I went up to the local Artisan Market last Saturday for the first time since their open day. This artisan market was a concept formulated by two good friends of mine, Derek Walker and his lovely fiancé Anna Mc Quade. They were inspired by another market, down in Strand Hill, Sligo, and took it upon themselves to develop this idea in our town, Letterkenny.
It’s mental to think that no one had done this sooner! With the sheer size and population of this town you would think someone would have recognised that there would be a demand for a one-stop shop for unique, locally-produced, artisan, and organic products. Well thank God Anna and Derek did! Fair play to them.
There was a vibrant and energetic atmosphere about the market yesterday with a live musician at the entrance, stalls wall-to-wall, spread out over two big warehouse rooms, a face painter for kids, and even a dedicated corner for kids whose mammys and daddys wanted to walk around freely!
This was a massive change from the first day I went to see the market. If I remember my numbers correctly, the number of stalls has gone from 11 on the first day to over 30! It’s a brilliant achievement for them and a great attraction for the town.
As a vegan in the North West of Ireland, I usually find it tricky to find healthy, vegan-friendly food when I’m out and about. I either have to do my research, or come prepared. Not in this case. The market caters for the health conscious brilliantly. I was able to get a delicious lunch, a healthy wheatgrass shot, a tasty juice and veggies for my dinner that night. Not to mention a few testers of a natural seaweed based cosmetics brand – vegan and locally produced!
5 of the Best Stands for Ethical and Health-Focused Shopping
Ballyholey Farm Shop
It was as if there was a giant magnet stuck to this stall pulling me towards it! The green leaves were calling my name. And all the organic colourful veg of course!
There was a huge range of organic vegetables here; a lot more than what I would have expected from a Donegal farm. I say that because I’m used to shopping in supermarkets and although there is a selection of Irish grown produce, there is none from Donegal. This led me to believe that we just can’t cultivate vegetables on a large scale here. But Ballyholey Farm set me straight!
They grow 90 per cent of the vegetables that they sell at their organic farm in Raphoe. The mushrooms they get from Inishowen and they had dulse there too but I can’t remember where they got it from. It was definitely somewhere coastal anyway…!
The farmers themselves were there, manning the stall, and they were full of valuable information. It was really interesting chatting to them about how they farm organically. They also introduced me to a leaf called “sulex”.
I think this is what it’s referred to in Ireland but I’m not sure about the international name of it. He let me taste it there and then and it was kind of crazy…it tasted of lemon! A lemony leaf! It was delicious – no joke.
He informed me that it grows here in Ireland just about anywhere, it could be in your back garden or up the field out the back. For €1 I got a decent sized bag of “sulex” from him and used it to make a sauce for my cucumber noodles. I just blended up an avocado, 2 handfuls of sulex, some garlic, red pepper, red chilli and nutritional yeast and poured it over my cucumber noodles. It was so creamy but fresh tasting.
I will definitely be back for more from Ballyholey Farm shop.
Simply Natural Health
Simply Natural Health is a local organic wheatgrass supplier. The owner, Derek, grows his own organic wheatgrass, juices it and supplies it in 30ml frozen shots for the ultimate convenience. Simply Natural Health also run their own wheatgrass stand at the market. There you can get freshly juiced wheatgrass shots, fresh ginger flavoured wheatgrass shots, bags of fresh wheatgrass and ready-made frozen shots for you to take home. The freshly juiced wheatgrass shots for market goers are €2 a pop. Not bad for something that is known to be the equivalent of an anti-cancer pill!
The Simply Natural Health stand is really bright, green (my favourite obviously) and natural looking, with trays of fresh wheatgrass there for all to see. This really is the real thing, no powders or potions here – just fresh, organic wheatgrass!
When you order a shot of the green stuff Derek makes the whole experience slightly more pleasant by serving them in a little espresso cup on a saucer. It’s really cute! He had a small batch of juice freshly made before I got there so I didn’t have to wait for him to juice it there and then, which is really convenient. Me and my boyfriend Seán took ours at the same time.
He was a fresh wheatgrass virgin but I wasn’t.
As you can see from this photo he drank his like a pro and I didn’t…!
But as nasty as it tastes it is so worth it! If you don’t know about the benefits of taking wheatgrass shots read this.
Derek also supplies this fresh wheatgrass in frozen 30ml shots for people to take at home. My own Dad got a batch from Simply Natural Health and takes it first thing every morning, after leaving it to defrost overnight. I think it’s a great idea for anyone who struggles to get their greens in due to time constraints, lack of cooking skills or general old age!
After a batch of wheatgrass the old age problem should start to ease! 🙂
The Spicy Bird Street Food
The Spicy Bird is a game changer! Firstly let’s talk aesthetics. I don’t know who designed the stall but I love it! It’s so easy on the eyes! Bright, colourful, eclectic, funky, quirky….I could go on.
I read the menu fast because word on the street is that there was a vegetarian curry stall at the market. I scanned the blackboard that had the items hand-written on it for any sign of meat or dairy…no sign of anything. Not wanting to get my hopes up I asked was there any dairy in it, to which they replied “no it’s all vegetarian”. I wanted vegan so again I didn’t get my hopes up and interrogated them a wee bit more. But after a million and one questions I deciphered that there were no animal products in either dish!! Victory!
We got both the Thai green curry and the chick pea and apricot tagine. Both were so fresh and wholesome with NO badness in them whatsoever. NO additives, preservatives, or anything that you wouldn’t find in a good vegan cooks kitchen press.
They were both served over freshly made and perfectly cooked rice and a sprinkle of coriander on top….seriously how good is that?! Coriander is the job! This food was warming and satiating. And no guilt featured in the eating of these wonderful dishes!
Fair play to the owner of The Spicy Bird because she actually told me that she has only been catering for markets like that for a few weeks! Very impressive indeed. Definitely one to watch.
Another really promising business venture from a local veggie lover. Stephen, the owner at Discover Juice, has taken his love and knowledge for juicing and is now sharing it with us. Which is really good because he’s really good at it, and he knows his stuff when it comes to juicing.
At his stand you can see his range of juices and try any of them. There’s a few green juices on offer as well as two pink ones (one made with beetroot and one with watermelon) and a vibrant orange juice with carrot and orange.
It’s a really good idea to let people have a wee taste of the juices because then you’ll know what you like, and it is a good introduction for some people who are new to the idea of drinking liquid vegetables.
Stephen’s juices have a perfect balance of sweet nutritious fruit and wholesome vegetables. And NO you will not get fat from drinking juice! Do not listen to the mainstream media when it comes to nutrition. All sugars are not made equal. The more fruit and vegetable juices you drink the better. Fruit and vegetable sugars are not like industrial sugars such as table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup! So do not be afraid. Watch this video for reassurance.
Because I was only after a wheatgrass shot I veared towards the fruity looking watermelon, strawberry and lime juice. If anyone watches my YouTube videos you’ll know that fruit is bae (I love fruit). And it was delicious! You could taste every element in the juice and it wasn’t overly sweet either, which was because of the combo of strawberries and watermelon, and the lime juice gives it that kick.
Discover Juice make all their juices using a masticating juicer which means a far better quality juice than what you would get using the cheaper, domestically-used centrifugal juicer (which I have at home).
This doesn’t mean that the juice you make at home in your juicer isn’t worth making. It just means that the juice you can get at the Discover Juice stand is top quality, the bee’s knees, the cat’s pyjamas, the cream of the crop, togha na rogha.
And another positive aspect of this juice is that Stephen sources a lot of his veg from none other than the Ballyholey Farm! So there is local, organic, slow-pressed juice at Letterkenny Artisan Market people! I would recommend that you get their early this Saturday. It’s the shizzle.
Discover Juice also do tailored juice detoxes and cleanses, so if you feel like you need to cleanse the system and rejuvenate the soul after an over-indulgent holiday or break away, or, if you are transitioning to a healthy (hopefully meat-free) diet, this could be a good way to fast-track the detox or transition period and ease you into health– the healthiest way possible! Here is the Discovere Juice Facebook page where you can find out more.
Salvie Sea Skincare
This skincare brand has everything going for it: their based locally, their ingredients are locally sourced (Atlantic seaweed), the ingredients of their products are completely natural, they’re free from petrochemicals such as Parabens, Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, PEGs – Polyethylene glycol, and artificial fragrances, and the products are all vegan! Woop!
If you’re confused about why a skincare brand needs to classify its product as vegan, then you need to research what you are putting on your skin. Products these days use all sorts of animal derivatives like animal fat and fish guts. It’s vile to think what the main stream beauty brands trick us into putting on our skin. I generally go by the rule of: “if it has an ad on TV, it’s not going on my skin”.
The stand décor seems to channel the Salvie Sea Skincare range because it’s simple, natural and down-to-earth, just like their products.
There are little samples to try at the market and they are just as described, simple and natural! They absorb well, no greasiness…I will be doing a product review on them soon so after a week or two of using them I will inform you all on their effectiveness after a long time period.
But it is great to see a local cosmetics company flying the flag for Donegal and for catering to vegans.
I love the concept and we will find out in the next week or so if I love the products! So far so good though! I would already recommend them due to the fact that their products contain no nasty cancer causing chemicals. You can’t really beat that!
Maith sibh Salvie Sea! Click here to find out more.
To find out more about Letterkenny Artisan Market click here.
Thanks for reading. Please share this post with your friends and family to support the Letterkenny Artisan Market and all these wonderful local producers.