The words ‘Hungry Gap’ are enough to strike fear in the heart of any commercial vegetable grower. This is the time of year when there is next to nothing to take to the market or put on the shelves of the farm shop.
All that is left are a few woody leeks and anything that might have limped through the winter in storage. The last of the potatoes, covered in shoots, a hairy old carrot or maybe a canker covered parsnip. Even the purple sprouting broccoli has cried enough.
At Ballymaloe none of the above applies. Thanks to the glasshouse, over an acre in size, the cookery school and markets in Midleton and Cork (please correct Toby) are supplied with fresh produce year round thanks to clever planning and great growing skills. There is no heat supplied to the house it should be stressed, just what is offered by the sun.
Currently cropping are the following – the remains of the Swiss chard and its cousin perpetual spinach, the very first early potatoes that were planted in December (now that was a masterstroke), salad galore including lettuce, mizuna, mustards, tatsoi and the like and many annual herbs such as marjoram, coriander, chervil and chives.
The most fantastic crop of beetroot is ready for harvesting now and even a few baby carrots are being pulled. It is amazing what is possible with good planning and a little protection from the perils of winter.
Soon there will be broad beans and before you know it the tomatoes will be setting fruit. It is non-stop and all these healthy, nutritious crops are grown with very well made compost that comes from every part of the 100 acre certified organic farm. It is a truly sustainable system and long may it continue to beat the Hungry Gap.