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Dublin: 5 °C Monday 25 March, 2019

Keep those resolutions and get more veg in with this spiced parsnip burger recipe

Expert tips from our GIY guru, Michael Kelly, that will help you to steer clear of plastic packaging in the supermarket.

Michael Kelly Grower

RIGHT AT THE time when our planet is at its most vulnerable to the vagaries of climate change, there seems to be an explosion in the amount of food packaging we’re using.

Everywhere you look, there are examples of entirely unnecessary food and beverage packaging that takes serious energy to produce and dispose of.

Thanks to our relatively new-found obsession with coffee-on-the-go, we now dispose of over 200 million coffee cups in Ireland every year. Globally, the figure is over 500 billion – that’s one million cups a minute. Though many of these cups are labeled as recyclable, in reality they are very difficult to recycle due to the mix of plastic and paper used in their production. Most of them end up in landfill or incineration. I can’t help thinking that our descendants will look back at this time in human history and think that we had completely and utterly lost the plot.

At GROW HQ, we use compostable cups for takeaway coffee but of course our coffee sales are (alas) miniscule compared to the big coffee chains who should really follow suit. A slightly more expensive cup is the only reason not to. We’ve also joined the Conscious Cup campaign, whereby we offer a discount to customers who use a reusable cup when they come in.

There’s a similar problem when it comes to food packaging. Consider this picture which I took in Tesco recently. It shows two baskets containing parsnips (kudos to Tesco that both of them are Irish).

parsnips packaging Source: Michael Kelly

One basket has loose parsnips in it, while the other contains rigid plastic trays of parsnips wrapped in cellophane. The latter is presumably to save the consumer the extraordinarily time-consuming job of popping the loose ones in to their shopping trolley or a paper bag.

When I contacted Tesco about this, they responded that this is about offering consumers a choice, and directed me to a page on their website where it states that they are committed to making all of their packaging recyclable or compostable by 2025. This is commendable but of course there are no guarantees that recyclable packaging will actually get recycled. It also misses the point. While there are certainly types of food that need packaging to prevent spoilage etc, parsnips are not one of them. Courtesy of their thick skins they are incredibly durable.

But it’s not just the parsnips. No vegetable or fruit, it would seem, is safe from spending its final days suffocating in a plastic sarcophagus. I’ve seen everything from packaged apples to aubergines, bananas (fecking bananas!) to cabbages, celeriac to oranges.

Thankfully, M&S last week withdrew a plastic-packaged cauliflower ‘steak’ from shelves, after being ridiculed on social media. The steak-shaped piece of cauliflower was for sale for €2 when a full cauliflower was available in the same supermarket for less than €1. God, but our planet and our wallets are paying a hefty price for our sheer laziness.

It’s easy to indulge in some supermarket bashing, but supermarkets are nothing if not responsive to consumer demand. The veg and fruit aisle can be plastic free if we vote with our wallets. When you go shopping, bring a bag and fill it with loose veg and fruit, leaving the packaged ones behind. When you go for your morning Americano, bring a reusable cup. Ultimately, this is our fight.

The Basics – Lime

Most vegetables prefer to grow in a slightly acid soil with the exception of brassicas which prefer alkaline conditions. Adding compost/manure to soil to improve fertility each year, eventually makes the soil too acidic for most vegetables and particularly for the brassicas.

Traditionally therefore GIYers add lime in the spring to the beds where they will plant their brassicas to reduce acidity. Never add manure/compost at the same time as lime, as they react badly together. How much lime to add depends on the type of soil and it’s pH value (buy a pH testing kit in any garden centre), but typically 1lb per square yard.

Recipe of the Week – Spiced Parsnip Burger

We serve these parsnips burgers at GROW HQ occasionally and they go down a treat. They shouldn’t work, but they do…! A fantastic and delicious way to use up a parsnip glut.


  • 400g grated raw parsnip
  • 80g organic gluten free flour and little more for coating the burgers
  • sea salt
  • 75 ml rapeseed oil and little more for frying
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seed
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 cloves of garlic
  • 1 pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 pinch of turmeric


Peel and coarse grate the parsnip, put it in a large mixing bowl and add the sea salt. Massage for few minutes until you feel the grated parsnip soften under your fingers. In a small frying pan on a medium heat, toast the cumin and coriander seeds for 2 minutes and add the oil, the finely chopped garlic, the cayenne pepper and turmeric and let cook for 2 more minutes.

Add the spice mix in the grated parsnip, mix well, add the gluten free flour and mix again. Portion in generous size burgers. Coat slightly the burgers with the remaining flour. In a large frying pan a medium heat with a little rapeseed oil, fry off the burgers for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, then cook in the oven at 180 for 10 min.

Michael Kelly is founder of GIY and GROW HQ. 

Click here for more GIY tips and recipes.


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Michael Kelly  / Grower

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