Limerick hotel reaps what it sows

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

IT’S not every hotel that can lay claim to growing their own mint for their mojito cocktails, but Limerick’s stylish No. One Pery Square is adding that accolade to its books.

IT’S not every hotel that can lay claim to growing their own mint for their mojito cocktails, but Limerick’s stylish No. One Pery Square is adding that accolade to its books.

The award-winning hotel has now developed a “kitchen garden” after months of labour throughout the so-called summer months.

Local food writer and horticulturist Valerie O’Connor stepped in and organised a plan for the garden along with chef Alan Burns, and the hotel’s proprietor Patricia Roberts.

“This is a really exciting project as it brings elements of rural and urban together in a small space like a hotel garden,” said Ms O’Connor.

The creator of the food blog, valskitchen, has recently campaigned for more green spaces in the city to be used for garden allotments and has completed a two-year diploma in organic horticulture at An t’Ionad Glas in county Limerick.

She continued: “Working with the chef has been great as we chose varieties of vegetables that he really wanted for the kitchen but couldn’t find from any suppliers. We set potatoes in a raised bed and had a bumper crop of Anyas, Jersey Royals and Nicolas.”

Unfortunately their tomatoes are still green due to a lack of sun this year but the peas, runner beans and cabbages have done really well.

“The bar staff can’t get enough mint for the much-loved mojitos. How many bars can say that they make their cocktails form herbs that they grow in their own garden?”

All the crops are grown organically and the waste from the kitchen is composted in the garden’s own composter.

Chef Alan Burns said there has been a great response from diners when they get a steak sandwich with rocket that they’ve just picked from their own plot. While it is just the first year of the garden, he said it has already “been a great success, and a learning experience”. Visitors can pop in any time and enjoy a coffee in the garden or a bite of lunch. Two fruit trees will also be set to grow along the south facing wall, which will mature over time and create an attractive feature for years to come.

Meanwhile, Limerick Institute of Technology is also recognising that organic produce is big business, describing themselves as “an active proponent of the organic food movement.”

The campus held a series of events last week in conjunction with National Organic Week .

Dr Maria Hinfelaar, president of LIT, noted that An Bord Bia recently estimated the sale of organic food in Ireland is worth €104 million. “Despite the economic downturn consumers are continuing to demand healthy organic produce and want to know the origins and authenticity of the food they are eating. Ireland has a positive image as a food producer and our close proximity to the European market gives us a clear advantage to develop a world class Irish food production network.” LIT are now developing a number of organic food initiatives being lead by research teams.