Grow it Yourself - August

GIY IrelandHarry's Restaurant has been getting rave reviews and much-deserved plaudits of late. Run by Donal Doherty, the restaurant is bucking the recessionary trend by attracting people in their droves to the remote Inishowen peninsula in Donegal. How are they doing it? By serving only the freshest, local and seasonal produce, and by growing their own grub. “We had good local sources for some summer salads, herbs, root vegetables and potatoes, but outside that we were reliant largely on imports,” says Doherty.

Doherty turned to GIY for help. In late 2010 he established GIY Inishowen and based the fledgling group at the restaurant. Suitably inspired, Doherty worked to convert a neighbour’s disused walled garden in to a thriving vegetable garden for the restaurant. “Linking up with GIY networked us into a community of growers and sparked ideas on how we could develop a kitchen garden. We are nearly self sufficient already in salads and herbs.”

LeeksThe garden has yielded produce that they can’t source locally such as tomatoes, celery, cabbage, beans, peas and albino beetroot, and in the summer months, every salad and vegetable right down to the purees and flowers on the plate will be coming out of the garden.

His advice for peers in the industry? “At the very least restaurants should consider having a herb patch. I know our herb bill alone ran in to thousands last year. I’d say give it a try.”

Things to Do this Month – August


Green manures (mustard, buckwheat, radish, rye, alfalfa, clover and vetches) are plants which are grown specifically to improve soil fertility and useful at times when beds are empty (as is often the case in August). Grow directly in the bed and then cut down and dig in to the soil.

Give pumpkins plenty of water and apply a high-potash liquid feed. Nip out the growing points to encourage the fruits to swell.

Net brassicas to keep butterflies and the cabbage moth away (and check undersides of leaves regularly for caterpillars). Keep watering - mulch around plants to retain moisture.


Continue succession sowing. Sow spring cabbage, red cabbage, winter spinach, salad onions (in polytunnel for spring crop), autumn salad mix, endive, parsley, onion seed, Chinese vegetables.

Pick Beetroot regularly as they reach the size you require - if left to grow too large they will lose their tenderness.


Continue to harvest beetroot, tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, peas, broad beans, french and runner beans, salad leaves, radish, turnip, potato, onions, peppers and chilli-peppers, aubergine, globe artichoke, courgettes, cucumber, gooseberries, raspberries and currants.

Recipe of the Month – Pea and Mint Soup

You might baulk at the idea of eating soup in August, but thanks to the mint and peas this is a super-refreshing soup and can be eaten hot or cold.


• 1 bunch spring onions, chopped
• 1 potato, peeled and diced
• 1 garlic clove, crushed
• 850ml vegetable or chicken stock
• 250g shelled peas
• 4 tbsp chopped fresh mint
• large pinch caster sugar
• 1 tbsp lemon juice

Put the spring onions into a large pan with the potato, garlic and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until the potato is soft.

Add the peas to the soup base and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the mint, sugar and lemon juice and then blitz with a hand blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with some sour cream.

Tip of the Month – Earthing Up Leeks

A GOOD leek (from a culinary perspective) has got a substantial amount of white flesh and a short green top. A BAD leek has lots and lots of green top and only a short amount of white flesh. The key to getting the former rather than the latter is to "earth up" leeks at this time of the year to encourage blanching or bleaching of the stems (similar to what you do with celery).

This is achieved by drawing soil up around the stem to exclude light. Be careful not to draw soil over the top of the leek - you will end up with soil down the inside of the leek which will be a nightmare to remove when cooking. Incidentally, a leek "stem" is not in fact a stem at all, but a series of tightly rolled leaves.

A cleaner method than using soil to earth up, is to pop the insert from a kitchen roll around the leek.

GIY GatheringDate for your Diary

The 3rd national GIY Gathering takes place in Waterford on September 10th and 11th 2011 as part of the Waterford Harvest Festival. Over 30 workshops, demos, discussions, debates, forages, tours and events. Come along and represent your veggie patch, village, town, community or GIY group. Tickets from


We are trying to get 100,000 people to take a pledge to grow something they can eat – take the GIY pledge at

Michael KellyMichael Kelly is a freelance journalist, author and founder of GIY Ireland.

GIY is a registered charity that inspires people to grow their own and gives them the skills they need to do so successfully. There are 80 GIY groups around Ireland and 6,000 GIYers involved.

For more tips, information and support visit

© GIY Ireland 2011 – all rights reserved.

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