99% of the vegetables we serve on our retreats and courses have been grown by us and our volunteers here at Macalla Farm. As we are vegetarian and only serve vegetarian food, we need to grow a lot!

Our gardens make up a patchwork of small cultivated areas among the rocky, acidic soil typical of the West of Ireland. Over the years, the soil has become rich and fertile through the addition of seaweed, horse dung, compost, home-made liquid fertilisers made from nettles and comfrey as well as a variety of mulches including bracken and molinia.

We have been inspired by permaculture and biodynamics and are totally committed to organic production. We are now saving our own seed from varieties that can cope with the exposed site and its unpredictable Atlantic maritime climate – one that is becoming more confused and erratic with climate change.

We grow over 30 different types of vegetables, often heritage varieties. In addition to the usual suspects, we grow different types of kales (a vegetable, Ciara especially, could not live without), many different types of beans, eaten fresh or dried for winter meals as well as an abundance of pumpkins, for soup and curries, roasted or in pumpkin pie. We also grow oca (and sell as seed) a South American tuber which is delicious when roasted. From the orchard, blackcurrants provide the makings of kilos of jam and steam-pressed juice and we have more than a dozen varieties of apples growing.

The polytunnels allow us to grow delicate fruits and vegetables: in addition to tomatoes  (in 2014, we grew 13 different varieties) we produce abundant harvests of aubergines, chillies, peppers, sometimes melons and of course, grapes. If you are lucky to be here from mid- August through September, you’ll feast on the most deliciously sweet white seedless grapes ever!