Plotting a new way to grow bumper crops for your table

by Gazette Reporter

By Feebee Foran

Have you ever wondered where common sayings come from?  How about “fresh as a daisy?” Sayings like this spark my interest in the beauty that grows literally at our front door

The hidden truth about the humble daisy is that it was used for centuries for its many medicinal properties – one of which cleanses dead skin cells from your face, leaving you looking, well, fresh as a daisy.

It’s not just daisies that capture my attention. Dandelion, Dock, Cleavers (or Stickybacks as we used to call them as kids) are all packed from root to tip with nourishing goodness that has somehow been forgotten and mowed back in exchange for a beautifully manicured lawn. 

Feebee Foran at the Bohernabreena Allotments

The Covid Effect

Like many, my love of nature has exploded since the appearance of Covid-19.  Forced to get very intimate with our local 2-5km, finding fun, adventure, intrigue and beauty in our surroundings became a lifeline for many.  Some people took up bread making, some picked up a paint brush, some went hell for leather on fitness. I decided to dig.  “Dig Deep” – now, there’s another loaded saying that conjures so many meanings.

I have always been revived by nature.  So, when we were first thrust into lockdown, I found solace in a little plot of soil that sits exactly 2km from my home in Firhouse at Bohernabreena Allotments. The act of working with the soil and getting my hands dirty literally grounds me. 

Read more in this weeks Dublin Gazette out in stores now

Taking on an allotment is no easy feat, it takes time, dedication, planning, digging, not to mention a lot of Deep Heat and hot baths for sore muscles. However, I have never felt so rewarded than I do when I tuck into a plate of my own spuds, chop salad that I grew from seed – or gift friends and neighbours with a bounty of beautiful vegetables.  I’ve always believed that homemade gifts are the best, so homegrown takes it up a step further.

And the great thing is, you don’t have to sit on allotment waiting lists to start growing. Dedicate a little section of your garden to veggies.  If you have never grown vegetables before, start with easy-growers like peas, beans, kale and spinach.  All of which are what I call “not needy” vegetables, they know what to do, all you have to do is keep them watered.  Being able to pop into the garden for a handful of spinach for a morning omelette, some kale for a salad – or my favourite, peas to eat straight from the pod, is the ultimate treat.  If you live in an apartment or in a space without a garden, simply use pots, place them in a window that gets the sun or pop them on your balcony.

Fancy a cold one?

Growing your own food brings with it an interest in other homegrown hobbies.  For me, being so close to nature has made me want to learn more, do more, make more, I’ve developed a passion for using the plants, flowers and vegetables around me to make things a little more exciting than jam. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good jam, but I love making booze more. 

Being a homebrewer means you will always have friends, and something to barter with.  It’s a fun hobby that everyone can flirt with, and the finished product is one you can really enjoy. One of my favourite boozy recipes for this time of the year is Rhubarb Infused Gin.  Forget your pink gin’s, rhubarb is a big flavour that makes for a perfect sundowner sipper on long Summer evenings. Put a batch on now, and in four weeks, you will have the most delicious brew at your fingertips.  With an infusion, you can start small, bypassing the alcohol making side of things, but still feel like you are getting a taste for working with alcohol. 

Chopping Rhubarb for Feebee’s homemade Rhubarb Gin

From there on, you can try other easy recipes like Elderflower Champagne, this is one I make batches upon batches of every June when Elderflowers are in full bloom. I love the idea of picking some beautiful flowers from a tree and mixing them with water, sugar and lemon and watching it turn into a delicious “Champagne” with a modest 3% abv. Last year I made almost 100 bottles of this gently flavoured, and every bottle was enjoyed to the last drop and already friends are asking when the next batch will be ready.

My passion for growing and using nature as our tabletop is only boosted by seeing people who have never grown-their-own before dipping their toes into this incredible lifestyle.  It is a hobby that will quickly become the best type of addiction, feeding your body and more importantly your mental health. 

Aerial Photograph of Bohernabreena Allotments –
PHOTO Aaron Murphy Taylor

As Rudyard Kipling once said: “The glory of the garden lies in more than meets the eye.”

Panel 1:

Rhubarb Infused Gin Recipe

This recipe will fill 2 Kilner-style bottles

What you’ll need

1kg Rhubarb

400g Caster Sugar

800ml Gin (any old gin will do, I tend to use basic, non-flavoured or “fancy” gin)

2 x 2ltr sealable Kilner-style jars

Feebee Foran chopping Rhubarb for her homemade Rhubarb Gin

Here’s How

Wash the rhubarb stalks, chopping the rough ends off.  Start by halving vertically along the full length of each stalk, exposing the inner flesh of the rhubarb. Next, chop the halved stalks into 1inch sized chunks.

Place the rhubarb chunks into 2 large Kilner-style jars, so there is an even amount in each jar. Split the caster sugar between the two jars of rhubarb (200g per jar).  Shake well to ensure the rhubarb is well coated in sugar.  Seal and leave overnight.

In the morning, you will find that the sugar has drawn the juice from the rhubarb. Leave the rhubarb chunks in the jars with the juice and top up each jar with 400ml of Gin (you can also use Vodka if you are not a gin lover).  Seal and shake again and leave in a cool place to ferment for 4 weeks. Shake regularly over these weeks.

After 4 weeks, the liquid will have changed colour, pulling in the beautiful pinkish hue of the rhubarb.  Strain, removing the rhubarb chunks and carefully pour the liquid into sterilized bottles.  Flip top bottles are a great option.

Enjoy neat over ice, or with a really simple tonic water to enjoy the unadulterated fresh, rhubarb flavour.

Pro-tip – After you strain the rhubarb off the gin, don’t discard the chunks. As they have been fermenting in alcohol for 4 weeks, they will make for a perfect filling for a Boozy Rhubarb Tart, or simply stew and serve with a dollop of custard.  Just make sure you don’t have to drive anywhere after – they have a serious kick!

Feebee Foran and Malcolm Taylor at the Bohernabreena Allotments

Panel 2:

Did You Know – Daisies

  1. The Latin name for daisy is Bellis Perennis, which translates to Eternal Beauty
  2. It’s known as the “poor man’s arnica” due to its powerful healing properties, especially in the case of wounds, bruises and haematoma.
  3. Daisies contain an acid that can help remove dead skin cells, lighten freckles, sunspots and smooth out acne scars.
  4. Daisies are fully edible and make a pretty and tasty addition to salads.
  5. Daisy tea is believed to produce UTI fighting and anti-inflammatory effects. 
Daisy Tea

Daisy Tea

Pop a handful of clean daisy flowers into a cup and fill with hot water. The daisies will open beautifully creating the prettiest herbal tea that is packed with Vitamin C and healing properties.

Bohernabreena – Feebee is a member of the busy and vibrant community of growers in Bohernabreena Allotments.  Not only a place for growing vegetables, allotments are an amazing place to make new friends, meet like minded people, while developing your growing skills.  Bohernabreena Allotments offer free plots to community projects like Menshed. She is also is a nature enthusiast, milliner and homebrewer. Owner of Forager.ie, Feebee creates skincare and healing products using all natural, locally found herbs and plants.

Read more in this weeks Dublin Gazette out in stores now

See Feebees website Fowl Play (forager.ie)  and Instagram page @forager.ie for more information 

Products available to buy on line

PHOTOS – AISHLING CONWAY

Related Articles