A Drimoleague-based couple are selling their delicious edible blooms to top restaurants and food firms – and it all started with a rash, writes Marie Nolan
A WEST Cork company is leading the way with a blooming great idea – edible flowers.
Bumblebee Flower Farm, based in Castledonovan, Drimoleague, supply their organically grown edibles to the city’s prestigious Greene’s restaurant on MacCurtain St, as well as more recently to fine foods specialists La Rousse.
And Mags Riordan and husband Steve Davies feel so passionate about what they do, and are so keen to share the health benefits of their ‘power flowers’ that they are also considering a cookbook, as well as welcoming group tours to their farm.
Their journey to this point in their now very successful business came about via a rash on Mag’s hand.
Mags, a professional florist, worked in what she calls the ‘chemical flower industry’ but always gardened organically at home.
However, a persistent rash on her hands, which she felt was linked to her work, prompted her to investigate how flowers were grown.
She naturally wasn’t naive enough to think flowers delivered to her from Europe were going to stay fresh without any intervention.
But the levels of chemicals used and other interventions horrified her.
She described it as a ‘wake-up call’ – so much so that, six years ago, she started to organically grow flowers on a scale that allowed her supply events like weddings and more.
And it was a client bride who was concerned about her two-year-old flower girl eating her bunch of flowers that delivered the move into gourmet edibles in 2015.
After a little research she found she was already growing lots of munchable options, including the humble dahlia, rose, Sweet William and common marigold.
A Women in Business course, run by the West Cork Enterprise Board, literally changed everything, says Mags, ramping things up a gear and turning their efforts into a viable operation.
Mags and Steve now grow their blooms from six tunnels, and outdoors on their two-and-a-half acre farm.
The enterprise is intensive, with up to three crops per bed, per year. All flowers are soil-based, which enhances flavour and shelf life, and they’re hand picked to order.
Helped by their children, Emma, Jake and Aly, it’s quite the family affair.
The obvious benefit to their organic approach is the flora and fauna – more specifically the bee population which Mags said had been decimated in the area.
Huge numbers of bees feed off their crops, which gives the family great pleasure.
Mags compares their growing ethos to the slow food movement – which ironically had a slow take-up - and urges people to be as concerned about the provenance of flowers as they are with food.
‘Why put beautiful food on the table, and nasty flowers beside them?’ she asks.
Of course she’s realistic enough to know organic flowers won’t replace other options, but she appeals to people not to compost their blooms in their food bins because of ‘chemical nasties.’
Bumblebee Flower Farm, under Nowen Hill, takes group bookings for tours. Regardless of the time of year you visit, there’s plenty to interest. See bumblebeeflowerfarm.ie for more.