Foragers’ fumbles and fails

Crab apple
Crab apples are a firm favourite with all foragers and are readily found in our countryside

FORAGERS are always enthusiastically looking for new wild foods and recipes to try out and share. Usually, we get to celebrate our successes…. but what about our failures?

Living in a part of the Irish countryside that’s rich with native plants, my family has had great fun finding and cooking all sorts of wild fruits and plants for almost a decade.

On the other hand, we’ve also had one explosion, a frantic weekend product recall and a jelly that refused to set. And for every fumble, I hope that an important lesson has been logged and learned! Continue reading “Foragers’ fumbles and fails”

Forest litterbugs hit our pockets

Illegal dumping
Illegal dumping in forests causes environmental damage but also hits taxpayers’ pockets

FORESTS provide a valuable space for anyone seeking ways to find fitness, mindfulness or a free amenity for energetic kids, but they’re also easy targets for sneaky, illegal dumping.

There are three very good reasons to be angry at those responsible for fly-tipping or illegal dumping. Dumpers damage the environment, they are too lazy and/or cheap to legally dispose of items that are often recyclable and they cost the rest of us money!

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Foragers’ favourite homemade liqueurs

Sloe gin
Sloe berries from the blackthorn tree make a delicious liqueur when added to your favourite gin

HOMEMADE LIQUEURS are an easy and fast way for foragers to use wild fruits that are often ignored, like sloe berries, or an interesting way to use traditional favourites, like blackberries.

We’ve just made a bottle each of sloe gin and blackberry whiskey which, if I can control my thirst, are scheduled for consumption in Christmas 2017.

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Crab apple jelly with a hint of spice

crab apple jelly
Crab apples are found in the wild and make a delicious jelly that can be used with bread or meat

CRAB APPLES are one of those wild-growing fruits that often remain untouched on the tree but they actually make a delicious jelly that bridges the gap between savoury and sweet.

The apples we grow or buy are descendants of wild crab apples, which are usually found along hedgerows or in woods and untouched spaces. A handy tip is that if there are rowan trees in an area it’s likely that you will find a crab apple tree nearby.

We’ve made crab apple jelly on a couple of occasions but this year we decided to adapt our usual recipe by adding cloves to give it just a hint of spice. We like the jelly on bread or scones, but it can also be used with meats like pork or turkey, depending on your personal taste.

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Rosehip syrup is a wartime favourite that still packs a Vit C punch

Rosehip syrup
Rosehip syrup packs a punch with Vitamins C, A and D and helped keep wartime children healthy

ROSEHIP syrup is a recipe with an interesting history and tastes good over all sorts of foods, including icecream and pancakes!

The great advantage of rosehip syrup is that while the process of making it is a little bit finicky the tiny red hips of the wild rose are readily available for free on hedgerows and in many gardens throughout the country.

These tiny red fruits look a little bit like elongated apples, which is no coincidence as they belong to the same family as crab apples and apples.

However, rosehips pack a real punch when it comes to their health-giving credentials, containing Vitamins A and D but also 50% more Vitamin C than oranges! And one of the best ways to get your rosehip Vit C hit is through a homemade syrup.

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Elderberry syrup – Mother Nature’s winter cold and flu fighter

Elderberry syrup
Elderberry syrup is Mother Nature’s recipe for helping fight off those winter-time colds


WE HAVE braced ourselves for cold and flu season by making a small but effective batch of elderberry syrup that is already being put to good use in our household.

Classrooms and offices are like incubators for bugs at this time of the year but we’re hoping to give ourselves a fighting chance by using the berry of the elder tree, which is found growing wild in many hedgerows, waste ground and established back gardens.

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Blackberries in buns – scrumptious!

blackberries in buns
Blackberries are a commonly available fruit used in traditional cures but they also make lovely buns

BLACKBERRIES are one of those universally-loved fruits because they are so accessible, growing wild on untouched hedgerows in fields and roadsides everywhere, and I want to share our highly adaptable recipe for scrumptious blackberry buns.

This glossy black fruit, otherwise known as rubus fruticosus in Latin, or sméara dubha to every Irish primary school child, has a long history of use in foods and medicines. The Greeks saw it as a treatment for gout and the Roman’s brewed a tea with bramble leaves.

The ancient Celts treated blackberries as a sacred plant and used the berries to make dark dyes, preserves and remedies.

Today, blackberries are known for their deliciousness but also their high Vitamin C content, and you’ll often find them in lots of recipes for healthy shakes etc.

Our blackberry bun recipe is what I’d call semi-healthy – it has plenty of nutritious ingredients, but it’s not entirely without sin!

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Mahon Falls – a littered treasure

Mahon Falls
It’s impossible to capture the beauty of Mahon Falls in a photograph but here’s the best I could do

MAHON FALLS is an awesome (I mean that in the original sense of the word) 80-metre waterfall that lies in the Comeragh Mountains, so I’m totally baffled as to why some visitors would dump rubbish there!

I took our girls Ava (11) and Becca (8) to the Falls this week as one of our planned day-trips over the school holidays, but we were all upset and disgusted to discover that the level of littering seems to have reached unprecedented levels this summer. Continue reading “Mahon Falls – a littered treasure”

Making sensible choices about food boosts your health and pocket!

Food waste
Salads are high on the food waste list but they are also relatively easy to grow in your own garden

FOOD WASTE costs the average Irish household EUR700 every year – that’s a whole load of cash to just chuck in the bin!

I’m trying to think about all the things I could do with that kind of money, like putting it towards a family holiday or sorting out something in the house (the front windows need painting) or the garden (there’s an endless list there).

Earlier this week, Becca (8) and I attended the launch of a Community Food Initiative by Ballyhoura Development in the Co Limerick village of Caherconlish, to discover how we could have more ‘food sense’ in the future, for the benefit of our family’s health and pocket.

Millennium Centre
Millennium Centre in Caherconlish, Co Limerick

The day, which included arts and crafts, facepainting, and child-friendly healthy treats, took place in the lovely Millennium Centre, which I thought was pretty fitting, seeing as how I was hoping it would help me guide our family to a new phase of smarter eating.

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Glengarra Mountain Lodge revisited

Crowds return to Glengarra Mountain Lodge to see recent refurbishment work on the building

GLENGARRA Mountain Lodge is buzzing with life again as nature lovers find their way back to this scenic wildlife haven – thanks to ongoing restoration work by local volunteers!

We put on our sensible footwear and packed a picnic at the weekend to attend an open day hosted by Burncourt Community Council at the Co Tipperary shooting lodge-turned-hostel, which has lain empty in recent years.

The Mountain Lodge

The event had two purposes – firstly, to show the public how far the community had come in fixing the potentially devastating damage caused by vandals and thieves, and secondly, to remind us all that support was needed for the work still to be done.

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