Growing wild

With Dr Catherine Keena, Teagasc Countryside Management Specialist

Look out for cleavers (or sticky-backs or robin-run-the-hedge). They are annuals with plants sprouting from seeds each year. Tall, straggly, sticky, square stems carry whorls of leaves with tiny hooks, allowing plants to clamber through vegetation to reach light.

Clusters of tiny, starry white, four-petalled flowers develop into furry green spheres with Velcro-like hooks, which cleave or stick to passing animals, aiding seed dispersal. Grassy margins in tillage fields reduce the spread of cleavers into crops. It can be called goose-grass as it was fed to geese and sop an tséaláin or wispy strainer as it may have been used to sieve hairs out of milk. Cleavers are part of our native Irish biodiversity.

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Chef's tip with Janine Kennedy

The first of my salad greens are nearly ready to pick in the polytunnel and I am very excited; you just can’t beat the flavour of freshly picked greens. When it comes to salad dressing, I like staying as basic as possible with simple vinaigrettes.

To make a vinaigrette, you need three things: one part vinegar (try balsamic, red wine or apple cider), three parts oil (Irish rapeseed always works well) and an emulsifier. I usually use a bit of Dijon mustard for this. I throw all of the ingredients in a blender and the mustard keeps the mixture from separating. You can also use egg yolk to emulsify your vinaigrette (this is how Caesar salad dressing is made).

Of course, don’t forget to season your dressing with a bit of Irish sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bon appetit!

Picture of the week

Alannah McLaughlin (aged six) helping with the lambing in Park, Co Derry \ James McLaughlin

Poetry Corner

Swallows Peak By Jonathan Roth from Poems and Prose from Beneath the Reek

In May we’re waiting every day

For swallows here to find their way.

What joy have when they come

Building nests and making fun.

In the lakes the swans are best

When taking time to build their nest.

Sitting for weeks on the throne

Waiting for their babies to

come home.

Next door the pheasant sings his song

With three brown hens to follow on.

Sometimes he laughs at Regan’s foal

Bucking like he scored a goal!

This place is heaven in the summer

But come winter it does not slumber.

When winter comes,

sometimes with ire

We cuddle up beside the fire.

Sometimes it’s quiet in the

dead of night

Or raging loud like nature’s fight.

Some days full of the sunshine ray

Mighty days for making hay.

When day is over my work is done

No more jobs and no more sun.

I hit the road, it’s not too far

For my reward in the Sheidín Bar.

It’s there in peace and solitude

I sup and find my daily mood.

I sit and stare at the Reek

My life now quite beyond its peak.

Now with no more nursing care

I have the time to stop and care,

Time to watch the lambs leap

And suckle at their mother’s teat.

Come sunset the swallows

say their prayers

No more work and no more cares.

When August is at its peak

They will up and leave Swallow Reek.

Number of the week

The maximum amount you can give your child is €335,000, anything in excess is taxable at 33%. The maximum amount you can gift a son/daughter-in-law is €16,250 so for that reason normally the house is transferred to the child alone rather than into joint names.

Online pick of the week

Catherine Forde

In this week’s Meet the Maker, Grace Hanna chats to Catherine Cocollos, a truffle farmer and artist about her artistic journey and how she found solace in painting after a cancer diagnosis.

Read more

Meet the Maker: Catherine Cocollos

Children’s books bus tour from Malin Head to Mizen Head