This week is National Organic Week 2010, and events are taking place all around the country to raise consumer awareness of the benefits of locally-produced organic food. Among them is a picnic with a twist in north Mayo.
Enniscoe Organic Garden in Ballina is holding its Enniscoe Harvest Picnic and Allotment Day this Saturday, September 18. The picnic, to which all are welcome, takes place at 1pm. It will showcase the produce from Enniscoe’s first organic harvest from its new community and family plots, which are run by people from the surrounding areas of Ballina and Crossmolina. Also involved are two German girls who volunteer at the centre, a student of organic horticulture and Rural Social Scheme participants who help to look after the garden.
During the year, Enniscoe also welcomes other user groups to the gardens, including school children and groups from Western Care. The idea, explained Enniscoe’s Jean Beatty, is that the gardens are ‘a resource for the whole community’. “We’re hoping to soon have access to a community bus that could bring groups such as active retirement associations and special groups to Enniscoe. There’s so much to learn about and see here.”
The centre is currently involved in the International Phenology Project. Phenology is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and inter-annual variations in climate. Twenty-seven countries in the northern hemisphere are taking part in the project, which is being run in association with the Botanic Gardens and Trinity College Dublin. Participating gardens are each given a range of trees, each cloned from the same parent. The growth and performance of each plant is closely monitored to see how they vary according to their environment. Enniscoe has been given beech, willow, hazel, scots pine, lilac and a variety of shubs.
Jean explained that the gardens are encouraging school groups to come along to the centre and take part in the project. The children could help the centre record the plants leaf fall and subsequent budding and blooming. All their data would be uploaded onto a data base, where it could be compared with findings from other countries.
As for the picnic this Saturday, all sorts of goodies from the garden will be transformed into delicious pickings by the hands that have lovingly grown them. On the fruit side, apples, rhubarb, mirabel plums (“the one or two that are left might make their way into in a tart!” said Jean), blackcurrants, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries have been harvested. As regards veg and herbs, there will be food made from carrots, cabbages (expect some tasty coleslaw), celery, artichokes, figs, comfrey, parsley, lettuce, beetroots, broccolis, leeks, spinach, potatoes, tomatoes, courgettes, pumpkins, peppers and chillis and more…
Remember, though, if you’re not a grower – don’t despair. Head to your local country market (in Mayo, you’ll find them in Achill, Westport, Ballinrobe, Ballina and Mulranny), where you’ll be able to find great local produce for your table and help support local small producers too.
For more information on National Organic Week and events taking place in your area, visit www.bordbia.ie.