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”

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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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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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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Elderflowers make tasty summer beverages – but mind the hag!

Elderflowers
Elderflowers are a foragers’ favourite because of their many uses both for beverages and good health

Elderflowers are a common sight amongst our hedgerows at this time of the year and they’re not just pretty – they help boost the immune system and make excellent summer beverages!

Elder trees don’t just provide cream-coloured blossoms in the summer and clusters of tiny black berries in the winter – they are also steeped in lore.

Traditionally, people avoided cutting down elders and using them for firewood because they were said to house the Hag Goddess or Crone, which some believed were the spirits of witches burnt at the stake.

It is said that if you’re taking flowers or berries from an elder tree you should first ask the Hag’s permission (just in case you come across a grumpy one!!).

On a more practical note, don’t pick from busy roadsides because of vehicle fumes and always take just a few flower heads, leaving plenty for insects and for berries later.

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Homemade blackcurrant cordial – delicious and good for you!

Blackcurrant cordial
Blackcurrants are a great source of Vitamin C and make a delicious homemade cordial

BLACKCURRANT cordial is a wonderfully tasty way to get your Vitamin C – and it gives a touch of zing to everything from water to vodka!

I’m a terrible procrastinator so I’m not sure why I was so surprised when I discovered bags and bags and bags of last year’s frozen blackcurrants a couple of days ago.

I do remember rushing out into the back garden in the late summer and frantically picking the fruit as a pretty severe summer storm headed our way – but after depositing them in the freezer (while probably feeling very smug knowing me) I just forgot about them.

Becca (8) is a big fan of our cordial – it’s actually Darina Allen’s recipe but we’ve been making it for a few years now – so she was the one who finally got me to check the freezer and make her ‘ribena’.

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Homemade pesto: A tasty favourite

homemade pesto
Delicious pesto can be made in your kitchen using foraged ingredients like wild garlic and nettles

 

HOMEMADE PESTO is a great way to combine foraged and shop-bought ingredients and can become a fridge favourite for anyone with a blender and a have-a-go attitude.

Pesto was first created in the northern Italy’s Genoa in the 16th Century, when it was discovered that a versatile sauce could be created by blending basil, garlic, pine nuts and parmesan cheese with olive oil.

In fact, the word ‘pesto’ finds it origins in the Genoese word ‘pestâ’, which, fittingly enough, means to crush or pound.

Over the centuries, the basic recipe has remained intact, but chefs and foragers have discovered that by substituting the basil with naturally-growing plants like wild garlic or nettles you can create your own healthy and cost-effective version.

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Homemade lemonade fab on hot days!

Homemade lemonade
Our homemade lemon and limeade disappears fast so it’s handy to keep some syrup in the fridge!

THE RECENT hot spell has inspired me to make, and write about, our family’s favourite summer drink – homemade lemon and limeade.

One of the many advantages of writing this blog is that it encourages me to continue learning new things, so I decided to find out something about the origins of lemonade.

Here’s an interesting nugget to drop into conversation next time you’re sitting outside sipping lemonade with friends – the Crusaders brought lemons and the art of lemonade-making back to Europe from Palestine (although some say it was first discovered in 10th Century Egypt)!

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The nettle: A maligned Super Food

nettle recipes
Nettles may be known for their sting but they have the same health benefits as super foods like kale

NETTLE recipes may not be on your bucket list of things to cook but there’s a lot more to this tough and abundant plant than its sting.

The benefit of foraging in nature is that you eat foods that are seasonal and have grown in an environment that best suits them, rather than being forced in greenhouse conditions.

The fairly recent resurgence of interest in plants, fruits and fungi, grown in the wild means that a lot of people are willing to step outside their comfort zone and try something that isn’t ready-packaged.

And cooking with nettles is a great way to use a plant that is easy to find and is packed full of goodness.

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