Summer Big Softies and What to Make with Them
It surely must be said that the height of the summer in Ireland is marked by the wealth of homegrown soft berries on the market. Ripe red strawberries, luscious raspberries, juicy cultivated blackberries, gem-like sprigs of fresh blackcurrants and redcurrants, fragrant pink or green gooseberries, lovely loganberries and Tayberries are there for the picking. Or should we say, there for the buying after they’ve been skillfully hand-plucked from the plants by the growers!
Now is the height of the summer soft berry season. As late August kicks in, we will still see homegrown strawberries available. But stocks of raspberries will be all but finished and certainly the small amounts of cherries and gooseberries of early summer will long have been scoffed or put into jam. The late days of the official summer season are the time for getting out there to pick wild blackberries straight from the bushes. These are slightly sharper in taste than cultivated blackberries, but some say they are the epitome of Irishness with their wild earthy tastes.
Soft fruit growers are now in their busiest time of year. Continual harvesting of ripe berries is hard work, as labour intensive hand picking is necessary to avoid mechanical damage to the flesh. If you’re travelling around the country this summer, look out for Ireland’s delicious soft fruit from these growers, some open to the public.
MALONE FRUIT FARM
What started as a little project, engineered by Tom Malone to keep his kids occupied in summer holidays, is now a full blown family fruit farm business. Malone Fruit Farm in Ballon Co. Carlow is open to the public. See the fruit being grown then buy some fresh or frozen from the farm shop on site.
THE APPLE FARM CAHIR
Apples are the main business for Con Traas of The Apple Farm in Cahir, Co. Tipperary. But in summer he grows strawberries, plums and cherries which are all available in the farm shop on site.
GREENS BERRY FARM
John Greene is an accomplished grower of seasonal soft fruit. At Greens Berry Farm in Tinnock, Gorey, Co Wexford (just off junction 22 for Gorey on the M11), John is putting into practice his childhood upbringing on the strawberry farm his father owned. John grows indoor and some outdoor strawberries on his farm. These fruits are available from the Green’s Berry Farm Mobile Stall at the entrance to the farm or in the Green’s Berry Farm Shop in Gorey, Co. Wexford. Also find homemade jams and other fruit related items also available.
KEARNS FRUIT FARM
James Kearns’ Fruit Farm in the rolling Wexford countryside has been in his family for over forty years. Jim follows his father’s footsteps in soft fruit growing, adding to the family expertise that has been built over a generation. He and his wife Susan run a modern operation which produces strawberries from May to November and raspberries in June, July and August. Kearns summer berries are available in independent local retailers under the Sunny Wexford Strawberries brand and in some of the major food shop chains in the area.
WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR BERRIES
When you’ve got your berries, our recipes from some of Ireland’s best cooks and chefs will give you inspiration to what to do with them!
Ballymaloe Strawberry Shortcake
This is a gorgeous recipe straight from Myrtle Allen’s home kitchen at Ballymaloe Country House. A mix of crumbly shortbread layered with cream and ripe Irish strawberries. A wonderful tea time treat!
Lime Basil Possett with Strawberries and Shortbread
Strawberry and Raspberry Tart
Summer Fruit Salad with Sweet Geranium
Great country house fare at its best. This recipe is from the restaurant at Ballymaloe Country House and you may have the pleasure of finding it on the sweet trolley if you visit this time of year. A marriage of local summer berries and sweet geranium from the herb garden brings the Irish summer straight to your dessert bowl!
Ricotta Pancakes with Mixed Berries and Vanilla Yogurt
Strawberries with Basil, Balsamic, Mascarpone and Hazelnut Sables
Tara Walker produces these for her demonstrations at The East Coast Cookery School in Termonfeckin, Co. Louth. An Italian way of serving fresh strawberries, with the sweet sharp poke of Balsamic and fragrance of fresh basil, this makes an unusual dessert. Have a look at it here.