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LOCALLY produced food is very much ‘en vogue’, with activities such as baking and vegetable growing experiencing renewed interest across the country.
As with many agricultural shows, the Iverk Show in Piltown provides a fantastic outlet for people to exhibit their produce.
The hugely popular show, now in its 189th year, once again attracted thousands of visitors and the impressive vegetables and gorgeous cakes on display proved a huge attraction.
Tom O’Reilly (84) from Old Court, Piltown is an Iverk Show veteran.
He began by showcasing vegetables in the 1950s when the Iverk Show was held in the grounds of Kildalton College.
Once again this year, he was continuing the long standing tradition of showcasing his produce at the show with around 40 entries.
He said he loves meeting people and catching up with old school friends.
Over the years, Tom has won numerous accolades and this year he had a number of very impressive vegetables on display once again.
Tom watched on with pride along with his granddaughter Becky as onlookers admired his beautiful vegetables.
While everyone has heard of ‘James and the Giant Peach’, around these parts the talk is of ‘Tom and the Giant Pumpkins’.
Tom’s eye catching pumpkins proved a huge hit and were a big talking point throughout the day.
He said the pumpkins were very easy to grow, simply requiring plenty of water and fertiliser.
However, he said 2015 hadn’t been a great year for pumpkin growing and therefore the pumpkins which he had on display were actually smaller than previous years!
Tom’s marrows also attracted much attention.
Situated alongside Tom at the Iverk Show was John Langton from the South Kilkenny Beekeeper’s Association.
He explained that the group has approximately 60 members, while 22 people recently participated in a beginners’ beekeeping course.
John has 10 hives in his garden and said he thoroughly enjoys the process of beekeeping.
He said beekeeping has grown in popularity since the economic downturn, adding that people have become increasingly interested in the holistic qualities which are associated with honey.
He explained that honey is continually growing in popularity among consumers.
However, more and more people now want to purchase from local producers.
A little further along the row of home produce, jam maker Peppy Neville from Woodstown was celebrating a very impressive result.
Peppy entered six categories and won three including the overall best jam title.
She admitted that she was surprised at her victory and said she had no special secret to good jam making.
However, she cautioned against too much boiling.
With a prize fund of €600 and a first prize of €200 plus the Iverk Produce Cup, it’s no wonder that one the most keenly contested competitions at the Iverk Show each year is ‘The Great Cherry Cake Competition’ in the adult baking section.
A mouth-watering display of cherry cakes was on display, each of which had been baked to a very specific recipe which all entrants were expected to adhere to.
Chief Judge was Catherine Leyden of Odlums and Ireland AM fame.
She revealed that the main trick was to ensure that the cherries do not sink.
Catherine outlined the key criteria which she was looking for in determining the overall winner, including a golden brown colour and an even distribution of cherries.
The baking queen said she was hugely impressed with the high standard of entries at the Iverk Show and said many of the entrants were enthusiastically seeking feedback.
Chief Stewart of ‘The Great Cherry Cake Competition’ was local Iverk Show stalwart Cora Long who won the competition when it was in its second year in 1984.
She said she was delighted with the interest in this year’s competition, which included participants from the locality as well as many from further afield.
In an era of ready meals and fast food takeaways, last Saturday’s Iverk Show highlighted that a great appetite still exists for home produced food and, in particular, home produced food which comes from the locality.
More and more people are going ‘back to basics’ as they discover the delights of growing and baking their own food.
Additionally, the success of the Iverk Show and the interest in home produce shows that rural Ireland is alive and well!