A Taste Of Ireland:#12 Feet challenge, Inca berries, New Zealand spinach, Tomatilloes,Courgette, Nastursium, Calendula & Mint

Inca berries http://www.atasteof-ireland.com #12 feet challenge

Note the #12feetchallenge is described at the bottom of this post but it is related to the words in between.

Last year I made a Film with Kevin Ahern of Sage restaurant about his 12 mile ethos and we called the short film 12 MILE  of course. If you haven`t seen it you will find it here. https://vimeo.com/102873475

I was so inspired by this notion of sourcing local food I decided to take it a little further and to grow some food myself this year. Kevin jokingly referred to it as my  #12 feet menu. I grew a number of herbs and root veg but my main aim with my plants were to grow things that suited my lifestyle and our climate. Namely I don`t have much time on my hands for gardening or maintenance of the garden, so the main criteria was that the plants I grew must

1) Grow easily

2) Not require looking after (maintenance)

3) Grows in our climate, does not require a polytunnel or greenhouse. (My climate is a southern Irish county close to the gulf stream, Cork).

Seven things I can recommend from my experimental growing are the following

1) Inca Berries pictured above are from the Andes mountains so our colder climate does suit them. I started them indoors from seed and then planted the young plants out late spring and they needed absolutely no looking after plus they did crop some lovely golden berries. It also did not get attacked by any pests and did not need any organic pest repellents.The Incaberry is a small fruit with a glossy orange-yellow skin that is surrounded by papery leaves. Once the fruit is dried it has a distinctive bronze orange colour. Incaberries are an amazing taste sensation – sweet with a fine and delicate sour finish. The taste is so unique, you just have to try them. It may look exotic but it is top of my list of must grow fruits for Ireland.

2) New Zealand spinach, this is a spinach variety from New Zealand funnily enough, was first mentioned by Captain Cook. It was immediately picked, cooked, and pickled to help fight scurvy, and taken with the crew of the Endeavour. This is again a plant that thrives in Ireland, it needs no looking after once planted out after raising from seed It is a prolific producer of tasty leaves and it has no pests in this country so again I didn’t have to use any of my garlic and chilli spray to protect it. See my recipe inspired by my 12 feet home grown New Zealand spinach here

3) Courgettes: A prolific producer, courgette plants are a definite in my garden again next year, courgettes need very little looking after, I did use my garlic spray to combat the mildew common to courgette but mildew or not the plants kept producing courgettes regularly for quite a few months.

4) Mint: Mint is obviously a herb but it grows easy like a weed requiring no looking after, a real no brainer garden plant that is infinitely useful in the kitchen.

5) Nastursiums: These again originate from the Andes mountains and they are just a magical gift to any garden, not only are they edible top to toe you can ,make a caper substitute from the seeds see my pickled nastursium seed jar in the photo. But they grow so so easily and they look great. Why I ever grew a lawn of grass before and not nastursiums I`ll never understand.

6) Tomatillos: These womderful green globes are a great alternative to tomatoes as they are a lot easier to grow. Lets face it tomatoes are a lot of bother. Tomatillos again come from yes you have guessed it, the Andes mountains and are suited to our colder climate. Very similar to the inca berries but not as sweet, more a cross between a lime and a tomatoe, the tomatillo is used extensively in south American/Mexican cooking. I managed to grow these outside however they did need started out in a makeshift green house (made of plastic). Slugs unfortunately prefer these plants to regular tomatoes for some reason so these are the only ones you will need to watch for protection from slugs. Overall however I pretty much left them to their own devices until I poisoned my plant by getting greedy and pouring on undiluted seaweed fertiliser which ended up killing the plant. I got the dwarf variety originally but brown envelope seeds stock the giant variety which I will grow in 2016.


7) Calendula or Marigold: These wonderful plants just grow, and provide an abundance of colourful very tasty edible flowers. There are hundreds of reasons to grow them from a medicinal point of view. However they also are useful in your fight against pests. If you plant  calendula near your other plants/veg most insects avoid the plants, which is in keeping with one of its old uses as the basis for insect sprays. I used a mixture of garlic, chillis and calendula boiled in water as a homegrown pest repellent.


This year I aim to experiment more with organic seeds we all can aquire from Madeleine McKeever at http://www.brownenvelopeseeds.com/


And Hans & Gaby Weiland at the Organic Centre Leitrim http://www.theorganiccentre.ie/shop/seedcatalogue

Madeleine is selling some great Christmas presents in the form of beautiful box sets of seeds such as “Kitchen Garden” “Baby’s first dinner” and more.

I can also recommend the Irish seed savers if you are thinking of buying garlic its where I bought my garlic to plant this year and they offer a very prompt delivery service. http://irishseedsavers.ie/

Finally I would like to invite any bloggers, growers, chefs or  anyone really around the country (or elsewhere for that matter)   to partake in the #12 feet project/challenge this coming year 2016

the aim/rules of the #12feetchallenge is to

  1. Grow all or some of the 7 plants described in and around 12 feet from your house, restaurant, polytunnels, workplace etc.
  2. Then create a dish/dishes using one or more of the vegetables, as you prefer. Chefs please be creative.
  3. Please  share the pics of your plants and dishes on facebook, twitter.
  4. If you are a chef in Ireland and take on the challenge I will photograph the best/innovative  dishes and put it into a book and I will make a short film about it if a number of you take part.
  5. If you are a food blogger please blog about your journey on the #12feetchallenge and share your dishes on your blog.

Where to Buy Tomatillos



Where to buy Inca berries


Where to Buy New Zealand Spinach


Where to buy Courgettes



Where to buy Nastursium


Where to buy Calendula



Please do support




when buying seeds for this challenge



please do follow us on twitter @atasteofireland

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Taste-Of-Ireland/200420766678763

& you tube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1Qb8ibEp-yetiTHSaQG78w

for more content like this.

All  all video (with exception of Irish TV piece) and photographic  content (with exception of Madeleine McKeever photo) is copyright of Sean Monaghan www.atasteof-ireland.com 2015.





Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s