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by Michael Kelly

GIY (Grow it Yourself) I

t was World Food Day last month and as I always do with these vast global events, I tried to think about it down at

Michael Kelly is a freelance journalist, author and founder of GIY Ireland.

Tip of the Month - Overwinter your

Chilli plants

the only level that makes any sense to me and my vegetable patch. One of my main motivations for growing my own food is that supermarkets just don't provide any real variety when it comes to fruit and vegetables. There is an assumption that because our world is so small now, we have access to a vast array of new and exotic vegetables from all over the globe. In fact, ever more powerful trans-national supermarkets are forcing food producers in to the strait-jacket of mono-culture and producing higher yields of ever-decreasing varieties of vegetables. What does this really mean? Whereas

Chillipepper plants are not annuals at all and can in fact be overwintered and used again next year. This method is reputed to give you a better and earlier crop the following year. Dig up the plants carefully and remove any remaining fruit and foliage - cut the stem back to about 15cm. Pot up in some fresh potting compost and leave it on a sunny windowsill indoors - it won't survive outside. The plant will burst back to life in the spring and will produce fruit earlier than spring-sown plants. firmed up).

Recipe of the Month Rabbit Stew

Our red setter has a tendency to come home from winter walks carrying a rabbit and a quick skinning and some knife work, and you've a cracking winter stew in prospect. Many butchers will source wild rabbit for you if you ask. Since rabbit is a very lean meat, the bacon bring the necessary fat to the equation.

two decades ago you could find 10 or 15 varieties of apples or tomatoes in a supermarket ñ now there are just a couple. And in all likelihood they will be same varieties available in a supermarket in Spain or America or Asia. Almost all (90% plus) of the apples on sale in supermarkets around the world are of just 5 varieties. 75% of the world's agricultural diversity has been lost in the last century according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. This tragic blandness suits retailers

who are only interested in bulk selling, but its terrible for bio-diversity, taste and variety. The beauty of the veg patch is the diversity it offers us. We have at our fingertips a smorgasbord of varieties for each veg that we can dip in to each season. We can grow vegetables that you rarely get at all in a supermarket like kohlrabi, artichokes or Florence fennel. We can grow a variety of tomato that we know to be particularly tasty (the revelation for me this year was Sungold in the fizzbomb of the tomato world). In short, we are empowered.


Serves 4 • 250g streaky bacon • 1 wild rabbit, skinned and jointed (1.5-1.8kg)

• Chopped vegetables and herbs and whatever your veggie plot has to offer you: veg (a few cloves of garlic, a large onion, three good sized carrots and a stalk of celery) and herbs

• 600ml stock and glass of white wine Things to do this month

To Do Do not leave beds bare for the winter and sow a green manure, or cover with a thick layer of manure/compost and then black plastic or straw. This will return nutrients to the soil, keep the worst of the weather off it, suppress weeds and prevent leaching of nutrients. 'Earth up' or tie up vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Divide up your rhubarb if you want to propagate, and cover it with a thick mulch of manure. Prune apple trees. Mulch fruit bushes. Take cuttings of currant bushes from current season's wood.

Sow Sow broad beans outside now for an early crop next spring. To avoid rotting before germination, make small newspaper cups and germinate them indoors first. Next summer's garlic does best if it's planted before Christmas and plant outdoors in well prepared soil in a sunny spot. Though I have to admit I never bother with them, some varieties of onion can over-winter and will be ready to harvest in early summer.

Harvest Continue to harvest perpetual spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes, swede, parsnips, apples, pears. Start harvesting leeks, winter cabbage, kale, artichokes, Brussels sprouts. Time to lift carrots and turnips or at least cover them with a good layer of straw to protect them from frost damage.

Directions Cut the bacon in to cubes and fry it in some oil and remove to a casserole dish. Fry the rabbit pieces until golden brown. Add to the casserole. Throw the veggies in to the pan and get the juices from the cooked meat all over them before putting them in with the meat. Deglaze the pan with the stock and pour that in to the casserole with the wine. Add the chopped herbs and season. Bring to the boil, cover and transfer to a hot oven for 90 minutes. Serve with mashed spuds.

GIY is a registered charity that inspires people to grow their own and gives them the skills they need to do so successfully. There are 80 GIY groups around Ireland and 6,000 GIYers involved. For more tips, information and support visit


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