Grow it Yourself

“Grand bit of spring in the air” the lady said to me as we stood waiting for the pedestrian lights to go green. “It’s lovely” I said and smiled back at her. And it was lovely to be walking along the quays in brilliant sunshine carrying my jacket under my arm. The combination of brighter mornings, longer evenings and mild weather had put a spring in my step and I was feeling chipper. I suspect I’m not alone. But there was also an underlying sense of unease about it being 20 degrees on a sunny afternoon in Dublin, when it was technically still winter. Does it make me a climate change curmudgeon to worry about these things? Can’t I just appreciate those pictures of sun-bathers eating ice-cream in Stephen’s Green in February? Should I enjoy it when climate breakdown leads to unseasonably pleasant weather, or feel absolutely terrified instead?

Over the pond in Wales they had their hottest February day on record with a high of 20.6C – this is the first time ever that temperatures exceeded 20 degrees in a winter month in the UK. That is doubly odd when one considers that this time last year we were about to experience a once-in-100-year snow storm called the Beast from the East and we were shivering under Siberian air. Last year, Europe experienced its hottest summer on record and we had 6 weeks of drought conditions here in Ireland, while in October, Dublin airport recorded its coldest October night since records began. Topsy Turvy doesn’t begin to describe it. The new normal, it seems, is for our weather to be entirely abnormal.

Meanwhile we continue to whistle as we walk past the graveyard. On the RTE news there was a nice puff piece about people enjoying the summer-like temperatures on the prom in Galway (ice-cream and short sleeves in February, wow!), with a not a mention of climate change. Increasingly I think adults seem to be on the wrong side of history on this topic and teens and children are the ones talking sense. I walked past a group of teen climate change protestors in Cork City Hall – they looked angry (as teenagers do) and perhaps that’s the only appropriate response.

In the US, Senator Dianne Feinstein was captured on camera berating teen activists who had the temerity to suggest that she should support the Green New Deal which advocates de-carbonising the US economy within a decade (incidentally the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we have just 12 years left to turn this thing around). While we waste time thinking about frivolities like who wore what to the Oscars and who won €175m in the Euromillions, nature is screaming at us in every way it can that we need to fundamentally change the way we live. All aspects of our lives – food, transport, energy, waste - will have to change dramatically if we’re to avoid catastrophe.

So perhaps in considering how we should feel about the unseasonably warm weather, we should channel the uncompromising attitude of 16 year-old Greta Thunberg who lambasted the investors and bankers attending Davos: “I want you to feel the fear I feel every day,” she said, “Act as if your house is on fire. Because it is.”

GIY’s 10 Ways to Take Action on Climate Change

1. Buy a keep-cup and water bottle and bring them everywhere – never buy water or get tea/coffee in a takeaway cup again.
2. Start bringing bags with you to do your shopping and avoid buying food that’s packaged in plastic.
3. Reduce the amount of meat in your diet
4. Buy organic, seasonal and local food wherever possible
5. Plant trees.
6. Let your lawn grow to improve biodiversity and help pollinators like bees and insects.
7. Grow some of your own food.
8. Embrace frugality - reduce energy usage by unplugging devices in your home at night – broadband, TV, computers etc. Turn down the heating, buy energy saving lightbulbs.
9. Green your commute - walk or use public transport to get to work at least once a week even if it’s a pain. Give your car a day off at the weekend.
10. Hang the washing out on the line, instead of using the drier.

Things to Do This Week – Sow Bell and Chilli Peppers

Peppers need a long growing season so the earlier you get started the better your chance of producing good, ripe fruit. Get the seeds sown this week on a heated propagator or inside in the house. You are looking for temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius plus. I sow 10 seeds in a 9cm pot of seed compost. They can take up to 2 weeks to germinate.

A few weeks after that, when the seedlings are large enough to handle, transfer each seedling in to its own 9cm pot (or module tray). In May or June, they will be planted out in the soil in the greenhouse or polytunnel or in to a bigger pot to grow on for the summer. All going well, we will be harvesting in October-ish.

For chilli-peppers I like the varieties Ring of Fire (hot hot hot), Hungarian Wax and Jalapeno.

Recipe of the week – Pasta with Winter Ratatouille

We’re on the hunt for recipes that use parsnips at the moment, having extracted a glut of them lately from the cold soil. This is a James Martin classic – easy and quick to cook. I used squash or pumpkin as a seasonal alternative to the sweet potato he had in the original recipe, which is almost always imported from the US.


• 200g squash or pumpkin, peeled and cut in wedges
• 200g parsnips, peeled and cut in large pieces
• 200g carrots, washed and cut in large pieces
• 110g red onions, cut in quarters
• 3-4 cloves garlic
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 75ml clear honey
• 2 sprigs rosemary, plus extra chopped to garnish
• salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 500g packet of pasta
• 800ml passata.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Place all the vegetables and the garlic on an oven tray and drizzle with the olive oil and honey. Add the sprigs of rosemary and season well. Cook for about 20 minutes until all the vegetables are tender and browned.

While the vegetables are in the oven, cook the pasta according to packet instructions. Remove vegetables from the oven, squeeze the cloves of roasted garlic over the vegetables and tip everything in a saucepan. Add the passata, bring to the boil and allow to simmer gently for a minute or two. Serve on top of the pasta and garnished with chopped rosemary.


Michael Kelly is an author, broadcaster and founder of GIY.

© GIY Ireland 2019 – all rights reserved.

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