I was very fortunate this year that the first day of Bloom – the best day time wise for me to go – turned out to be the best day weather wise to go. There were some incredible gardens but I’ll just highlight my favourite and least favourite as really I’m here to tell you about my freefrom finds.
The picture above is actually of a garden feature less than a foot high, with a fairy theme and I just loved the details, especially the washing line and clock. No matter what discussions we’ve had over the years about the layout of our own garden, they’ve always ended with “so long as I get my long washing line… in the sun!”. The garden had many tiny features like this that would enthral a child as they happened upon them at different times.
I was disappointed by a garden associated with an organisation for those with Asperger’s. It was my least favourite garden because I could never relax surrounded by large rusty toothed saws and angular pointy sticks. For the aspie boxes ticked in our household we have curved paths, swinging chairs, soft scented plants and are careful about what corners of the garden we attract the bees to – why? Because anxiety and an awareness of potential dangers are ever present in the minds of some on the autism spectrum. Apparently though it’s not a garden for people with Asperger’s but about. A “concept garden” my husband explained. But listening to the comments of those visiting the gardens I don’t think they come to look at concept art, they come to get ideas for their own gardens at home. The really large concept gardens such as “The Wizard of Oz” and “Alien Attack… Invasive Species” are quite obvious about not being for the home garden, with Fiann Ó Nualláin teaching us not just to recognise but to make better use of these“invasive species”. And two years ago he taught us how to have an asthma friendly garden.
‘Knit together’ postcard garden by Green Side Up
Being married to a horticultural student Bloom is an obvious attraction for us every year and I benefit from the fact that it’s sponsored byBordBia and spend most of my time trying and buying new products. I’ll do my best to highlight the free-from finds here as the place is so vast. In fact it’s best to research it a bit before going and get your head around the map. Had I not known they were there I might not have seen the lovely Irish craft area, but thanks to an update on their facebook page, I’d seen what Brooke & Shoals stand looked like, with all their natural soy wax candles and organic skincare, so I didn’t leave till I found it – which is why I was so grateful they had some garden chairs at their stand to rest my weary bones on, before walking home barefoot down the grass ridge of the central avenue of the Phoenix Park to meet my stuck-in-traffic-chauffeur / gardener / commis-chef / repairman / decorator / lover…
To simplify things I’ll categorise what you should look out for in the Artisan Food Market at Bloom… and beyond:
BFree – although their gluten-free bread and rolls/baps are a very familiar site in our house the multigrain wraps (whole grain too) were a happy find and will probably get wrapped round some Mexican chicken this week.
Broderick’s – after getting a hug (well he was wearing a t-shirt saying “Free Hugs”) from a complete stranger I was let in on an insider secret… they’re bringing out a new gluten-free rocky road (not even at Bloom!). You will probably be familiar with the matriarch’s (Ina) gluten-free brownies and macaroons which can be seen in cafés and stores around the country.
Foods of Athenry – a familiar friendly face at Bloom but I’m always grateful for a chance to taste samples of new products. I came away with some of their gluten-free porridge oat mix and, what I had for a delicious breakfast today, Nutty Crunch Granola (for all of us crunchy nuts!). Their products come with the official hard-earned gluten-free label and they warn that you should always check this label has a code number below it when it appears on other products. Thankfully you don’t have to travel to the fields of Athenry to find them, just your local Tesco or good stockist.
Lucie’s Biscuits – I only met Lucie last month at anetworking meeting, so I knew exactly what I wanted from her stand (besides a few free samples to keep my energy levels up) – Almond Delights, almond and lemon chewy rectangular biscuits – delicious! New interesting recipes from her Czech homeland.
Pure Foods – based in Blackrock village, Dublin, but I’ve seen them at Dun Laoghaire market, Wilde & Green and from the list of stockists on their website they’re spreading rapidly. I couldn’t go home without some of theirlemon drizzle cake. I was going to buy a slice, but it’s so much better value to buy the whole cake (well that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!).
Sauces, stocks, ready-meals, oils, flavourings
Pure Brazen – two Dublin lads making seriously condensed stock from only pure natural ingredients just like Mother used to make. Free from… everything really!
Derrycamma Farm – award winningrapeseed oil grown in Castlebellingham, Co. Louth. Given how often I leave the olive oil to get too hot when I’m cooking I think I’ll have to invest in some rapeseed oil, not to mention the health benefits of all those omega 3s.
Emaan – produce 100% halal ready meals, just up the road from me, under a number of different brand ranges – you might have seen their Balti Houserange in Fresh the Good Food Market which has no additives or preservatives.
Green Saffron – run by a lovely Irish/Indian couple in Cork. They combine their heritage to produce, on the one hand, Indian sauces and spice mixes, and on the other traditional Christmas fare: mulled wine spice mix and Christmas pudding which comes in a gluten-free version. Their sauces can be stored at ambient temperatures yet don’t use artificial preservatives. I picked up a dry spice mix with the funky name of Cococrazy Korma which, with no additives or any gluten, just uses herbs and spices fresh from the farms in India – sounds like it’ll suit my crazy lot!
Olvi Irish Handmade Sauces – mixed just down the road from us in Dublin by a father and daughter team, these sauces and vinaigrettes use just a few simple pure ingredients with an olive oil base, so no gluten or additives. I loved their gift packs of mini jam-jar size vinaigrettes in various flavours. A picture of their Bloom stand features currently on their website.
Organic Herb Co. – I met and reviewed these Wicklow based guys recently at A Taste of Leinster, good to see them at Bloom again, but so busy at their stall we didn’t get to chat and I’m all stocked up on their interesting takes on familiar herbs.
Wild About – I love the fact that this business grew out of the abundance of native, seasonal, wild ingredients growing on their land in Wexford and the concoctions they created from them: chutneys, preserves, dressings, syrups, cordials, cocktails syrups, rubs and wild pestos, e.g. Nettle Pesto which was sold out by the time I got there on day 1, so I went for the Nettle Syrup. Apparently I just need some vodka and lemons now! As of July they can be found in Dun Laoghaire and Marlay Park markets and theirwebsite lists a few other sightings of this wild bunch.
Áine Handmade Chocolate – all Áine’s award winning Irish hand made chocolates are gluten-free and some contain malitol so they’re sugar-free too. They can be found in good stores such as Avoca and Fallon & Byrne or purchased directly from her site, aptly named Chocolates.ie.
Meadowsweet Farm Shop – honey actually produced in Ireland (I can’t find any in the supermarkets). They also sell preserves, beeswax products, beekeeping equipment, seasonal fruit and veg, free-range eggs and home baking. The farm is open 9-6 Friday and Saturday in Doon, Ballinahown, Athlone, Co. Westmeath – tel +353 (0)86 8844938.
Fieldstown – Free range lamb and free range turkey, sold directly ‘from farm to fork‘, as they say, with some of their home made apple and mint jelly to go with it. You can buy direct from their website where there is helpful information and recipes. Plus they’re very friendly to deal with. You may have caught them on TV3′s The Morning Show in the spring (lambing season).
Inch House – a country house restaurant and wedding location in Tipperary, they have now turned their hands to producing artisan foods including gluten-free black pudding, chutneys and dressings.
Jane Russell’s Sausages – always new flavours and gluten-free blends, such as the Bratwurst, to try at Bloom.
There are some that have had issues with milk in the past but say they have no problem with milk which is organic or unpasteurised (now going by the à-la-mode term ’raw‘). I guess it depends on what your issues are.
Glenisk – although famous for their organic milk and yoghurts, it’s theirgoat’s milk yoghurts that are popular in our house. They had a big feature garden last year, again with Fiann Ó Nualláin teaching us about the impact of the decline of bees via the story of the Lorax.
The Little Milk Co – is a co-operative of organic dairy farmers in Waterford. They make mature and vintage cheddar, made from raw milk which thankfully they let you taste first as the ‘vintage’ is seriously vintage – you have been warned! Let me know how you get on.
Kingfisher Teas – Running her stand at Bloom single-handedly with a nine month old baby on her lap, who apparently was a 9 month old bump at last year’s stand, was Mico. She mixes all her own tea blends, many of them decaffeinated for anyone like me and something I really liked, a box of empty teabags to make up your own for work/trips, which you can just fill and then tie a knot in the top. She makes a special blend every year for Bloom, this year’s being a blend of mint and chamomile. They can be found at Dun Laoghaire market and at Kilruddery House or purchased directly from their website.
Solaris Tea – I’ve been a fan of Solaris organic botanical teas for some time now as they sit on the counter of Insomnia cafés all over Dublin. I usually go for the Chocolate Chai Rooibos covering several needs at once: no caffeine, no milk required but still tea and yet hot chocolate too somehow! They can also be purchased directly from their website.
Let me know how you get on and what I missed