Protect the planet by buying local this Christmas

Protect the planet by buying local this Christmas
SEASHORE SALVAGE: Dr Prannie Rhatigan says a visit to the shore and a few hours in your kitchen can supply simple and useful presents for everyone.

THIS CHRISTMAS remember that there is no such thing as cheap food, says Clodagh Finn.

It might cost you less at the supermarket till, but says Lisa Fingleton, artist and food activist, when you get something at knockdown prices, ask yourself who is paying the real price?

Every euro you spend has an impact somewhere around the world, she says, encouraging festive shoppers to become conscious consumers this year.

When it comes to food, the author of the Local Food Project says it pays to use your ‘LOAF’ by buying local, organic, animal-friendly and fairtrade food.

“If you can, buy local food, as this directly supports growers in your community, which in turn, enables families and children to grow up on the land,” she tells Feelgood.

For her own part, she grows her own veg and works from her Kerry base near Listowel to promote the power of growing and eating local food.

Choosing organic Christmas fare means you are supporting the production of chemical-free food, while opting for fairtrade gives others the guarantee of a fair wage, she says.

“When thinking about gifts, think about ethical food hampers, seeds and gardening tools and, above all, try to stay away from plastic. Your choices this Christmas have a chain reaction, literally around the world.

“There is power in your pocket. Use it wisely and have a very happy Christmas,” she says.

Michael Kelly, founder of Grow It Yourself (GIY), also warns against looking for food bargains.

Christmas dinner, he says, is pretty good from a local, seasonal perspective with, as he puts it, “the classic veg triumvirate of carrots, parsnips and sprouts”, which are generally Irish-grown.

However, he says it’s the one meal of the year when shoppers should be willing to pay a fair price to the grower, so try to avoid the veg offers in supermarkets.

Kelly himself will be walking the talk and harvesting the three veg from his own plot on Christmas morning.

“What can I say? I’m a purist,” he laughs.

For others interested in going down the same purist route — or evening dipping their newly green fingers in the soil — check out Kelly’s new book, co-authored with Muireann Ní Chíobháin, Know-it-Allmanac. It’s a month-by-month guide to growing and is available in bookshops or from www.giy.ie for €25.

The holidays start for the Kellys on Christmas Eve with “posh sausage roll” eaten with the first jar of pickled pears and some chutneys.

We used to make sloe gin but one year we got our visitors very drunk before dinner, so we’ve knocked that on the head.

When it comes to the day itself, he always splashes out on an organic, free-range turkey: “It’s far more expensive but worth it to know the birds are out and about, slow-reared and eating feed that’s certified organic and GM free. The cheaper the supermarkets make turkeys (this year, I’ve seen them as low as €7.99), the more I’m willing to pay.”

Meanwhile, in the garden, he hopes to have the veg patches “put to bed” with a covering of compost, green manure of seaweed.

Speaking of seaweed, the nutritious and sustainable food that is set to become even more popular in 2020 forms the basis of GP Prannie Rhatigan’s end-of-year celebrations.

“If seaweed doesn’t immediately strike you as a store cupboard ingredient to stock up while Christmas shopping, think again,” says the author of Irish Seaweed Christmas Kitchen which won Gourmand Best in the World Cookbook in the seafood category at an awards ceremony in China earlier this year.

She uses seaweed in mince pies, stuffing, Christmas morning bubbly and salad for reindeer (also good for humans), to mention but a few of its myriad festive uses.

“If we want a greener Christmas, let Christmas be just that. Christmas. The 12 wonderful days … no November starts,” she says.

When it comes to gifts, her book suggests how a visit to the shore and a few hours in your kitchen can supply lovely, simple and useful presents for everyone.

“Reduce, reuse, recycle is foremost this time of year in our house.

“Wrapping paper? We use coloured tissue paper and some garden foliage, or newspaper nicely painted by the girls. Gathering Christmas from the ordinary things around you is a skill all of its own.”

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