Tasty teas and community gardening

Solaris Teas

I had observed from a distance the range of teas called Solaris produced by a Galway company over the past few years. I have never been an avid tea drinker, however I had read quite a bit lately about the advantages of drinking green tea in particular. Any time that I do have green tea, I notice that everything digests much easier and there is no bloated feeling after a big dinner. However it is the antioxidant content that got me interested with a renewed vigour.

During a recent visit to Coffee Heaven (past DID Electrical and Hip Kidz in Briarhill ), I noticed that they are now selling the Solaris range of teas and one item in particular caught my attention. It is a presentation case with five sachets of each of nine different teas. This is the perfect way to discover which tea or teas you and your family members like. All the teas are of the very best quality, picked from the first flush and, most importantly, they are all whole tea leaves picked by hand and sewn into a biodegradable silk sachet. The whole tea leaf is important because practically every other tea bag I know has chopped up tea leaves and this means that 95 per cent of the antioxidants are gone. I am currently tasting a different tea each day and scoring on the empty sachet my marks out of 10. Other family members are doing the same. The presentation box would also make a great present and costs €37.

Once I started to do some research I was amazed at the claims made by many reputable medical journals for high quality whole leaf teas. If only 25 per cent of the claims are valid then every single one of us should be drinking three or four cups a day. Solaris is run by two Galway medical herbalists, Jorg Muller and Karin Wieland. They have won many awards including Best Irish Organic Grocery Product and a three gold star Great Taste award for the Earl Grey tea. To give you an idea of the competition for the Great Taste Awards, 30 products received prizes out of 5,000 products entered.

If you want to read more, log on to www.solarisbotanicals.com where you will be stunned at the amount of information about teas that you did not know.

Ballybane Community Garden — one year on

This week I visited the Ballybane Community Garden to see how it has progressed over the year. It is, of course, in full bloom with fabulous crops of just about every vegetable that exists. During their open day a few weeks ago, they built a big clay oven in the garden and served about 200 pizzas to visitors. Believe it or not, they still have availability for people to join the garden, although you must live in the general area of Ballybane and Mervue.

This is how it works:

· The gardening is done by all on one morning a week. Every Thursday from 10am to 1pm.

· There is an additional Wednesday session during the bright summer evenings from 6.30pm to 8pm.

· Everyone chips in to the overall effort and the harvest is divided each Thursday among all who attend.

· No charge to join and no charge for the vegetables.

There are three different lectures scheduled over the next few weeks, but you will have to book. The lectures are Herbs and Herbalism by Dr Dilis Clare, Wednesday August 18 6.30pm to 8pm, no charge; Practical Herb Planting by Dolores Keegan, Wednesday August 25 6.30pm to 8pm, no charge; and a five-part Practical Introduction to Organic Gardening over five weeks which will cost €40. All are on site at the community garden in Ballybane.

If you are interested in any of these lectures or in joining the garden community in Ballybane, call to the garden any Thursday between 10am and 1.30pm.

Please continue to email your suggestions/comments to me at wshaw@eircom.net

Finally, I had a chance to taste a fish soup that I have often heard about on programmes such as Gourmet Ireland and Rick Stein. It has the great name of Cullen Skink and is a chowder native to the north UK. The Fisherman in Galway Shopping Centre is stocking two container sizes of it and it really is delicious, it tastes home made and is full of smoked haddock, potato chunks , cream, leeks, and onions.

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