July: Grow Your Own With Michael Kelly

Michael Kelly, Dunmore East, Co. Waterford. Grow It Yourself.PIC: DOL

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I own more cookbooks than is sensible, and though I can sometimes be accused of being a little slow on the uptake, I’ve spotted a trend in them of late – yes my fellow laggards, I bring you astonishing news: to an increasingly large number of our fellow citizens, carbs are bad. But fear not – if you’re finding the idea of going gluten-free a bitter pill to swallow, there are a slew of gorgeous food writers to help you on the journey. The message is clear – buy their cookbook, cut the gluten and you too could look like them.

Yeah, so you might have guessed – I don’t buy in to the whole ‘carbs are bad’ thing. I think it’s a dangerous generalization that lumps heavily refined, low nutrient carbs like white bread in with nutrient-rich, unprocessed, vitamin-replete carbs like potatoes. It’s a blunt instrument that fails to differentiate between the joys of a good quality sourdough bread and a processed sliced pan that takes a month to go off. It’s undeniably true to say that our diets contain too much wheat and we should eat more wholefoods but we should also mistrust any diet that relegates an entire food group to pariah status.

That said, there’s plenty to like in new books from the likes of Lily Simpson, Ella Woodward and the Hemsley sisters Melissa & Jasmine, particularly if you’re a fan of putting veg centre stage and want to eat less refined foods. So instead of spaghetti with your Bolognese why not try courgetti (spiralized courgettes) instead? Or swap out noodles for spiralized cucumbers, or even (whisper it) blitz a head of cauliflower to use instead of rice.

Yep, it’s time to add one more piece of kitchen equipment to your arsenal – a spiralizer. It’s a nifty and relatively inexpensive little machine that turns fruit and vegetables in to noodle/pasta shaped lengths. Mrs Kelly and I have recently taken delivery of a spiralizer but not because we feel particularly guilty about eating pasta, or because we’ve gone gluten free (we haven’t). Instead it’s because the spiralizer is a brilliant way to eat veg raw, make it look prettier or just a little more interesting. It also helps us make light work of two of the most glut-prone vegetables that can be a struggle to keep up with at this time of the year – courgettes and cucumbers.

We’ve tried all the recipes you could imagine to deal with courgettes – throwing them in to stews, soups, breads, cakes and more – hell even throwing them at the neighbours. None of these are as quick or delicious as converting them in to courgetti. If you have trouble getting your kids to eat vegetables, they might well be more inclined to eat them if they’ve been involved in the fun of spiralizing them. Incidentally, I don’t think one would ever necessarily confuse courgetti with actual spaghetti but that’s hardly the point. It’s delicious in it’s own right.

Things to do this Month – July


Any ground that has finished cropping must be quickly cleared away to take more vegetables. Use your produce – eat it, freeze it, process it, exchange it, give it away. Continue to water and feed plants and practice good weed control. Earth up brassicas such as Brussels sprouts – these plants will grow tall and require a good deal of support. Net plants to keep butterflies and the cabbage moth away.

Cut down legume plants that have finished cropping – leave the roots in the soil as they fix nitrogen in the soil. Give pumpkins plenty of water and apply a high-potash liquid feed.


Continue successional sowings and use quick maturing varieties for autumn use – Swiss chard, lettuce, rocket, salad onions, radish, turnips, peas, French Beans (dwarf), carrots. Sow for winter use – spring cabbage, Hungry Gap kale, parsley, perpetual spinach, chicory and coriander. Plant strawberries now for a good crop next June. Propagate rosemary, sage and mint from cuttings now.


July and August are peak months for produce – enjoy it! First crops of French and runner beans, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, courgette and aubergine, marrows, beetroot, globe artichokes. Continue to harvest new potatoes, calabrese, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, carrots, turnips, shallots, garlic, radish, spring onions, salad crops, strawberries, raspberries, tayberries, currents (black, red and white), gooseberries, loganberries, peas, broad beans. Ask yourself – do you really need to go to the supermarket?!

Recipe of the Month – Panzanella

This is my version of the classic Italian peasant’s lunch of stale bread and tomatoes. Though purists might sniff at the presence of courgettes, I think it works well if sliced very finely. Because the tomato crop is slow this year, I used 300ml of passata to soak the bread instead of fresh tomatoes, but if you have a glut of tomatoes you could of course use them instead (rubbed through a sieve). All in all, it’s not too shabby being a peasant. Serves 4.


  • 300ml organic passata
  • 300g slightly stale sourdough bread
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 small yellow courgette, thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion, halfed and thinly sliced
  • 200g red or green pepper, de-seeded and sliced
  • 20 black olives
  • Handful basil leaves, chopped roughly
  • 10-15 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 tbs olive oil
  • 2 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbs capers


Tear the bread in to large chunks and put it in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix the passata, olive oil, vinegar and season well. Add it to the bread bowl, stirring well to mix it all together. Add the olives, capers, courgette, cucumber, onion, tomatoes and basil. Toss it all together again. Leave it to stand for half an hour to let all the flavours mingle.

School of Food, Thomastown

This year, our garden team is working with the School of Food in Thomastown in Co Kilkenny to help them with their GIY garden in the grounds of the school to supply their cookery school with fruit and veg and help students to get a better understanding of where food comes from. Their website (www.schooloffood.ie) has information on their upcoming growing and cooking courses and events, as well as their Head Gardener John Kelly’s blog. 

Things to do this week – Pepper Plants

Pepper plants may need support if they are becoming top heavy – either support the whole plant with bamboo canes or support individual fruit-bearing branches. Water heavily once fruit sets and mulch plants to conserve moisture. Feed every 10 days with tomato or comfrey feed if fruit development is poor but not otherwise. Pick fruit young to encourage cropping. Peppers will go from green to red eventually as part of the natural ripening process, but you have a balancing act to do: do you want lots of green peppers or a small number of red ones – the plant probably wont have energy to do both. If there is still unripe fruit at end of season lift the plants whole and hang upside down in greenhouse or porch – they will continue to ripen this way (this works for tom plants too). 

Join GIY

By joining GIY you help us to continue the work of supporting people just like you to grow food at home, at school, in the workplace and in the community – this year we will support over 150,000 people and 4,500 community food growing groups and projects. It costs just €35 to join GIY for a year, and to say thanks we will send you a seasonal copy of our supporter’s magazine GROW and some GIY seeds for you to sow each quarter. Join today at www.giyireland.com.

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


© GIY Ireland 2016 – all rights reserved.

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