December Gardening Newsletter

December Gardening Newsletter

Dear Fellow Gardeners,

Last week I was teaching for a couple of days at the Permaculture College in Kinsale. It’s a fascinating place with student from all over Europe and plants from all over the world – and Kinsale itself is probably one of the most beautiful towns in Ireland. Next I went to Blarney to give a course at the Hydro allotments – these are amazing and award winning allotments, well worth a visit if you are in the area.
I met up with my gardening hero Joy Larkcom and Kitty Scully and I’m proud to say – I managed to convince them both to join the Gardening Weekend in Renvyle House next February. If you are interested in coming along I recommend you book a place early.
This is going to be a weekend not to be missed – with Joy Larkcom and Kitty Scully to join us (Anja Gohlke – Head Gardener at Kylemore Abbey) for this informative and relaxing gardening weekend at the wonderful Renvyle House Hotel in Connemara. I am so delighted that Joy agreed to come – she is a very well known author of vegetable growing books and an inspiration for all gardeners. She and her late husband Don travelled throughout Europe in the 80’s in search of new vegetables, a decade later Joy travelled in China and other Asian countries and brought back the most amazing oriental vegetables which are now available everywhere.

Renvyle House Gardening Weekend
Fri 16th – Sun 18th February 2018
A gardening weekend with Anja Gohlke (Head Gardener at Kylemore Abbey), Klaus Laitenberger, Joy Larkcom and Kitty Scully at the wonderful Renvyle House Hotel in Connemara.
Price: €195.00pp and includes 2 Bed & Breakfast,
1 Dinner & 1 Bar Food Evening Meal (Main Course + Tea/Coffee),
Gardening demonstrations and tips with Klaus Laitenberger, presentations from Joy Lakcom and Kitty Scully and an afternoon field trip to Kylemore Victorian Walled Garden with Head GardenerAnja Gohlke and evening entertainment.
Booking: or 095 46100
This year’s gardening weekend will include an introductory evening, several demonstrations and workshops, a visit to Kylemore Abbey Victorian Walled Gardens with a tour with the head gardener, nightly in house entertainment, and complimentary use of on-site facilities.


Frustrating Politics
Politics can be very frustrating – we tried to get 1,000,000 signatures within the EU in order to achieve legal protection for soils (People4Soils campaign) and we failed with a large margin of only 200,000 people being concerned enough about the future of our soils. Within the EU only Italy and Ireland achieved their quorums.
At the same time a campaign was launched about banning the use of glyphosate – the active ingredient of Roundup, Monsanto’s best selling weedkiller. This campaign was a lot more successful especially because the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared glyphosate as a possible carcinogenic.
But despite such an overwhelming response – the EU decided on the 24th November to issue another 5 year licence for Roundup. Five years is a very long time to accumulate toxins in our soils, in our plants and in our bodies.
Glyphosate was found in over 60% of bread sampled and even Ben&Jerry ice-cream had a recent public scandal when the chemical was found in its ice-cream. It is found in people’s urine even if they not in contact with the weedkiller itself.
One fact that many people are not always aware of is that roundup is sprayed onto growing crops a couple of weeks before harvesting. They call it desiccation. This makes harvesting a lot easier and the crops mature evenly. Desiccation is used for all cereal crops, potatoes and even pumpkins. This means that all these crops contain glyphosate residues which we will eat.
My biggest hope is that if nothing else happens in the next five years – we should hope that spraying crops with glyphosate prior to harvesting should be banned.
Thanks to Marian Harkin and Nessa Childers –our only two MEP’s who voted against re-licensing Roundup and who faced a lot of criticism for their opinion.
As I said before – politics is frustrating and I’m nearly of the opinion that only very little can be achieved. It’s the companies such as Monsanto or Bayer (or soon an amalgamation of the two) who make the decisions.
So maybe we have to change our tune – instead of constantly complaining about pesticides, herbicides and intensive farming – we should maybe portray a new and more positive viewpoint.
Can you imagine if the whole country would farm sustainably, if it would be a real green country with no water pollution, clean air and only renewable energy. If we could farm sustainably using more native Irish breeds of cattle and sheep which are more suitable to the less fertile areas of the country. If we could plant more native trees (and not Sitka spruce plantations) on farms for shelter and for absorbing carbon. These are only little things and only small changes would be required and it wouldn’t even cost too much.
At the end of the day it’s the consumer who will decide on what farming system we will have in the future. It depends what kind of food we will buy.

Mashua – Tuberous Nasturtium
This is one of the Inca vegetables that I will study on my Nuffield trip next year. I have grown this crop for many years. It is closely related to the common garden nasturtium but produces a large yield of edible tubers. The leaves and flowers are edible too. It is a vigorous climber and can also used as a ground cover.
I have two varieties – a cream coloured tuber and a red one. Unfortunately I have lost the striped variety that I had grown for many years. If anyone still has this one – you may want to swap it with some of mine tubers.
I must admit – for many years I have only grown this crop as an ornamental and for its edible flowers especially after ruining a number of meals with this off-putting peppery taste.
This has luckily changed – I met a wonderful chef (Diane Lefebure) and gave her the challenge to produce something edible out of these highly prolific tubers.
She came up with the most delicious mashua croguettes and kindly lets me share the recipe.

Mashua Croquettes

300g of Mashua
20g of butter
30g grated parmesan

Flour or gluten free flour
Beaten egg
Breadcrumbs or gluten free breadcrumbs


Boil or steam the Mashua until tender, mash including the skin, add butter, grated parmesan and seasonings, add a small amount of flour at a time until the mixture can be formed into croquettes the size of your choice. Dip in flour, beaten eggs and then breadcrumbs. Place in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. The croquettes can then be baked or shallow fried.