Bloom in the Park 2019 – food, flowers, fantastic!

Last June Bank Holliday was the 12th year of Bord Bia‘s Bloom in the Park, or “Bloom”, as its more commonly known. Having started off primarily as a garden & horticultural show, the food element quickly grew and is now a major part of this annual event.

I really love planned, structured gardens, especially walled gardens, gardens with sculptures, gardens with built features (check out the Crumlin Children’s Hospital one) and among all the beautiful gardens, the stand out one for me was the Vina Dona Paula garden designed by Allen Rudden. I really liked this, it’s exactly what I’d like to have at our house in Leitrim (if you’re looking for a home for it?! just sayin’…). The steel, the girders, the concrete re-enforcement, the paving, the wall flowers, the planting, everything, I thought it was fabulous.

It is always the food side of any event that’s the big draw for me, and several of the gardens had a food or drink theme…

The UCD History of the Irish Diet in Plants concept garden, in their own words “tells the story of the Irish diet from the early settlers to the introduction of farming, how tastes changed with the entry of imported foods, the impact of industrialisation, and the implications of the modern expansive diet.”

Staying with the food & drink garden theme was Blackwater Gin which is made in Waterford. Now that there are so many gins on the market in Ireland (more about that anon), this was a novel way of promoting a gin brand through innovative means: “Built predominantly from reclaimed, recycled and upcycled materials, it features strong shapes, textures and contrasting materials that are softened by lush foliage of semi-shade and shade loving plants”.

The Fingal Bee Positive garden was very topical, all about the importance of bees, pollination & biodiversity:

And so onto the Food Village…so many producers, so many gins and new drinks including poitín, beer, whiskey…but also plenty of new faces as well as familiar ones:

Margaret’s Eggs headed up by the wonderful Margaret Farrelly herself, the head chick in my book! They are always innovating, new brand, new packaging, liquid egg, you name it, change is constant!

I also liked the new mayonnaise from Ballymaloe Foods, who kindly gave me lots of samples to try out! They were sold out of their beetroot by the time I got there unfortunately, though I wasn’t surprised as it’s really good, fresh, not to sweet, not too vinegary, just right. We use the Ballymaloe sauces at home all the time, so handy for the teenagers to cook for themselves coming in from school. I use the relishes in homemade burgers (Ballymaloe recipe of course!), especially the jalapeno for a bit of a kick. 

Marjorie O’Malley of Achill Island Sea Salt revealed that they were planning for the grand opening their new Visitor Experience, and which, by the time you read this, will in fact be open for business!

Another great Mayo brand is Velvet Cloud sheep’s milk yogurt and cheese, made on the Flanagan family farm outside Claremorris Co.Mayo, and I was pleased to see Aisling Roche Flanagan (pictured here on the left) there with her children all roped in and working hard, full of enthusiasm. I love this yogurt. 

The Velvet Cloud was used up last week (though its widely available in supermarkets, so do yourself a favour and go and get some!), as we made our overnight oats with the lovely blend from the Merry Mill.These are organic and gluten free (if you’re into gluten free that is, not me though, don’t start…!). The Oat Boost blend is a mix of oatflaes and seeds, really good. 

Who else…? Mallow Mia Gourmet Marshmallows started life at one of my Start Your Own Food Business courses a few years ago in Donegal, so I’m delighted to see Linda McClean has grown this business from strength to strength. 

There were a few really good innovative products among these too, like Spoonful Botanical. This one was one of my favourites – a health food with really great flavours. I don’t believe in sacrificing flavour for health benefits, and this one certainly doesn’t. I wish them every success.

I also talked to The Foods of Athenry, Lough Ree Distillery, Silver Spear Gin, East Coast Bakehouse, Sunshine Juice (lovely fresh tasting fruit and veg juices made by Walshe’s in Carlow), Mescan Brewery, Jackford Irish Potato Gin and many, many more. You can find details about all the exhibitors, including contact details here.

Finally, when I was wilting, Lough Ree Distillery sustained me – there is nothing quite like a G&T to perk you up! This one is made in Lanesborough, Co.Longford. I also bought a wee taster bottle of Silver Spear – I see that featuring tonight actually, it’s Friday after all! Interestingly, a lot of the gin producers there used good old Schweppes as a mixer, none of your fancy tonics, as they felt, and I agree, that some of the others are too flavoursome and can kill the real taste fo the botanicals in the gin itself.

We left exhausted, laden down with purchases, dying to try our new finds, and already looking forward to next year. Bloom goes from strength to strength, it was definitely bigger this year, so much to see and do, a great day out. Wear comfortable shoes!

 

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Ten Top Tips for Starting Your Own Small Food Business – new course!

Hi everyone!

Just very quickly, having just finished training a great group of early stage food producers in Mayo in November and another group in Leitrim in January & February on the Food Starter programme from Bord Bia, I’m delighted now to bring you my new, very special, one day course which will be held in the Neantóg Kitchen Garden School, hosted by the fantastic Gaby & Hans Wieland.

So if you’ve ever wondered what’s involved, who to talk to, where to start, then take just one day to check out the potential for your food business by coming on this new course!

March 30th, Saturday: Top 10 Tips for starting your own small food business
**Guest Lecturer Series**

with Oonagh Monahan from 10:00am – 4:00pm, €100 per person
A unique opportunity to learn from one of Ireland’s leading small business mentors, in a small intimate setting. Get all your questions answered about the what where when and how to set up your own small food business, including the latest in legislation and registration requirements. Case studies will highlight the challenges and satisfaction of small food production.

I hope to see you there!

Oonagh

Growing Locally !

Today I finished giving the ‘Grow your own Future’ course for Clár I.R.D. in association with the Local Community Development Programme administered by South West Mayo Development Company Ltd. As well as training in Business Planning for Small Rural Enterprises, I gave a one day introductory course on Opportunities in the Small Food Sector- they all said they enjoyed it, hope they meant it!

The thing with setting up any new food business is to make sure you’ve really throught it through – what you’re going to produce, is there a market? can you get shops to sell it for you? who is going to do the deliveries? can you do the work and manage the business all a the same time? how much will everything cost? how much should you charge?….the list of things to think about seems endless…but as with all things, knowledge is power! So, hopefully my veg growers are feeling pretty powerful this evening, at least a bit more than they did a couple of weeks ago before we started!

This was all part of the Growing Locally project based at Mayfield, Claremorris, Co.Mayo. This project was set up supported by The Arthur Guinness Fund & Clár IRD in 2010. Its a community owned horticultural project established as a Social Enterprise and strives to meet social objectives by trading commercially.

For more information about Growing Locally, call 094-9371830