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”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.