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In the unlikely setting of a unit in a commercial estate, we are talking micro-herbs, herbs and salads in general. They are growing all around us.
Urban gardener Ellie Donovan has just moved from another similar location and tells me she never thought there’d be such a demand for her organic micro greens. ‘“The chefs love them,” she says. She started with lots of varieties but is now down to six, the ones the chefs really like!
The urban garden!
She has been boosted by the signing of a new contract with the Market Lane group of restaurants. Market Lane’s original venture in Oliver Plunket Street will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year and no doubt their other restaurants Elbow Lane (and its micro brewery), ORSO Bar and Kitchen, and the spectacularly situated Castle Cafe will join in.
And it was at the cafe in Blackrock Castle that Ellie first began to work with the group. Here she set up a small kitchen garden and now the cafe is self sufficient and look after it themselves. She has also grown some hops in a confined location at the top of Elbow Lane. “All the Market Lane places are excellent. I love them and we have a great relationship.”
Recycled fish boxes
It is a confidence building relationship too and that will help Green Space expand. But it's hard going on your own!
More hops for the brewery are in the pipeline. She will be using an enclosed outside patch of concrete close to the unit and will be growing lots of plants, probably including hops, in pallets that she has been collecting. And the garden at her country home will also help her ambitions to grow more outdoors.
One of the advantages in being in a commercial centre is that it is something of a community and people tend to help one another out. For instance, a nearby unit gives her used fish boxes and they are ideal for her business.
Ellie uses coco fibre (also known as coir) as a growing medium. It is a natural product and hers includes rooting hormones. And then she also uses liquid fertilisers. At present, she is using tap water but plans are in hand - indeed some of the gear is in place - to replace it with rain-water. And another plan is to get a solar panel on the roof.
She is getting used to the particular environment of her Ballyvolane unit, learning day by day. She lost some lettuce overnight during the recent spell of very hot weather. She is pretty happy with the natural light but also uses some hanging fixtures that give close to a natural light. And she has heat mats in place for propagation.
Hydroponics in action
And what does she grow? Well lots of little herbs (some larger ones too: Rosemary, Sage, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Parsley...). The micros include Basil (four or five varieties), Coriander, Chinese and other chives, Rambo purple radish, and more. Also salads such as Mizuna, Wild Rocket, Mustards, Pea shoots etc.
And she’s always experimenting, trying something new. So be sure and watch this Green Space!
Perhaps it is not overly surprising
that we have many good black (and white) pudding makers in the region. The surprise
is more in the robust resurgence of this old food of the poor and its emergence on
the tables of the local restaurants, including the Woodford Pub in Paul Street
where I enjoyed a recent lunch.
black pudding salad - €11 Caramelised apples crispy
potato skins, bacon, honey & mustard dressing
Clonakilty Black Pudding was
the first to make a widespread breakthrough and I got a pleasing reminder of
why in this salad. Here it combined very well with the segments of sweet apple
atop each mini cylinder of the rich black pudding with a loose and crumbly texture,
its full flavour tinged with salt.
The flavour of the bacon cubes
was a lingering sweet ambush, so pleasantly potent on the palate and certainly a
worthy addition to the salad. Not so long ago, patrons would have passed on this.
Now, the pudding is back in foodie fashion.
Falls goats cheese crostini - €10 With beetroot relish, walnuts,
tomato chilli jam & honey dressing
The warmed Bluebell Falls
Goat Cheese was served on crostini. Beetroot has become a standard companion of
the chèvre and, shredded here, one could easily taste why. Tomatoes and sweet
crunchy caramelised walnuts also played their part in making it a very
satisfactory salad indeed.
These two salads were well
put together, not just casual collections on the plates.
We were initially somewhat disappointed
to see the Specials Boards make an appearance about six or seven minutes after
we had ordered (and some 35 minutes after lunch serving time had commenced). But
that was wiped out by the two splendid salads that we enjoyed before finishing off
with some decent Illy coffee. The friendly staff were on the ball here and the service