Grow-your-own initiative blossoming in north Dublin

Food File: Leading restaurants already buying produce from fledgling co-op

Seán Hussey's grandfather started Hussey & Sons Fruit and Veg in 1947 with a five-acre site in Kinsealy, north Dublin. He grew vegetables and brought them into the city to sell them by horse and cart. Hussey is the third generation in charge, and the business has predominantly been servicing the catering industry with homegrown and imported fruit and vegetables, but late last year he decided to use some of the family land to allow customers to start growing their own produce, and bringing their children out on weekends to get involved.

John Wyer from restaurant Forest Avenue and daughter Ruby were two of the first to take him up on his offer. Soon Hussey began getting approached by Irish growers struggling to find a distributor, some of who were close to giving up growing, and he decided to make it his own personal project.

On his books now are Ballymakenny Potatoes, Drummond House Garlic, Bumblebee Edible Flowers, Ard Mhacha Shiitake Mushrooms, and Wicklow farmer Rory Phelan's strawberries and blueberries. Despite this new co-op only taking shape in early January, Hussey says it's "growing at a rate of knots", and restaurants such as Peploe's, Mulberry Garden, Forest Avenue, Bang and Variety Jones in Dublin, as well as La Cote in Wexford, and hospitality providers Baxter Storey, are taking all of his produce, and planning their menus around what's available that week. They even have pre-orders for fruits and vegetables that haven't been planted yet.

Last week they sent 11 pallets to Kerry to be sold in markets and shops across the county, as well as to the English Market in Cork, and speciality food shops such as the Village Butcher in Ranelagh and Indie Fude in Co Down. The produce will also be available in Fallon & Byrne in the next few weeks, with Hussey saying: "I never realised how much one box means to these growers. I, hand on heart, want people to come out here to learn, it's not about making money. We want to create a passion for food, get the children involved early on, and educate people about what they're eating."


New wine bar for Mount Merrion

Gaz Smith of Michael's in Mount Merrion, famous for serving some of the freshest seafood in Dublin straight from the boat, is opening a seafood and wine bar a few doors down to cope with demand. Mike's Wine Bar will serve oysters, seafood small plates, cheese and charcuterie, and have a wine list focusing on small producers and low-intervention wines. Smith says they're currently turning away 30-plus people some days, so the new site should help with the overspill.

Fraudulent food

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland has a new scanning tool to identify the entire DNA content of a food, which it says will further protect consumers from food fraud and misleading labelling. Previous technology meant that analysts needed to know what they were looking for, for example horse meat, but this new tool will tell them exactly what's in a food, without specifying what to look for. A few years ago in the United States a study of seafood samples taken from restaurants and retail units across 21 states found that a third were not what they said they were. Sushi restaurants were the worst offenders with 74 per cent selling mislabelled fish. Whether a similar study will be carried out here remains to be seen.

Go fancy for Pancake Tuesday

Pancake Tuesday is this week, and if you want to up your pancake game this year, Aldi is selling professional-looking crêpe makers and pancake turners. They're also selling mini smiley-face pancake pans, waffle makers and all the accompaniments, so no excuses not to join the pancake party.