In early November 2011 the Irish Food Bloggers Association (IFBA) posted an invitation from Bord Bia to Irish food bloggers on a forthcoming tour of Keelings Irish bramley apple orchard. We’d get the opportunity to peek at Keelings apple washer and finish the tour with a cooking demo and lunch.
Woke up on Saturday 12th November 2011 with the sun bursting through the bedroom curtains. My heart leapt as sludging around a muddy orchard wasn’t really appealing to me. An hour later, fed and watered it was time to trot off to the orchard. Okay, drive but you get the picture.
As you all know by now, and if not my apple tart post will highlight my lifelong love of apples, I was really looking forward to this.
The Keelings Apple Orchard Tour
Keelings produce is assured by Bord Bia (Irish Food Board)
Keelings is an impressive plant based in Roslin, St Margarets, Co Dublin. The gigantic glasshouses stand out on arrival. Initially I assumed tomatoes grew happily on their vines in there but thanks to Fiona Fitzgerald (Keelings) we were reliably informed that it is the large quantity of bell peppers which Keelings supply to the Irish market had their home there. In the coming weeks Keelings would be pulling out the pepper plants and getting the soil ready for next year’s crop. Don’t know about you but I had always assumed that they were non-Irish. It’s great to see. Yet STOP! I was here to view the orchard. When the last of the bloggers arrived it was time to toddle off to the orchard.
James Gregory (Keelings) gave us an insightful tour of the orchard. He regalled us stories of how the Irish tastebuds for eating apples are changing to different varieties, their journey to successfully growing new varieties of apples and plans for the future of the orchard. They are constantly innovating and searching for new fruit and vegetables to sate the Irish palate.
Also we queried why the fallen apples are left to rot on the ground. James informed us that it is far more economical to leave the apples rot and then the nutrients are put back into the ground. As a result they don’t add extra nutrients unless absolutely necessary. I took a lot of comfort in that and also knowing that such a large company is conscious of using natural resources to nourish the soil and doesn’t just dump extra nutrients and pesticides at leisure into the soil.
Keelings produce is widely available but mainly in the large supermarkets and ranges from fruit, vegetables, salads and flowers
Keelings Washer & Grader & Packing:
Our tour finished with a visit to the packing facility. Here they carefully unload the apples to prevent bruising. The apples bob along, suspended in water, to a cleaner with gentle brushes and dried. At that stage they are graded into various sizes according to their customers’ requirements and packed.
Keelings apples are hand-picked and carefully transported to crates and through a careful grading and packing system in such a way as to prevent the apples being bruised
Bord Bia had organised a spot of lunch which included 2 pork dishes, an apple and blackberry sauce, dairy-free potatoe mash and the delicious salad above (made with Keelings produce). Most of the food had dairy so couldn’t indulge fully, but I did enjoy the last three finished off with a glass of David Llewellyn’s apple juice – cleaned the plate of them as they were heavenly!
The Keelings Book of Fruit is packed with recipes using their fruit (bear in mind they will need adjusting for intolerances)
Keelings: Taste the Passion
What struck me was the passion and admiration Fiona and James have for the work done at Keelings. Pride seemed to ooze from them.
We left with samples of strawberries and Irish bramleys. The strawberries didn’t make it past dinner, gobbled up for dessert with dairy-free custard
Spelt & Keelings Bramley Apple CakeTricia & Madeleine had baked what looked like a delicious moist apple cake ready for dessert. Unfortunately I couldn’t taste it with my intolerances. The other foodies lavished such high praise on the cake that day that I had to come up with my own version. My adaption will be one of the recipes in my new recipe club starting in January 2012. It uses the sample Keelings apples of course, whohoo! Remember my cake is dairy-free and uses spelt flour instead of wheat. If you’re interested in joining you’re more than welcome to do so here
All in all a captivating tour, I can delight in the knowledge that I support Irish producers more than I thought (not always possible with food intolerances). Better still we’ve set up new friendships on twitter and beyond!.
Thanks to Michael Slawski, Bord Bia and IFBA for organising the event with Keelings, Tricia and Madeleine for preparing such a delicious meal, James Gregory and finally, but not least to Fiona who was our informative, helpful and cheery guide and host.
Like to chat more just leave your comment below. Chat soon, Marian