The cutaway peat bogs on the Irish midlands may look barren to the untrained eye but the acidic growing conditions favour certain crops, such as blueberries - a relative of the smaller native Irish fraughan or bilberry.
Widely recognised as a 'superfood', blueberries have more antioxidants than most other fruits and vegetables; these delicious and versatile fruits are very familiar to Irish consumers and (thanks to imports) seen as an all year product.
So the high bush American blueberries produced on John Seager's Derryvilla Blueberry Farm near Portarlington are very much a seasonal treat, and all the more precious for that.
No pesticides are used at Derryvilla and the farm, which is managed by Nuala O'Donoghue, is labour intensive: each year begins with hand pruning the bushes and cutting the grasses; they then flower in May and by mid-July, weather permitting, handpicking begins, with pick-yourown visitors joining regular pickers in July and August.
Most of their delicious, naturally grown berries and the products made with them - a tangy blueberry tonic and preserves (both of which are out-sourced to other artisan food producers) - are supplied directly to fruit traders and selected retailers, or sold at Farmleigh Food Market and the farm shop.
Fresh blueberries and products on sale at the farmshop, and Pick Your Own in August and September.
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