is.
Across all cultures, the sharing of food is for joyful occasions, weddings, births and holidays.
I will have an excess of food - the koran says
Food for two suffices three; and food for three suffices four
That simply means to share.
A fundamental part of christianity is the last supper, the gathering together and sharing of food.
In Nehimiah 8:10 it says "Go and enjoy choice food ..... and send some to those who have nothing prepared"
And by digging up these recipes, and sharing them with others on the world wide web, maybe that is an extension of sharing food, and maybe that explains why I do this blog.
My garden makes me happy, so perhaps the most relevant quote I can think of is one of Buddhas sayings -
“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

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Friday, July 30, 2010

A few pictures - garden colour

When you try to write, editing is everything, and I can be self indulgent at times as I meander through thought.

I am also told that a good speech should be like a tennis players skirt - long enough to cover the essentials but short enough to be interesting.

Then again we all know a picture tells a thousand words - so on that note here are a few from the veg patch.
Borlotto Firetounge flowers
Dwarf Haricot

Dwarf Kinghorn Wax flower
Phaseolus Vulgaris

Broadbean selection

Baby Ironman F1

Baby All Year Round Cauli

Nice tight Greyhound cabbage
At least I got the shot, others destroyed by caterpillars and slugs

Squash from the garden
Used to make spicy summer squash
Squash flowers

Mr Little's Yetholm Gypsy flowers

And the spuds themselves

And a few beans

Garden Pickings
First Gherkin ever grown on this croft
Please feel free to comment

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Irish al-Maġrib Beetroot Pickle المغرب‎

I spoke before about using an oven to prepare beetroot before pickling, and its certainly still the main method I'd recommend.

But I was sitting there peeling good, tennis ball sized beetroot, beside a warm Morsø turf and wood fire. I figured, why waste electricity starting up the oven when I had a very good heat source anyway. It was just a quick idea, and I liked doing this for a few reasons.

Using the latent heat in the stove maximises the potential of a great stove (even though this one is not designed for cooking) and I don't waste electricity using the oven for what is a relatively small load.
Its easier and less wasteful to peel beetroot after boiling.
This blog is about a small Connemara kitchen garden, so I think its fitting that I should cook at least one thing over a turf fire.
Before the Morsø we used to have a Stanley Number 8 range on which my Grandmother would cook, and fresh soda bread from the oven.

I have an older cousin who still bakes bread in a turf fired range, and I think hers is the best soda bread in the world.

They say you learn something new everyday - well here's one, when the beets are cooked they float to the surface when boiled in lightly salted water! When you think about it that means you can throw in different sizes, and just pick them off when they are done - no stabbing/jabbing guessing.

I also know that in Holland, because of the time and energy it takes to cook beetroot that it was, in Zealand at least, a social, communal thing.
Farmers families would bring beetroot to one place, and use one big pot, then take away their portion of the cooked beets.

I like this idea, the only place I have seen it is in communal bakeries in Morocco and communal tandoori ovens in India.
When you consider the trouble we go to over family barbeque's, I think it shows what a fundamental human thing it is to gather communally around food.

In Morocco, wife's and mothers make dough in the morning and bring it to the communal bakery.
For a dirham or two the local baker bungs it in the oven and cooks the loaves.

While waiting, the customers sit around, drink tea, listen to the radio and chat. Its a very social, daily occasion where news and views are exchanged.
As a visitor I was welcome, if not something of an oddity.
It's quite unique, sitting there drinking tea with the smell of baking bread, orange groves and the desert permeating the seaside air, trying to converse (badly) in French and a smattering of Berber early in the morning while waiting for the surf to get better.

I did not take pictures that day, as that far south in Morocco, I feel it may have been improper, but the memories are still as fresh as ever.

In Morocco they pickle Lemons and Carrots.
Their carrot pickle uses a cider vinegar - so I may do that later in the year when my carrots start rooting up. I got two heritage types from the real seed company (link in right hand panel) Jaune Obtuse de Doubs- a yellow type, and Long Lise de Meax - a blunt orange type thats a good keeper for the winter.

Most of the beets I cooked in this batch will go into my own Malt and Mustard Pickle, but I have reserved enough for two jars of a Moroccan style pickle based on their carrot pickle recipe.

Herb and Spice mix - note Sea Salt

Connemara Beetroot Pickle mix a la Moroccan

3 small (pickling) onions
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 red chili's, halved, keep the seeds if you like pickles a little hotter.
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Peel of 1 lemon, cut into strips
1-1/2 cups water
1-1/2 cups cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 Bay leaves
2 sprigs fennel
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, cracked
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, cracked.
1 teaspoon cardamom pods, cracked
1 teaspoon Black Pepper corns

Reserve the chili, fennel sprigs and lemon, those go in the jar raw with the cooked beets
Make the pickle mix.
Sterilise jars, layer beetroot into the jars with fennel, lemon peel, chili and garlic

Pour mix into jars, use a spoon to add bits of seeds etc. and place in pickling bath (again, see the malt and mustard posting)

I also srinkled about half a teaspoon of dried coriander leaf into each jar before sealing.

Store for three weeks before eating, should keep about 6 months

One thing I found was taking clingfilm, hold over the jar mouth. Slowly lower the sheet (peel/sterile side down) over the jar mouth, because of the heat of the jar, the clingfilm will close in on the grooves.
Put lid on, leave cool. The food safety nipple should, when the jar cools, should depress to the 'safe' position.
Malt and Mustard on left, Maroc Style on right

Next pickle plans I'm looking forward to are my gherkins growing a little bit more to do a Dill pickle, and the silver skin pickling onions, the seed came from France for those.

I'm looking to when Khrystyna from Food, Flora and felines puts up a Hebrew Pickled Turnip recipe, I would like to have a crack at that - although I have found Lebanese and Indian versions online.

بالهناء والشفاء / بالهنا والشفا
(bil-hanā' wa ash-shifā')

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Barbaricaly Hedonistic Bombay Sapphire and Yorkshire Relish Ribs (with Greyhound Caraway Cabbage)

A totally hedonistic meal, takes time but it is delicious.
One thing I would advise strongly is you might be tempted to add salt, just don't, especially to the ribs.
Its better to add to taste after cooking

This meal uses a cheap cut of meat, but you get the right ingredients and pack in the flavour.
Bombay Sapphire is what I consider to be the premium gin on the market, even better than Tanqueray.

It's also an excuse to make a cocktail I got off the Two Hairy Bikers - Cardamom Martini - as an aperitif.

YR - Yorkshire Relish sauce is an Irish thing, and its hard to find at times even here - but it is seriously rich and packed with flavour, its good with meat and cheddar/Edam type cheese.
Without doubt the best brown sauce on the market.

This recipe is tricky, and takes a bit of work - but it tastes so good its worth it, about twice a year.

BS&YR BBQ Sauce (Bombay Sapphire and Yorkshire Relish)

3 tbsp. olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
75 ml Bombay Sapphire gin
150 g brown sugar
20 ml grapefruit juice
100 ml Smithwicks or pale ale type beer
100 ml ketchup
100 ml Yorkshire Relish - accept no substitute (that includes HP, A-1, Daddy Sauce etc. unless utterly desperate)
2 ml Tabasco sauce
zest of 2 washed lemons
5 g chili powder
40 g Dijon type mustard
2 juniper berries
6 g onion powder
6 g garlic powder
2 bay leaves

Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and cook onion and garlic until soft; de-glaze the pan with Bombay Sapphire gin, then reduce to dry. Add brown sugar to coat onion and garlic. Add all other ingredients, and cook about 60 minutes until the sauce reduces to half. Place the sauce in a blender, mix, and strain. Set aside to cool.
Spare Ribs:
4 lbs. pork baby back ribs or spare ribs
2 carrots, diced
1 leek, diced
1/2 branch of celery, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 bay leaf
3 juniper berries
Water to cover

Bombay Sapphire BBQ sauce

Preheat oven to 160 °C. Place ribs, vegetables and spices in a large roasting pan, and add water to the height of the ingredients. Bring to boil on the stove, cover and cook in the oven 1 3/4 to 2 hours, or until meat comes off the bone. Let the ribs cool in their juices, then take them out and smother them with BBQ sauce; set aside. Preheat grill or BBQ to medium-high heat on one side only. Place ribs on the opposite side, and cook slowly 30 minutes, brushing ribs with more BBQ sauce every 5 minutes

Cabbage is the ideal veg to go with this meal.
In the garden I have a really lovely mild Irish favorite - Greyhound.

Not the easiest seed to find, and in comparison with the Rodeo red and Blomendaalse Gele I planted very susceptible to caterpillars and slugs, but out of 8 I got 5 specimen plants.

To prep cabbage to go with this meal
Remove outer leaves
Slice to a medium strip size.
Wash in cold salt water
Transfer to steamer (I just use a fish kettle)
Sprinkle with the juice of a lime and 1 tsp Caraway seeds

I served this with new potato's and Creamed Connemara Kohlrabi

I was lucky to get my hands on a strong Cabernet Sauvignon (Chantarel) for this, but if in doubt go for a Merlot or Pinot Noir - a good strong red.

Another excellent option is a good quality strong, clean tasting beer like Smithwicks, Leffe Brun or Triple, Blonde is too light for this, as are largers, and Guinness just does not go with this.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Super Simple Slightly Spicy Summer Squash

Other than butternut pumpkin in Moroccan Tagines I have never really cooked pumpkins or gourds in the past.

In a total impulse purchase I picked up some squash seeds from Lidl. I had an idea running around about North American veg in the garden for some reason.

The packet was a real mixed bunch simply labeled Curcurbita Pepo, and I never expected them to do well - they have thrived to the extent they have needed to be severely cut back, curtailed and thinned.

I went away for a week, and when I got back, two of my precious greyhound cabbage had been devoured by some pests (time to order supernemo and nemaslug again) and the squash had gone amok among the other plants.

They are fruiting well and I picked a few that were about the size of big oranges.

They are actually meant more as ornamental gourds than for food according to the packet, but they are delicious.
They are growing in a variety of shapes, colours and sizes, but all produce massive yellow flowers, so I am looking forward to seeing what my lucky bag of seeds will deliver.

I also picked up some Patisson Sunburst seeds that day, a flat, sweet buttery squash I had once in Denmark, so I am looking forward to harvesting a few of those.

Pattison Sunburst - stock photo

In my rush, I forgot to photograph the squash themselves before cooking, so I will need to update this blog in the future.

The recipe I decided on was very adhoc, after glancing at some Southern US and Indian type recipes I had an idea of the balance of flavours I wanted.

First thing was simply to wash, chop and steam the squash picked, seeds and all (they were still quite immature)

Quick 10 minute steam in fish kettle

After that it was a quick transfer to a pan.

I had already diced and softened a small onion in butter , and added some salt, pepper, ground coriander and a spoon of mid curry powder.

To this I added the steamed squash

5 minutes in butter, herbs, spices and a little honey

About 5 minutes in the pan, just enough to coat them - kinda like a warm salad idea - and they were a very mild, tasty and a sort of sweet/salt flavour with an aldente texture.
I think it would be ideal as a side dish with any basmati rice and naan bread dish.

Great late snack/side dish - sorry about the focus


3 small Squash, washed and chopped
1 onion
knob of butter
1 tsp Mild curry powder
1 tsp ground corriander
1 tsp honey
Salt & Pepper

It worked out very well, they were very tasty, if a little mild for my taste - perhaps a little lemon would give them more zing.
For a more Chinese type flavour I'm sure they would work well with a little sesame seed oil, fresh ginger and chili.
For a Mexican type dish, I'd go with fresh coriander, chili and garlic.

I look forward to doing bigger meals using these veg, they seem very versatile and pick up flavours very easily.

With what seems like a glut coming on the great news is apparently the store very easily.

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Easy peasy Mackerel and lemon squeezy broadbean risotto

There are so many things to do with mackerel. I will be doing a post on how to salt them, even if only to record how to preserve fish for others.
But fresh, local, line caught mackerel is a real treat. I must thank Syed Taqi for passing a few my way, they certainly wont go to waste.
The main way I cook mackerel myself is in a Normandy style - but I saw this recipe from the great Mark Hix of the UK's independent newspaper.
Having fresh peas and broad beans in the garden, it seemed to be a natural choice when I got the first mackerel of this season.
There are several recipes that do mackerel with fruits like cranberry, apple, gooseberry, rhubarb etc.
I think the idea is that the acid in the fruit can cut through the oils in the fish.

Mackerel is like Irish tuna, fairly plentiful, packed with Omega 3 oils and it adapts easily with different flavours.
There are so many great cuisines that do rice and fish, Indonesia, China, Spain with their paella and others.

I feel there is a real automatic temptation to reach for new potato's and fresh mackerel, in itself a great meal.
A great favorite locally is salted mackerel with new potato's and loads of butter.

But just to be a little different I went with a risotto with fresh broad beans from the garden.

If the mackerel are small, then use two fillets per person, or alternatively you could ask your fishmonger to butterfly them.

4 fillets from a large mackerel, weighing about 100-120g each, or 8 smaller ones
1tbsp flour for dusting
1tbsp olive oil
100g butter
2 large shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
The grated zest and juice of one orange
100ml veg stock
120-150g shelled weight of peas, cooked
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat half the butter in a pan and gently cook the shallots for a couple of minutes until soft, add the orange zest and juice, fish stock and peas, season and simmer for 2-3 minutes,

Stir in the rest of the butter until emulsified and remove from the heat.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy or non-stick frying pan.
Lightly flour the mackerel on the skin side and season.
Fry the fillets skin-side down, first for 2-3 minutes until the skin is crisp, then turn them and cook for a couple of minutes on the other side.
Spoon the peas on to serving plates; lay the fillets on top.

This risotto is really easy-peasy-lemon squeezy

350g (12 oz)  broad beans
Salt and pepper
15g (1 tbsp) butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
200g (7 oz) arborio (risotto) rice
1 litre (1¾ pints) hot vegetable stock
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

Optional, Grated Parmesan

Optional, to give it a Spanish flavour you could add some prawns and saffron - maybe a tiny dash of sherry vinegar.

1.Cook the broad beans in a large pan of boiling salted water for 3-5 minutes or until just tender. Plunge into ice-cold water to cool. Drain, peel off the outer skin, if wished, and set aside.

2.Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the onion and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes or until beginning to soften. Add the rice and continue to cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes.

3.Pour in a ladle full of the hot stock and simmer gently, stirring frequently until the rice has absorbed most of it. Keep adding the stock in this way until the rice is tender but still has bite to it; this will take about 15-20 minutes. The risotto should look creamy and soft when cooked.

4.Add the broad beans, lemon rind and juice and warm through.

5.Serve the risotto immediately, garnished with grated Parmesan and lemon rind.
The mackerel is also great with new potato's or a simple green salad with a french or Caribbean dressing.
I'll have my own shots of the meal up in the next few days.

Great thing about fishy leftovers like guts, heads etc. is that I have a professional disposal team for leftovers

This is a great meal in terms of prep time, your looking at 25 minutes between fridge and plate.
Frying pan and pot's for stock, peas and risotto

All go, from pantry to plating up in 25 mins

Alternate presentation with risotto

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Monday, July 5, 2010

Irish Golden White Wine Pickles

Burpees Golden are a heritage beetroot, but are golden in colour.
Roasted they are milder and sweeter than red beets.

A Victorian variety of beetroot bred by the old American seedhouse Burpee.
The roots are orange-yellow in colour and turn to a deeper golden yellow when cooked.

They don't bleed and stain like red beetroot. Young leaves can be eaten as baby leaves.

The small beets can be used as salad beetroot and then of course the mature beets can be used in salads or cooked as a vegetable.
Eat raw grated, boiled, roasted or pickled.

This pickle was kind of a mistake, I was making up a pickle mix with what I thought was a cider vinegar, but it turns out it was a white wine vinegar.
It will be interesting to see how it turns out.

As with the malt and mustard pickle I roasted the beets instead of boiling them.
From what I can gather on the net, boiling this type can drain all the colour from them.

They came out of the oven a lovely dark yellow.I was worried I would not have enough of them to pack out the jar, so I threw a small Stuttgarter onion from the garden in with the packet.

The pickle mix for 1 jar was:
150ml White Wine Vinegar
100ml Water
4 tbl spoon sugar
1 tbl spoon sea salt (try to get non-iodized salt with no anti-caking agent)
1 tbl spoon honey
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoon dill seeds
4 cloves
5 whole pepper corns
2 cardamom pods
2 cloves garlic
1/2 stick Cinnamon
1/2 green chili
1 cm ginger
1 cm horseradish root.
Fennel trimming root

In the jar I put
1/2 green chili
1 clove garlic
fennel trimming leaves
1 cardamom pod
2cm horseradish root
1cm ginger root.

All the rest was as with the malt and mustard pickle, check it out for advice, links and a step by step on pickling.

It should be interesting, but regardless of how it turns out, it looks lovely in the bottle.

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Homemade Organic Garden chemicals

This post will be expanded in future as I learn, to date there is herbicide, insecticide and fungicide that you can make at home.
Hope it is of some help to some.

The safety of using commercially available weedkillers, pesticides etc. is not entirely known.
While the manufacturers and Governments say they are safe, the long term affects of the continued use of these toxic chemicals and their affects on people and other living creatures is not entirely known.

For those of us who do not want our children and pets exposed to these toxic chemicals while trying to find a way to deal with pests there are alternatives

The nice thing about using a bio-degradable homemade garden chemicals is that you are not harming your family and pets which can happen with the commercially available chemicals.

At least these suggestions mean you know exactly what you are spraying.

Anyway - here are a few suggested solutions, or alternatives to common chemicals - at least you know what goes into them.

I have written a bit about my own concerns in relation to chemical corporations after the recipies, but first here is my list of home made garden chemicals

 BORDEAUX MIX (Bluestone spray)
For preventing Potato Blight and some other fungal diseases:-

Copper Sulphate 1 lb (250g)
Hydrated Lime 1¼ lb (315g)
Water 10 gal (25 litres)

Use as a spray wetting all surfaces of leaves and stems.

Burgundy Mixture is is a similar preparation with more commonly found ingredients:
50g Copper Sulphate (bluestone)
60g Sodium Carbonate (washing soda) or Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda)
60g Soot if available
add to 5 litres of water
Garlic spray is generally an effective, short-term repellent and will kill some soft-bodied insects. Don't forget that garlic does smell, so be selective as to where you spray it.

Garlic Spray - kills many insect pests and friends so use carefully

1. Non-oily - Chop one or two complete garlic bulbs (heads) and cover with boiling water in a lidded jar. Leave to soak overnight.
Strain and add to one litre of Soap Spray. Unused spray will decay but can be frozen to preserve.

2. Oily - 100g chopped garlic soaked for at least 24 hours in 30ml veg oil.
Add 500ml water with 5ml liquid soap and stir well to emulsify the oil.
This should keep for a few months in a sealed childproof jar - store in a cool area.

Use 30ml of preparation in 500ml water and 5ml soap to spray plants.

Although environmentally friendly this home made spray can cause damage to innocent insects and bugs that just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, the same applies to fragile vegetation in the close proximity.

While there are many different recipes out there for a homemade weed killer most of them are based off of the following:
• 1 litre of white vinegar.
• 60 grammes of table salt.
• 1 squirt of washing up liquid.
Mix everything together making sure the salt is completely dissolved.
You can then pour this into a spray bottle or one of those weed sprayers you can get at any garden center.

You spray this solution directly on the weeds you want to get rid of preferably on a hot day in full sun for best results. One thing to remember with this solution is to not get it on anything you don’t want to kill.

It is non-selective in what it kills meaning it will kill any plant life it comes in contact with and it will sterilize the soil for up to two years depending on how much you get on the soil.

Please pay particular attention to this, the salt in the solution is what makes the soil uninhabitable for weed seedlings which are still to come.
If you wish to effectively poison your soil to new sowings and plantings for approx two years, then add the the salt element, if not omit it.
So with salt is best for patios, gravel drive etc, basically all areas designed to be free of growth, whereas without salt is better for beds, borders, lawns and veg areas, where you intend to plant again.

Also be aware that this solution cannot be sprayed wholesale over lawns to kill just weeds, as it is indiscriminate in its damage to both weed and grass. On a lawn it is better suited to spot treatment
If you are concerned about getting the vinegar solution on your desirable plants you can use a cloth to wipe the solution on the leafy parts of the weeds.

This will keep any of the solution from coming in contact with the plants you want to keep.

If you use this method it is advisable to wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from the acidic affects of the vinegar.
If you don’t want to use this formula for a homemade weed killer then you can always rely on the tried and true method of hand-pulling any weeds you find in your landscape. Eventually the weeds lose the ability to create enough food for their roots to continue to grow and their roots will die off. This actually works best if you don’t have a lot of weeds in your drive or garden.

DISCLAIMER: ( I have been advised to put this in)
Under Irish and EU law it is illegal to use any preparation as a pesticide/fungicide/herbicide that is not approved for such use.
The information here is for reference only and does not imply a recommendation for use.
If you disregard this warning and make any of the preparations, you do so entirely at your own risk.
The author and the website accepts no responsibility for how a user may mix, use, store, or any effects the mixture or its elements may have on people, plants or the environment.


I am not particularly scared of GM foods. To an extent most foods we eat are modified by selective breeding. A lot of resistance to science is Luddite.

I do believe, however, in choice, and being permitted to make an informed decision. People are concerned about GM crops for many reasons.
That is why GM foods should be clearly labelled as such, and I distrust the fact that the companies producing GM foods object to this.

Now, it is illegal under EU law to make any of these mixes, the control methods are suggested here as a matter of general information.

Diversity in nature is a good thing, having single strain crops is a real danger, pathogens develop resistance, that is nature and evolution.
We see now the effect of our over reliance on antibiotics with the development of MRSA in the past 50 years.

And now with GM crops being bred to have resistance to roundup we see the development of Superweeds that are also resistant.

Companies like Monsanto, Dow and Union Carbide (of the Bhopal disaster) have - in my opinion - hired some very successful lobbyists to ensure we need to use, and even grow, only their products.

I really feel that having crops that are engineered to be resistant to herbicides is not a bad thing, it will allow better food production for the world - but the cross over effect from lack of research, or perhaps greed is already having a detrimental effect in the space of 30 years.

With the way the EU is structured post Lisbon II, this means large multinationals can hire lobbyist companies to persuade the unelected technocrats to stop or reduce the impact of clear branding.

The one thing I am very uncomfortable with the is the morality of copyright on living things, be that vegetables or animals like lab mice or chickens.

For example AviGenics is one US company that want to get copyright on a genetically modified chicken, with a DNA copyright tag inserted in its genes to stop people breeding it without permission.
The "trademark" would not only be locked into each of the chicken's millions of cells, but would be handed on to the bird's offspring indefinitely. It means breeders and farmers would be beholden to a large corporation

Monsanto has sued many farmers when their GM crops have turned up on the farmer's fields even though the farmers say they never planted them.
Farmers who get into the Roundup-Ready (RR)system lose their independence, and are obliged to sign a lengthy and restrictive agreement, this can include restrictions on saving seeds.

Monsanto contracts private investigation firms to regularly check up on their own farmers, and independent, non-GM farmers as well, taking samples unannounced from their fields to make sure they are not in violation of the contracts issued.

I don't like the RR system, it is crops that have been modified to withstand Roundup - a very strong herbicide, killing all other plants except those with resistance.

RR is a "no-till" system. Rather than the traditional tilling of the ground to control weeds the RR system relies on its herbicide to control them.

This requires the exclusive use of Monsanto's herbicide, Roundup, primarily, some say, to increase profits for Monsanto - and at almost 250 million GM acres worldwide which all require Roundup that's a lot of profit.

David Ehrenfield, Professor of Biology at Rutgers University said "Genetic Engineering is often justified as a human technology, one that feeds more people with better food. Nothing could be further from the truth. With very few exceptions, the whole point of genetic engineering is to increase sales of chemicals and bio-engineered products to dependent farmers"

In the United States, the adoption of Roundup Ready crops combined with the very alarming emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds has driven a more than 15-fold increase in the use of glyphosate on major field crops from 1994 to 2005.

The weed resistance is not unlike the development of MRSA and super bugs, that we have so many anti-biotics in our food chain has made certain bacteria resistant to them, as are some diseases.

Monsanto, which once argued that resistance would not become a major problem, now cautions against exaggerating its impact. “It’s a serious issue, but it’s manageable,” said Rick Cole, who manages weed resistance issues in the United States for the company.

Across the Americas there has been the growth of pesticide resistant weeds.
An article on France 24 deals with this at length.

Other crops are being contaminated, because Monsanto's engineered genes can readily migrate to non-GM crops.
Organic farms are increasingly finding that via cross-pollination their pure food has been contaminated with GM DNA thus ruining their businesses.

In 2002, Ontario farmer Alex Nurnberg had tests conducted on his 100-ton harvest of organic corn.
Twenty tons were found to be contaminated by GMOs, which he believes were blown by the wind from the corn on a neighboring farm.

There is also collateral damage.
As with other herbicides such as Atrazine, the use of Roundup has been linked to the decimation of frogs and bees worldwide.
This is truly unfortunate as it is estimated that a single frog can consume 10,000 garden/farm pests in a growing season, and bees are vital to our survival.

I took great care when I sprayed Liquid Derris Plus to avoid run-off into the drains around my patch so as not to hurt frogs.

As with chemical slug pellets getting into the food chain, this is of concern to me.
Birds and other creatures which naturally eat slugs – such as hedgehogs and frogs – which are some of our best allies in the battle against these pests, may also be harmed if they eat a slug which has been feeding on the bait – effectively taking the poison themselves.

Although the dose required to kill a slug is many times smaller than that to kill a hedgehog, over time the same hedgehog can eat a very large number of slugs!

There are various less toxic alternatives to traditional pellets available; including aluminium sulphate powders and iron phosphate.
There is also a wide selection of non-chemical methods to combat slugs, ranging from simple gravel barriers, through copper rings and beer traps to a variety of approaches to natural control.

There is no one ideal solution to controlling these persistent pests. For many gardeners, this means that there will be a place for traditional slug pellets, but knowing the risks – and being aware of the alternatives – should allow most of the problems to be avoided.

I do not think Monsanto are doing anything illegal, their job is to earn money for the corporation and its stockholders - but I do think the controls they impose on farmers are immoral.

I also avoided where I could buying hybrid plants, as these do not produce seed, and I think it would be nice to keep a plant strain going, and I believe we have a right to grow our own food, and if we choose to that in a sustainable way, by keeping seed for example, that should not - in my opinion - be subject to copyright.

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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Turf stack

Part of life in Connemara is our harsh winters, so we need fuel.
Oil and gas are expensive, and trees take a lot of time to grow.

What we do have is bog and turf.

Neighbours, my family and I recently had to go through an ordeal when a quarry company tried to claim ownership of our property - so I'm damned if someone else is going to do so.

Of course I believe some areas need to be preserved, but banning families taking hand cut turf - not commercial machine cut - from family plots is just plain silly when the Council were quite happy to allow someone to claim the area to quarry commercially, despite their being turf plots owned for generations there.

Galway coco do not even properly enforce planning or dumping out here - let alone the environment.
In a recent local case, neither they - nor the dept of environment, would do anything about damage to the NHA - each saying it was the others responsibility.

The Minister for the Environment has just allowed the drilling of boreholes for a pipeline in an SHA, but that is for a big company.

They need t enforce current regulations, not make up new ones that they will just ignore.

I have left my own bog set aside, but neighbours whose cattle graze the farm deliver one tractor of turf per year, and that's all that is needed for the year.

Just finished my turf stack, so I thought I would post it here - its a quintessential Connemara thing.

Most people now use sheds, but a well built turf stack is aesthetically pleasing, and stays dry.

Anyway, here is my attempt of a turf stack

Like non-commercial fishing for the home I believe it is an indigenous right to cut a reasonable amount of fuel from designated, owned plots for the home.
This is what we take on an annual basis - 1 tractor load.

The Government wants to stop this, but neither the Dept of Environment or Galway CoCo will take action on dumping or quarry damage to an NHA in this area, in fact they have done everything to do nothing, I am very happy that Minister Gormly has ordered an investigation into Galway CoCo -
But they should enforce regulations they have now instead of introducing new ones.

Anyone concerned about turbury rights should check out the facebook group

This group involves Cllr. Luke 'Ming Flannigan, a very progressive and environmentally conscious politician who I have known for a few years, and I would like to offer my congrats to him on his election as Mayor of Roscommon, shame he left Galway, he is a loss to the county, we end up with crooks like Stroke Fahy

Anyway, for those readers outside of Ireland, turf stacking is a hard job on the croft - but come the winter its well worth it

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