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Dublin: 7 °C Saturday 22 February, 2020

Grow it yourself: Barley salad with green garlic and sugarsnap peas

We occasionally get some sugarsnap peas from the polytunnel to the kitchen (if the kids don’t eat them in situ first), writes gardener Michael Kelly.

Michael Kelly Grower

LIKE EVERY YEAR, I came away from this year’s installment of Litfest both invigorated and exhausted.

Exhausted mainly because of a little too much time spent in The Big Shed. Invigorated because as always it was an utterly creative and inspiring place to be where the Irish food scene gather and are joined by leading food writers, chefs and experts from around the world. Litfest has always aimed to be thought-provoking and my thoughts were well and truly provoked.

The symposium in the Grainstore hosted a range of short Ted Talk-style talks and panel discussions on the topic of “Our Responsibility” when it comes to food. Joe MacNamee hosted a fascinating discussion with farmers from three countries who have diversified and escaped the commodity-pricing treadmill, including Paddy Frankel from Ballybrack Farm in Cork.

Paddy now includes five acres of organic vegetables and orchards among the sheep at his farm and describes feeling “electrified” by the idea that he can make a good living from supplying vegetables via a box scheme to his community. Asked to describe the impact Brexit could have on his business, he explained that because his customer base is loyal and hyper-local it won’t affect him at all. Surely, there’s a lesson in that for the IFA.

The food industry’s tricks and Direct Provision

From Malawi, Ellie Kisyombe talked about the grim reality of living at a Direct Provision centre. It is shocking to hear how people’s lives are being so brutally restricted in this modern age, including the right to grow and cook their own food. This is a topic we will be returning to at our Food Matters stage at Bloom next week.

In the same venue Joanna Blythman took us down the rabbit hole of the food industry’s tricks and slights of hand, while Chef’s Table director Brian McGinn curated some of the pivotal moments from the Emmy-award-winning Netflix series. The great Claudia Roden told stories of recipes handed down from great grandmothers who shared their food that “like music, could make you cry”.

Professor Ted Dinan from UCC talked about the impact of diet on mental health, and cited astonishing examples of treating severe depression cases with a Mediterranean diet of veg, fruit and fish, even in situations where medication and cognitive behavior therapy hadn’t worked.

Bad news is that climate change is coming

Astrophysicist Niall Smith talked about what satellite technology is telling us about our food at a planetary level – the good news is that satellites give us access to unprecedented data that can help our future decision making. The bad news is that climate change is extinction level stuff and it’s coming soon to a theatre near you.

I was lucky to MC an extraordinary gathering of great grocers: Peter Ward from Country Choice in Nenagh, Leila McAllister from Leila’s London, Sally Clarke from Clarkes of London, Ruth Healy from Urru in Bandon and Sally Butcher, the flame-haired proprietress from Persepolis (try saying that tongue-twister post-Big-Shed revelry).

Peter spoke of the front line of food discussions with customers – he’s learned to avoid proselytising, opting instead for explaining why what they’re trying tastes so good and where it comes from.

As we packed up our stall on Sunday night the news emerged that Litfest is taking a break in 2018. 2018 will be a little less interesting as a result, but we look forward to the conversation continuing the following year.

The Basics – Planting Out Courgette Plants

shutterstock_439100524 Source: Shutterstock/Tommaso Iraci

Now that the frost risk has passed, this is the time to plant out courgette plants that have been raised indoors. Either harden them off first to get them used to colder outside temperatures or cover them with fleece for a week or so after planting out.

Don’t be fooled by their size when you are first planting the seedlings out. Courgettes grow to large, hungry and thirsty plants so leave 50-75cm between plants. Dig plenty of well rotted compost in to the soil before transplanting. Never let the soil dry out – use a mulch around the plants to preserve moisture. They will need lots of water particularly when the courgettes are starting to swell.

If you have added plenty of manure when planting, they shouldn’t need feeding, but if you think the growth is slow use a general purpose organic fertiliser, or make your own comfrey tea.

Recipe of the Week – Barley Salad with Green Garlic and Sugarsnap Peas

We occasionally get some sugarsnap peas from the polytunnel to the kitchen (if the kids don’t eat them in situ first). This is an Emily Han recipe, and it combines two great seasonal ingredients (the other being green garlic) with more filling barley to make a lovely light lunch or supper. Serves 4-6.

shutterstock_337700915 Source: Shutterstock/Joshua Rainey Photography


  • 1 cup barley
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 stalks green garlic (white and light green parts only), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons toasted almonds
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Sea salt
  • 8 ounces sugar snap peas
  • 2 tablespoons torn mint leaves


Cook and cool barley. Combine barley and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until tender but still with a bit of bite, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Allow to cool completely.

Make green garlic sauce

Blend green garlic, almonds, olive oil, lemon juice and zest, and 1 teaspoon salt in a food processor or blender until smooth. If the mixture is very thick or dry, mix in 1-2 tablespoons of water.

Blanch sugar snap peas

Have ready a large bowl of ice water, a slotted spoon, and a plate lined with a cloth or paper towel. Bring a pan of water to boil over high heat. Add a tablespoon of salt and the snap peas and boil just until bright green and crisp, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Quickly remove the snap peas with a slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice bath. When the peas are completely cool, remove them from the ice bath and drain on the towel-lined plate. Cut the snap peas lengthwise on the diagonal.

Assemble salad

In a large bowl, combine barley and green garlic sauce. Then mix in snap peas and mint. Season to taste and serve immediately or keep covered in the refrigerator.

Michael Kelly is founder of GIY and GROW HQ. 

Click here for more GIY tips and recipes.


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About the author:

Michael Kelly  / Grower

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