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Minister Sargent Highlights The Benefits Of Locally Produced And In Season Foods

During a visit to Midleton Farmers' Market and Ballymaloe House, Co. Cork last weekend, Mr Trevor Sargent TD, Minister of State for Food and Horticulture, highlighted the benefits for growers and consumers alike of eating food produced locally and in season.

"Current flavour of the month is the leek which has excellent nutritional value. Leeks actually reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, are very low in saturated fats and are a good source of dietary fibre, vitamin C and B6, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese and beta carotene. Eaten two or three times a week, tests have shown leeks to reduce risk of prostate, colon and ovarian cancer. Leeks also have antiseptic and anti-arthritic properties as well as having beneficial effects on the throat. Perhaps this is one reason leeks are prized by Welsh singers as a national emblem!" said Minister Sargent.

Minister Sargent also urged the public to support local farmers and choose local leeks and other produce currently in season. After years of decline in leek production, consumer interest in good quality Irish grown produce has resulted in a growing acreage of Irish leek production recently. Other vegetables currently in season include cabbage, parsnips, sprouts, turnips, carrots, potatoes and mushrooms.

"I urge people to consider also growing some leeks which take up relatively little space in a garden or allotment, are undemanding and can be left in the ground until required in winter. Leeks can be grown from seed in March/April with a view to planting out seedlings in June. Such was the value the French place on the leek, that in 1917, the grounds of Versailles were dug up to sow over 25 million leeks which were then transplanted to the Western Front and grown on to sustain their hungry troops," said Minister Sargent.

Minister Sargent also visited the Ballymaloe Cookery School last weekend, which is situated in its own 100-acre organic farm. He discussed the development of a strategy to achieve the Government's ambitious organic target, the development of local routes to market, including farmers' markets, for Irish farmers and producers and the fulfilment of the Government's commitment to a GM-free food island.

There are pictures available on request showing Minister Sargent digging leeks. Also in the pictures are Ms. Myrtle Allen and Jason Fahey, Head Chef at Ballymaloe House.

Date Released: 31 January 2008