Food puts its best foot forward

THE first anniversary of the “Taste of Ballyhoura Country” food brand will be celebrated in Kilmallock, Co Limerick, today.

It will also mark the final day of the 19th Ballyhoura International Walking Festival.

Both events are rooted in the wholesome countryside straddling the Limerick, Cork and Tipperary borders and are helping to boost the region’s rural economy.

The food that one event showcases is sourced from the unspoilt countryside being marketed by the other for walking and specialist holidays.

As a result, both the food fair and the walking festival have been promoted in conjunction with one another by groups working under the umbrella of Ballyhoura Development, which covers south and east Co Limerick and north-east Co Cork.

Over 1,000 walkers have taken part in the four-day walking festival in a region which features 1,500km of national loop walks.

They will have covered an average distance of 20km each by the time the Bank Holiday weekend programme ends tonight. That’s equal to a collective 20,000km and 200m steps, or more than 40 times the length of Ireland.

Not only that, but the walkers will also have burned 40m calories — not a bad return from the fresh country air.

Many of them will also have sampled some of the locally-produced fresh food and drinks during stops for refreshments in local restaurants, bars and tea rooms. Some will also have stayed in farm and other guesthouses where food from the finest of local ingredients is a feature.

That tradition of good produce from the region over which walkers from many countries have traversed in recent days inspired the creation of a sustainable food brand last year. Today, the “Taste of Ballyhoura Country” will celebrate its first birthday in style at the Food Fair in Kilmallock. The produce being sold at farmers’ markets and retail outlets in the region will be tasted by visitors.

Brand spokesman Tim Madden said the emphasis of these food producers is on quality. Their products are already individually recognised for their uniqueness, traceability and use of the finest raw materials.

“We’re using the word ‘craftisan’ to describe the produce, as it has connotations of skill, imagination and a hands-on artisan approach,” he said.

Mr Madden urged the public to support these local businesses, as they are the lifeblood of several rural communities and can hold their own on the national and international stages in terms of quality.

“While the initial pilot project involves seven producers, the scope to include additional artisan or craftisan food producers remains open to qualifying companies,” he said.

Mr Madden said the intention is to make the food fair a permanent date in the calendar and in time to create a mini Dingle-type food festival.

The brand ran an eight-week media campaign in the Irish Examiner last December-January and also had copies of its recipe book circulated in the paper’s Weekend supplement.

Inspiration for the recipes was drawn from producers, grandmothers, fathers who cook and culinary experts.

Copies of the recipe book will again be distributed free at today’s food fair. It is also downloadable from

Food enthusiasts will be treated to live cookery demonstrations by master chef Shane Donohoe using recipes from local Ballyhoura food producers. Visitors will also be able to sample juices from Ballyhoura Apple Farm, handmade fruit compotes from French native Clotilde Fitzgibbon of Ballindangan and beers from Eight Degrees Brewing in Mitchelstown.

They can also taste quality sausages from Hodgins Foods in Mitchelstown, varieties of Effin cheese, confectionery from Pandora Bell in Ballysimon, Co Limerick, and meats from Horgan’s Delicatessen Supplies in Mitchelstown.

The walking festival caters for people of all abilities, from marathon walkers and hardy hikers to gentle ramblers enjoying the company of local experts in the fields of heritage, archaeology, history, flora and fauna.

Every year, new routes are chosen for the event, which attracts participants from all over Ireland and from places as far afield as South Africa, Germany, the Czech Republic, France and Britain.

The festival offers over 30 walks, guided by people from local communities and the Ballyhoura Bears Walking Club.

The schedule offers routes for all levels of ability from undulating green pastures to woodlands and hills, to the high peaks of the Galtee Mountains — with plenty of appetising Ballyhoura food and drink products available.

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