Jilly makes ‘growing your own’ easy peasy for kids
29 September 2016
‘Edible gardener’ Jilly Dougan will be helping the next generation of green-fingered gurus learn the basics about how to grow their own vegetables when she hosts a series of children’s workshops at Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Slow Food Festival next weekend.
Jilly’s ground-breaking guide to growing food in schools, ‘Sow, Grow, Munch’, is being launched at Stormont ahead of the two-day Slow Food Festival centred in Derry’s Guildhall Square on Saturday, October 8th and Sunday, October 9th, from 12 noon until 6pm.
The Festival featuring a Harvest Market, Street Food Zone, Family Fun Zone, free demos, tours and tastings, is being supported by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) NI Regional Food Programme, with assistance from Slow Food NI.
Thousands of visitors are expected to flock to the free family-friendly event at which leading local exhibitors will showcase good, clean, fair food as part of the October themed ‘Harvest’ celebrations during Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink 2016.
Jilly will be setting up planting stations to show kids how to grow pea-shoots – regularly trending on restaurant menus and packed with healthy vitamins - which they can take home to eat a few weeks later added to salads, pasta, as a snack or even in a sandwich!
‘Slow, Grow, Munch’ began as an idea following on from Jilly’s work in developing a Restaurant Growing toolkit commissioned by Belfast Food Network to promote sustainable food in the city. Her work included overseeing the installation of a rooftop edible garden at the Europa for Hastings Hotels.
However, the Co Armagh woman, who is also a member of the Operating Group at Food NI, said: “It always comes back to children’s education about food. As it says in ‘Sow, Grow, Munch’, we owe it to our children to at least inform them in simple terms where their food comes from, who produces it, how it is produced and give them enough knowledge to inform their food choices through life.”
A member of the Slow Food movement for the past 15 years, Jilly is also passionate about its guiding principles promoting food that is “good, clean and fair.” She continued: “It is about people getting closer to the food around them. People don’t know what they are eating a lot of the time because there are so many chemicals added that don’t need to be there. In my opinion that is why so many people are sick, it is affecting people’s health.”
Stressing the importance of focusing on children’s food habits from an early age, she said: “That is our future restaurateurs, food producers and innovators, not necessarily children from a rural background. If they haven’t a clue that potatoes should have soil on them, or that carrots should be dirty, we are on the back foot.”
‘Sow, Grow, Munch’ is aimed at helping schools successfully develop their own edible gardens during term time so that produce doesn’t end up on the compost heap!
Jilly gave up her previous career with an award-winning meat company to become a full-time edible gardener, supplying home-grown produce rooted in freshness for the Yellow Door delis, restaurants and event catering owned by her husband, Simon Dougan, whose bakery also supplies selected businesses across Northern Ireland including Derry with speciality breads and patisserie.
Looking forward to her visit to the Slow Food Festival in Derry – a first for Northern Ireland and fresh from the city’s success as Ireland’s second top Foodie Destination in both 2015 and 2016 - Jilly said: “The city is really buzzing, it is amazing.”
‘Sow, Grow, Munch’ is being officially launched as an educational resource for schools by CCEA, the NI curriculum body, supported by Tourism NI, at Stormont on October 3rd. The step-by-step guide, jam-packed with information on growing your own fruit and vegetables and accompanying recipes, is also available free to download.
Jennifer O’Donnell, Rural Tourism Project Officer with Derry City and Strabane District Council and organiser of the Slow Food Festival, said they were very excited to have Jilly Dougan hosting the children’s planting workshops at the two-day event.
“Jilly’s workshops are one of the many highlights of our family-friendly Slow Food Festival centred in the main marquee in Guildhall Square featuring a Harvest Market, and additional Street Food Zone, Family Fun Zone and fringe events including free walking and cycling food tours, foraging at Butterlope Farm in Plumbridge and exploring some of our wild foods at St Columba’s Heritage Centre, as well as specially themed food and drink menus at the Guildhall Taphouse and Warehouse No1 Bistro and Cafe.”
Local celebrity chefs Paula McIntyre, Director of Slow Food NI who recently returned from an international Slow Food event in Italy, and Brian McDermott, who is also a Slow Food ambassador, will be hosting their popular cookery demos during the Festival.
A number of well-known food and drink producers will also be showcasing a selection of mouth-watering cuisine in the Street Food Zone including, Amara Dexter Beef, Hog Roast Company, South African Kitchn and Morelli’s Ice Cream.
For further information on the Slow Food Festival in Derry and Strabane district on October 8th & 9th, visit www.derrystrabane.com/food