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Dublin: 11 °C Monday 18 March, 2019
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From the Garden: Learn how to grow peas in an old gutter pipe and to make a delicious gnocchi

Michelin star chef, Derry Clarke, with us at Grow HQ recently and he shares our homegrown, seasonal ethos, writes Michael Kelly.

Michael Kelly Grower

IN YEARS GONE by, I always sowed tomatoes, peppers and aubergines on a heated mat in the potting shed in February.

I am gradually learning some patience from Richard Mee (head grower at HQ) and this year, I am holding off on sowing them until early March.

Though the logic for sowing them in February is that they benefit from a long growing season, he has taught me that it’s more efficient to wait so that the tomato plants can be transplanted straight from the module trays to the ground in the polytunnel in late May or June.

A few years ago, I got caught out on this front – the plants had outgrown the module trays they were in, but it was too cold to plant them out so I had to transplant them – nearly 70 plants in total – into big pots.

This was both time-consuming and expensive (it used lots of pots and lots of compost).

There are thankfully, other things to be getting on with to scratch the sowing itch.

I have turned on the heated bench in the potting shed, to speed up germination and give the emerging seedlings a little boost.

The heated bench is a relatively straightforward affair. It’s a simple wooden frame about 15cm deep, filled with sand and then a heated element is laid in the sand.

Once the element is plugged in, the sand heats up. Pots and trays are placed on top of the sand and it gives the seedlings some nice heat from beneath. You can buy plug-in heated propagators that do the same job, but the DIY approach gets you more propagation space for less money.

This week, I sowed some lettuce, broad beans, beetroot and kohlrabi in module trays that are now sitting on the sand. All of these will be planted out in the polytunnel in about a month’s time.

Broad beans can be sown directly in the soil in March, but I am trying them out this way to see if I get an earlier crop. The kohlrabi will be tender young roots in 10-12 weeks and I generally sow about a dozen at a time.

The beetroot should give a late-May crop of young roots. I also sowed some peas in a length of old gutter (see below) for sliding out into the soil in the polytunnel in a few weeks.

Last weekend I sowed some spinach, oriental greens and rocket direct in the soil in the polytunnel and am hoping that the longer days and somewhat improved temperatures by day, will help them to germinate and grow.

In theory, this is a good time of the year to sow spinach and rocket undercover, since the plants are less inclined to bolt in the offseason.

Things to Do This Week: Sow Peas in Gutters

Peas can be sown effectively in lengths of old rain-guttering. A length of about 1 to 2m is perfect.

Fill the gutter with potting compost and sow the pea seeds 5cm apart running in a zigzag from one side to the other.

When the seedlings are 8cm tall dig a trench in the soil about the same depth as the compost in the gutter and simply slide out the contents of the gutter into the trench.

Many GIYers grow peas just to eat the growing tips of the young plants which are a delicacy and look great in salads.

You can do this pretty much all year round for a consistent supply.

Recipe of the week: Gnocchi with Jerusalem artichoke and pickled mushroom

We were thrilled to welcome Derry Clarke from the renowned restaurant, L’Ecrivain to GROW HQ last weekend as the latest visiting chef in our Homegrown series of long table dinners.

Derry very much shares HQ’s homegrown, seasonal ethos and talked about his Michelin star more as an exercise in bringing food back to its basic flavours, rather than poshing it up.

I like that idea. My favourite course on Sunday night was his second starter which was a celeriac and wild mushroom terrine – it was spectacularly good.

His recipe below featured in the GIY book GROW COOK EAT and in his own book Keeping It Simple, and features wild mushrooms and another seasonal favourite, Jerusalem artichoke.

This recipe uses wild pickled mushrooms, packed full of strong flavours and serves 8 as a starter.

 Ingredients

Artichokes:

  • 1kg Jerusalem artichokes

  • 2 litres milk

  • 2 sprigs thyme

  • 2 cloves garlic

 For the Gnocchi:

  • 400g flour

  • 400g warm baked-potato flesh, mashed

  • 3 large eggs

  • 100g Parmesan cheese, grated

  • 4 tbsp parsley, chopped

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

 Mushrooms:

  • 100g each of girolle mushrooms, trompette mushrooms, ceps and portobello mushrooms

  • 5 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 tbsp Chardonnay vinegar

  • 2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped

Directions: 

To prepare the artichokes, peel them and put them in a saucepan with the milk, the thyme and the garlic.

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and simmer until tender, about 25-30 minutes. Remove from the milk and keep warm until you are ready to serve. To make the gnocchi, sift the flour into a large bowl.

Add the warm mashed potato, then the eggs, the grated Parmesan and the chopped parsley. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and form into a soft dough.

Divide the mixture into quarters and roll each quarter into a cylindrical shape.

Divide each cylinder into six pieces. Lightly press a fork into the top of each piece. Cook the gnocchi in batches in salted boiling water for 5 minutes. They are cooked when they rise to the top.

They are now ready to serve, or you could brown them on a pan in a little oil for a different texture. Keep them in a warm oven until you are ready to use them.

To cook the mushrooms, clean and trim them and sauté them in a pan with the olive oil, chardonnay vinegar and chopped tarragon. Keep warm.

To assemble, divide the gnocchi, the artichokes and the mushrooms between eight starter plates and serve.

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

© GIY Ireland 2019 – all rights reserved. 

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About the author:

Michael Kelly  / Grower

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