Archives July 2019

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DIY Smudge Sticks with Foraged Herbs

Smudging is a custom that originated in the Americas. Indigenous tribes used the ritual of smudging to cleanse the air, banish negativity and bring positive energy into an area. It is also known as a Sacred smoke bowl blessing. Yes, you can use plants to drive away negativity.

We do not follow the indigenous tribes rituals but it does inspire us to create our own version of smudge sticks for individual use. If you have had a stressful day then a little bit of smudging will go a long way to creating a relaxing, peaceful environment.

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How to make a homemade Smudge stick

  1. Gather wild herbs. Sage is commonly used but other wild plants such as spruce sprigs, thyme, rosemary, lavender and rose flowers work well.
  2. Bundle the herbs and tie them tightly at the bottom.
  3. Wrap the string around the herbs, criss-crossing the string to ensure the herbs stay in place.
  4. Cut off any excess string.
  5. Now it’s time to light your herbs. Leave it burn for a couple of seconds before blowing out the flame. Now use the smoke to cleanse the air.
  6. Use a heat resistent bowl filled with a cup of sand to distinguish the herbs.

Foraging for Smudge stick ingredients

Keep in mind that some herbs work well together and compliment each other. Lavender and Sage, Mint and Tarragon or Pine and Rose work well. At different times of the year there will be smudge stick ingredients available.

Tips for using Smudge sticks

Be careful when lighting any herbs of plants indoors. Always keep a bowl of sand near the smudge stick. Never leave a smudge stick unattended. Don’t over smudge.

We hope that you enjoy using your smudge sticks. To join us on some wild herb foraging adventures please get in touch with a member of our travel team.

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3 Medicinal Plants to Help with Insomnia

Are you feeling tired all of the time? Do you suffer from insomnia? Sleep deprivation can be a common occurrence in our busy lives today. It is well documented that sleep loss disrupts our attention span and causes emotional stress. Symptoms include mood swings, memory loss, lack of motivation, increased appetite and irritability.

Ongoing lack of sleep can have negative effects of your immune system which means it could take you longer to recover from common illnesses.

Our first recommendation is always to take a long walk in a natural environment. Join one of our day tours in nature or look for your nearest park or coastal town, walk slowly, breathe in the fresh air and allow yourself to become immersed in the nature around you. Try to leave your phone at home. If you are struggling to fall asleep at night try using some relaxation techniques, listen to soothing music and sounds.

Here are three of our favourite wild plants that are known to help relax the mind and help you to get a better nights sleep.

Lavender

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Lavender is treasured for it’s scent around the world, from perfumes to cleaning products to beauty products. It can be found growing throughout Europe. The lavender plant has multiple varieties. Studies have found that lavender can aid sleep through aromatherapy. To get a more peaceful nights sleep try placing a small bunch of lavender in your pillow case or lighting a lavender scented candle for a short time before going to bed.

Wild Chamomile

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Chamomile is one of the most popular wild plants, used by herbalists and foragers around the world. It’s daisy-like flowers are easy to recognise. Both the flowers and leaves are edible. The dried flowers contain terpenoids and flavonoids, which are known to help with insomnia, anxiety and relaxing the muscles.

For a better nights sleep make a simple tea from the flowers or put a bunch of chamomile under your pillow and enjoy the scent until it rocks you to sleep.

Valerian

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When many people hear the word today they may think of House Velaryon from Game of Thrones but long before Game of Thrones came to our T.V. screens the Valerian Plant was being used for medicinal purposes. This pretty plant prefers the sunshine and you will find it along the coastlines. The ancient greeks used to hang valerian in their homes to keep out evil spirits. When most people think of the Valerian plant they think of sleep as it is the most commonly used over the counter sedative in Germany. It is also said to reduce anxiety, stress and migraines. It contains calcium, iron and magnesium.

When preparing Valerian to aid sleep it is best to use the root of the plant and simmer is gently in water until it reaches boiling point. Drain away the root and sip on the remaining liquid. You can also use it as a foot bath and this is said to aid insomnia. Simply take a bundle of the herb (flowers and leaves), wrap it with string and add it to a basin of warm water, allow your feet to soak in the mixture for ten minutes. Let us know if this works for you.

These plants are readily available throughout Europe. They may be more obvious in the late spring and early summer months when the flowers start to bloom but the leaves can be just as effective.

If you are suffering from insomnia for a prolonged period of time than it is a good idea to see your doctor for recommendations.

For more information on any of our wild foraging tours please contact one of our travel experts.

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9 Must Try European drinks

We could spend all year talking about the many delicious wines to try when you are visiting Europe but what other iconic European drinks should you try out? We have a few firm favourites that you should try out when you are visiting different part of Europe. 

Irish Coffee, Ireland

You will find this heartwarming drink throughout your travels in Ireland. Often featured on dessert menus it offers a taste of strong Irish whiskey with a creamy touch. Visit the Emerald Isle any time of the year to sample this classic cocktail. Contact one of our team for some insider tips and Irish food adventures

Prosecco, Italy

Famous now though out the world as the affordable version of champagne, this refreshing sparkling wine was first made in the region of Veneto, Italy.

Aperol Spritz

The south of France is bursting with young celebrities from around the world and this iconic bright orange drink is a classic beach cocktail. It is light, refreshing and the bright orange colour cries for some fun in the sun. Live the life of luxury sitting in a beach bar of the French Riviera with a glass of Aperol. 

Port, Portugal

Exclusively made from grapes in the Douro Valley, port is the drink of Porto. It is often served after dinner and tastes like a sweet wine. Vintage Ports are collectors items and if you are visiting the UNESCO listed region of the Douro you will have the perfect opportunity to taste this treat. Join our local experts to discover the Douro.

Champagne, France

Strictly made from grapes in the region of Champagne France, this high brow drink is the perfect excuse to get a taste of the high life. As it was associated with royalty in the 17th century it never lost its stature. Spraying champagne is a symbol of celebration today.

Limoncello

A popular lemon liqueur this fruity drink is a popular ingredient in some tasty cocktails and if you plan a visit to Southern Italy you are sure to find limoncello on the menus. You will also find this zesty drink if you plan an adventure in Puglia.

Mulled Wine

First discovered in Rome this tasty winter drink has become a staple across many colder countries and is a treat at Christmas time where you will find market stalls filled with mulled wine. Recipes vary from country to country but the core ingredients include red wine, nutmeg, cinnamon, sugar and orange zest.  Explore the magical Christmas markets in Europe to taste the best mulled wines.

Pear Cider, France

The landscapes of Normandy are filled with fruity goodness to be explored and anyone who visits the region should try the famous pear and apple ciders, also known as the eau-du-vie or water of life. Calavados and the surrounding areas support more than 43,000 farms today. Join us in the Orchards of France to discover the delicious pear cider.

Sangria, Spain

Last but not least head to Valencia in the south east of Spain for some of the best Sangria the world has to offer.

This list is by no means complete but it will give you a taste of what is on offer. If you know of more drinks we should be trying out please feel free to give the team some insider information. 

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Fruit Picking Calendar

For those of us who love spending time in nature, getting to know the local produce and getting back to the land then it is useful to know what fruits are ready to harvest and when the fruit harvests take place in Europe. See our fruit picking calendar below:

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With every season comes a new type of fruit to enjoy. In winter the orange trees are heavy with ripe pickings, in Spring the cherries start to brighten the trees, in summer apples are waiting to be plucked and in Autumn the berries are alive and woodlands are bursting with fresh fruit that you can taste and smell from near and far.

For more information on any of our fruit filled adventures please contact our travel team.

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Switching off from work, Switching on to Nature!

Nowadays we know that everyone is living extra busy lives. Everyday we are bombarded with choices. It can start in the morning in your local coffee shop; what coffee will you choose? Latte, flat white, americano? In every decision we have to take there are so many options presented to us that it can seem overwhelming. If this sounds like you then there is a solution. Take time out in the natural landscapes around you.

Leave your phone in your bag or even at home, put on your walking shoes and make your way to the nearby mountains. Not only does it force you to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other, it also gives you freedom and time to let your creative juices flow. Not all good ideas come whilst you are sitting at the desk! A change of environment could be just what you need to stir up your imagination.

Let’s spend some time in nature, learning about the ancient outdoor food traditions that still exist today. Before the arrival of commercial farming we relied heavily on these foraging and food picking techniques to provide us with our weekly dose of nutrients.

Collecting Peri-winkles by the Seashore

Middens containing large deposits of winkles, cockles and whelks dating back to the bronze age can be found on the coast of the Wild Atlantic Way. Our ancestors certainly knew a thing or two about foraging. Today, the tradition of collecting shellfish is passed down from one generation to the next, making it a major part of our childhood memories. Join us for a Taste of Ireland on our Coast to Coast foraging adventure.

Truffle Hunting in the Italian Hills

Poet Cicero called truffles earths offspring and it is no wonder why. These treasured foods are hidden beneath the earth. In the 1700s hunting for the beloved truffle became popular in Italy. The Truffle is celebrated with festivals throughout Italy and chefs today consider them some of the most prized foods for their dishes. Hunt for luxurious truffles in Northern Italy.

Pear Cider Making in France

Early Normans in France opted to drink cider as the grapes didn’t grow well in the cooler Normandy climate. Many french people drank cider instead of water when a plague struck the region in the 1400’s. The Pays d’Auge region in Normandy today has a famous Cider route where you can drive from farm to farm tasting delicious varieties. Discovering the poirés ciders is an amazing way to learn about traditional farming and how the French public produce these tasty drinks. Book this pear cider experience today.

Grape picking in the Douro Valley

Grape pips from 4000 B.C. have been found in archaelogical sites from the Douro Valley. This area is devoted to producing some of Europe’s most delicious wines in the most spectacular landscapes. The terraced vineyards of the Douro region are a UNESCO listed heritage site and will leave you with a lifelong appreciation for wine production in Portugal. Join a Guided Douro Valley experience today. 

Mushroom Hunting in Hardwood Forests of Europe

The tradition of mushroom hunting (mushroom foraging) has been passed down through from one generation to the next. As well as a fascinating number of species, mushrooms are a treat for the table. Fungi of all sorts (button mushrooms, gentle puffballs, famous chanterelles and delicious Cep mushrooms are just four of over 38,000 varieties of fungi that have been recorded around the world. As well as a fascinating history like the Siberian shamans consuming the deadly fly agaric hallucengenic mushrooms during religious ceremonies, mushroom picking is often stirs up a nostalgic feeling. Join us to explore the world of mushrooms on a foraging experience in Ireland

There is so much on offer from the landscapes around us if we take time to listen, look and learn. Ready for your next food adventure. Let’s go!

For more information on any of the above experiences that encourage us to switch off please contact one of our travel team.

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Coastal Foraging: Wild Food Walk & Talk – 23 July 2019

Join us for a unique adventure outdoors where we will discover the wild plants, get a taste of coastal foraging, learn some foraging tips and taste unique wild teas. Your tour will begin at Killiney Dart Station on July 23 at 11am.

We recommend that all participants bring a small picnic on the day as we will stop for a break to discuss the wild plants that we discover.

Some Foraging Rules:

  • Never taste anything that you cannot identify correctly
  • Wear gloves when picking
  • Never pick from the root as you will kill the plant
  • Always forage with a friend (preferably one who has knowledge of wild plant species).
  • Do not pick endangered species
  • Do not take more than you need

If you have any questions about your tour please contact one of our foraging team at info@orchardsnearme.com

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Foraging for Wild Tea Flavours

Take a walk in the woods or by the sea at any time of the year and you are bound to stumble upon an abundance of free wild tea flavours that you can add to your next cuppa. There are many to choose from but we have handpicked a few of our top choices when it comes to making a home brew for our Wild Tea Workshops.

Wild Jasmine

There are many varieties of jasmine that bloom throughout the summer months. If you are looking for the most flavour choose the ‘poet’s jasmine’, recognised by its small white flowers.

Honeysuckle

AKA woodbine produces a sweet scented creamy flower that comes to life in the summer months. It is easily identified and climbs trees to look for light in woodland areas.

Dandelions

This common weed, often considered a nuisance for gardeners but treasured by foragers from near and far, is the perfect herbal tea addition. It contains lots of anti-oxidants and the health benefits coming from the roots are highly sought after today.

Ox Eye Daisies

Usually found in fields at the edges of coastal areas, the Ox eye daisy is full of nutrients.

Raspberry Leaves

Raspberries burst into life in summer and autumn seasons, giving us plenty of fruit to enjoy. However many people disregard the leaves and these young green leaves can make a lovely addition to your wild tea recipes. If they are dried correctly they can taste just like a black cup of tea.

Meadowsweet

Just when the Elderflowers start to fade we begin to see heads of meadowsweet appearing in the fields and woodlands. Not a pungent as elderflower or honeysuckle but a nice soothing addition to your wild tea recipes.

Gorse Tea

You can’t miss the yellow carpet of Gorse (Aka furze) across the Irish landscape in Autumn time. The flowers are edible and known to taste a little like almonds.

Red Clover Flowers

Another flower that you can’t miss in the summer months is the red clover which is actually purple in colour. These short purple flowers hang around in gangs by coastal areas and are a tasty and healthy addition to tea recipes and salads.

All of these flavours make for tasty wild tea with friends. Some of them also work well together. For example, raspberry leaves and meadowsweet compliment eachother and give honeysuckle and gorse a try if you fancy a delicious cup of summertime tea.

Have you experimented with homemade tea? If so we would love to hear about the plants and flowers you have used. Join our foraging workshops each month to enjoy learning about the landscapes and getting a taste of the wild or book a Wild Tea Workshop with our local Foragers for you and friends.

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3 Natural Ways to Reduce your Weekly Plastic Use

We all need to play our part in the fight to reduce plastic and the struggle to keep our natural environments plastic free. To help the planet out many people are taking steps towards a zero waste lifestyle and becoming more sustainable. There are many ways that we can reduce our weekly plastic consumption and here are just 3 simple things to start with:

Create a Natural Homemade Exfoliator

A lot of the plastics we find in our oceans today are coming from microplastics that can be found is face washes. Why not create your own. It’s fun, super easy and should be just as good as those scrubs you find in stores. Here is a quick natural exfoliator that will leave you with a fresh glow: Mix sugar, blueberries, honey, coconut oil and a pinch of vanilla.

Homemade Toothpaste

Two to Three spoons of baking soda and crushed peppermint or a few drops of peppermint oil, a spoonful of coconut oil; this is all you need to create your very own toothpaste if you want to cut down on those bulky toothpaste tubes. Both Potassium nitrate and Triclosan are found in the toothpastes we pick up in the grocery isles of most supermarkets today. One is a pesticide and teh other is harmful to animals. Yet, we are spitting it into our water system morning, noon and night. If you prefer to buy your toothpaste then try to opt for a flouride free brand.

Stop Buying Bottled Water

Unless your local water supply is contaminated than reducing the amount of bottled water you buy is one of the easiest ways to reduce your plastic consumption at home.

If you have some tips to reduce plastic waste we are always looking for new ideas on how we can help the natural environment.

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