Archives November 2019

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What’s in Season? Foraging in Winter Months

Sometimes foraging in winter feels like a secret adventure. Wild foodie treasures don’t fully disappear after the fruitful summer months. Fresh green leaves, nuts and berries may be a little harder to identify but they are there for the taking. Sometimes it feels as though nature knows more about what we actually need than we do ourselves. You will find plenty of sources of vitamin C and other immune boosters during the winter months, helping you to keep cold and flu symptoms at a distance.

When the evenings are dark and there is frost in the air you have plenty of time for playing around with your wild food finds in the kitchen. Every season is a time to get back to nature and reconnect with the landscapes around you. When you look at the winter hedgerows, drooping, grey and glistening with frost, it’s hard to imagine there is much life around. But the truth is, even in the depths of winter, plenty of foodie treasures can be found.

Grab your hat and scarf and head out for a local forage with friends. Here are just a few of the wild treats you can hope to discover in winter.

BERRIES

Rosehips

One of our favourite food sources in winter is the Vitamin C packed rose hip. These are plentiful in parks and woodlands at this time of year. Be sure to wear your gloves as they come with thorns attached to the stems. Enjoy sipping rosehip tea and mixing them for syrups.

Hawthorns

Used as a herbal remedy to tackle high blood pressure in ancient times, the hawthorn berries and stems are high in antioxidants.

Juniper Berries

These tree berries are deep purple in colour. You can infuse them in drinks and the stems have a wonderful fragrance that can be used to clear any nasty odours in the house.

Sloe Berries

Gin infused with sloe berries is now one of the most popular drinks on the market and it is easy to see why. Sloes are sweet and pack a punch when it comes to flavour.

WILD GREENS

Pine Needles

These spiky needles that come from scots and spruce pine trees contain high amounts of vitamin C and are often used in winter herbal tea recipes.

Wood Sorrel

Available year round this healthy woodland green is a wonderful addition to warm salads in winter. They have a bitter but pleasing taste that will leave you wanting more.

Jack by the Hedge

Often known as garlic mustard, Jack by the Hedge is a winter gem. They have distinct heart shaped, hairless leaves that sometimes look like nettles but they won’t sting you. The leaves have a natural anti-freeze and so they are worth foraging in the winter months.

Honesty

With its radish flavoured leaves Honesty is a lovely little leaf to forage in winter. Try a taste of the root and the leaves.

Ground Elder

Smelling and tasting a little like parsley we can think of lots of dishes for this wild weed.

Dock

If they are picked young they have a nice lemon flavour that goes well with any fish dish.

MUSHROOMS

To our amazement the woods are still packed with different mushroom species this year but there are some types of mushrooms more commonly found in winter than others. These include wood blewits, velvet shank mushrooms and oyster mushrooms.

Join one of our next foraging tours or find out more about winter foraging with our free foraging guide.

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Wild Recipe: Pickled Plantain Seeds

Ever thought about cooking with plantain? This common weed is full of nutrients and so versatile. We are having a lot of fun experimenting with this wild weed and cooking up some tasty wild recipes.

WHAT IS PLANTAIN?

Broadleaf Plantain (aka Plantago Major) is a common weed, medicinal plant and natural herb. It can now be found growing in most parts of the world. It contains vitamins A, C and K. The oval shaped leaves can be eaten raw and the seeds are packed full of nutritious benefits.

HOW TO PREPARE AND USE PLANTAIN

Leaves can be added to salads and all parts of the plant can be mixed in with your homemade vegetable soups. Plantain seeds can be used in salads, stir-fry’s and curries. Today we are making pickled plantain seeds.

INGREDIENTS

  • Red Cabbage
  • Coriander
  • White wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Curly dock Seeds
  • Plantain seeds
  • Chilli
  • Garlic

INSTRUCTIONS

Carefully wash all of the ingredients.

Use a pestal and mortar to grin the chili, garlic cloves and sugar together.

Finely chop two handfuls of red cabbage.

Add all of the ingredients to a large jar, throw the seeds on top of the mixture. Add a pinch of salt and pour white wine vinegar over the mixture until it is fully covered.

Leave the closed jar to ferment for two to three days in the fridge.

Enjoy your pickled plantain goodness! If you have more sweet or spicy plantain recipes we would love to hear from you.

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Why eating local is the future!

Do you know where the food that you eat comes from? If not than maybe its time to find out. Eating locally produced food has benefits for both us and our fragile eco-system.

By 2050 the UN experts predict that we will  have 2.5 billion more people living on our planet. The UN believes that we will have to double our food production but wait, let’s take a closer look at our current system and see if there are some areas of improvement. If one third of the food we grow is never eaten than there is surely room for lots of improvements in how we consume our foods and the way we learn about the food around us.

This is one of the primary reasons foraging for food became a passion for us. We wanted to see how the plants were growing, what environments they lived in and how other plants interact with them before we decide to use them in our dishes. Experimenting with food has to be one of my biggest passions and heading out into the wild to source invasive wild produce is like going to a toy store as a child.

WHY WE SHOULD EAT LOCAL

NUTRITION

If you buy locally grown food than the food should arrive on your plate shortly after it is produced, thereby holding more of its nutritional value. The quality of the food will be better and we will eat more seasonal produce.

INVEST IN THE LOCAL COMMUNITY

As well as helping your local environment you are also helping the local economy. Buying local means that the money you spend on food goes back into the local economy, spreading the wealth around the local area.

REDUCE FOOD WASTE

This is something that we are all guilty of and with the prolific use of plastics in our supermarkets it is difficult to avoid all waste after you do your shopping. However if we begin to shop locally and organically we can significantly cut down on our weekly waste.

In addition to composting we can find alternative uses for our food waste and this is starting to become a hot topic of conversation. Farms are experimenting, using compost as feed and biofuel.

SAVING ESSENTIAL WATER RESOURCES

Our natural water sources are being depleted. A sustainable future requires a collective appreciation of all of our water sources.

WHAT CAN I DO?

Here are four simple changes that you can make to your daily routine to help secure a brighter, sustainable, local future for your community.

  1. Take time to understand where your food is coming from and how it is produced.
  2. Adopt a composting culture. Recycling has become the norm for most households today, composting needs to be the same.
  3. Save water whenever possible.
  4. Join us for a foraging adventure and learn about the wild edible species around you.

Some people are concerned that foraging or extracting sources of wild food could damage the environment. However, let me introduce you to invasive plants. Everywhere you look you will stumble upon an invasive plant species. Not all are edible but some are simply delicious and not only is it okay to forage these wild plants, you are assisting the environment by tackling the large amounts of these non-native species and allowing the true natives to flourish.

After a number of years in the making, the Invasivore Movement is catching up and people are starting to realise that eating local doesn’t have to be expensive. Eating local may mean both organic farm produce and wild invasive species like some weeds that can easily replace a number of our refrigerated green leaves. Using weeds as a source of food can be nutritious and benefit the environment at the same time.

In fact many environmental groups agree that invasive species can damage and change a landscape. According to the Woodland Trust “invasive non-native species are one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss” and over 30% of important plant areas contain invasive species. How do we tackle this issue? Well, will I be so bold as to suggest foraging! Yes, foraging is one way that we can help to reclaim the natural eco-system and improve the quality of life for our native plants and trees.

Let’s think about other ways that we can begin to think locally, eat locally and create a sustainable environment that feeds future populations. Do you eat your local fruits and plants? If you have a local food story to share we would love to hear from you.

Feel free to listen to the podcast version of this article on our YouTube channel

Join in our wild food experiences and come foraging for invasive plant species on one of our guided foraging experiences.

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Nature podcasts for easy listening outdoors

This week we have chosen 5 of our favourite podcasts for nature lovers.

Do you love to listen to podcasts on the way to work or on the way home? Do you listen to podcasts while you are cooking in the evening? Do you listen to podcasts when you head out for a walk? So do we! We have found a few epic podcasts for nature lovers. If you are interested in sustainable lifestyles, the power of plants, the GIY trends around the world and adventures into nature than these podcasts will be right up your street.

Get out your earphones and head out for a walk while listening to some of the fantastic episodes in the below podcasts. From inspiring stories to in-depth interviews with the experts, learn something new each week.

FROM ROOTS TO RICHES BY BBC4

If you are looking for short snippets of the impact of plants and the natural world around us then the 15 minute, bite sized podcasts from Kathy Willis are a fantastic resource. Where we are introduced to some of the most amazing plants that. Kathy Willis discusses the importance of green spaces in our society. 

PAUL STAMETS ON JOE ROGAN

If you are a mushroom lover, a mushroom hunter or simply curious about the natural world then this podcast will blow your mind. Paul is an expert mychologist and mushroom King. He truly believes in the power of mushrooms and his passion for these magical species will leave you wanting more. In two separate discussions Paul illustrates the power of mushrooms and how they are an essential component of the earths eco-system. Listen and learn with this one! 

SHE EXPLORES

Named among ITunes 2016’s top debut podcasts, She Explores, empowers women to share their stories and to connect with a community of talented and diverse female artists, adventurers, and outdoor advocates. Filled with powerful stories about overcoming insecurities and conquering incredible feats, this podcast will keep you coming back again and again.

OUT THERE

Hosted by a former Wyoming NPR reporter, Out There explores the relationship between people and wild environments. From deciding where to settle down to transformational outdoor encounters, this podcast offers a passionate discussion on our role in the environment and how we can achieve perspective in outdoor settings.

WILD IDEAS WORTH LIVING

No crazy adventure idea is out of reach to this podcast host. Covering everything from snowboarding and mountaineering to the health benefits of being in nature, this podcast will open your eyes to real life examples of people living unconventionally through the power of adventure! You won’t want to go back to your day job after hearing these stories of people and brands who have turned their wild ideas into reality. We particularly loved The Adventure of Self-Love with Sarah Herron, an inspiring story about breaking out of your comfort zone.

There are so many interesting and thought provoking podcasts out there it was difficult to narrow it down to just 5 but we will continue listening and keep you updated on any episodes for nature lovers.

If you have more nature podcasts to add to our list we would love to hear about them.

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10 Unusual Mushrooms to find in the Woods

We are always fascinated by nature and the wild world around us. Mushrooms provide an extra element of surprise as you never know where exactly they will turn up.

Yes, there are certain trees that are associated with certain species of mushroom but they may not always appear. This is what makes hunting for mushrooms an extra special foraging activity. People who specialise in the study of mushrooms are called Mycologists and these guys are the experts. Paul Stamets would be considered an expert in all things mushroom related and we would highly recommend a watch of his Ted Talk if you get some time.

As amateurs who have only been studying mushroom for a few years we would never claim to be experts in this area. However, we have identified some wonderful mushroom and we know enough about the popular types to put some delicious dishes together.

1. Cep AKA porcini

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We love stumbling upon Ceps. This is one of the more famous mushrooms around the world and a regular feature in Italian cuisine. Ceps are fairly common from late summer to the end of Autumn but they are often hidden in the high grass. These popular mushrooms taste is delicious.

2. Collared Earthstar

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This is the strangest looking mushroom we have ever stumbled upon. Usually found under hardwood trees. When the rain falls on this mushroom the spores escape, creating an errie smoke.

3. Giant Funnel Fungi – Giant leucopax

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These grow plentiful in Britain and Ireland during the Autumn months. The cap is white and funnel shaped. It is known as an edible mushrooms but all mushrooms should be eaten in small portions.

4. Shaggy Inkcap

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AKA The Lawyers Wig. This tasty mushroom should be eaten very soon after it is picked. They are common in Ireland and often found on the edges of pathways or open woodlands.

5. Puffballs

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AKA Lycoperdon perlatum, the common puffball is a friendly looking mushroom and edible when young. They are found in all types of woodland and only the young ones are edible as the spores turn a horrid mustard colour as they grow.

6. Stinkhorn

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You will spot this crazy looking mushroom from afar. We found two this year. One standing up straight and one flopped over towards the end of Autumn. He was obviously said that the season was finishing up. It smells disgusting and you would want to have a very strange palette to even consider eating it.

7. Amethyst Deceiver

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This is one of my favourite types of mushroom and they are deceivingly delicious to taste. These small purple mushrooms are easy enough to find in mixed woodlands, often under beech trees.

8. Winter Chanterelles

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A firm favourite of all who have tried these delicious mushrooms and often easier to find than their sought after cousin. Winter chanterelles are a tasty treat in Autumn.

9. Honey Fungus

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In Eastern European countries this yellow stained mushroom, aka Armillaria, is one of the most prized mushrooms. It has a distinct nutty flavour but be careful of look-a-like species.

10. The Fly Agaric

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Aka Amanita Muscaria, these mushroom appear in Autumn and add a spot of brightness to the damp woods. They are a vibrant red colour and often produce white spots on their caps. Both Alice and Wonderland and the Super Mario Brothers game feature these magical mushrooms. These guys are considered poisonous and have hallucinogenic properties.

Fun Facts About Mushrooms

  • Mushrooms are neither a plant or an animal.
  • Some species of mushrooms have psychedelic properties that will make you hallucinate.
  • The chicken of the woods mushroom feels and tastes like fried chicken.
  • Over 200 species of mushrooms contain Psilocybin, the ingredient that causes hallucinations.
  • Different species of mushroom can be used to produce dyes and vivid colours.

To join us on one of our foraging adventures and learn more about mushrooms please contact our team.

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Reflections on Foraging my Way Through Life

For those of you who have a curious mind but are often jumping from one idea to the next then foraging might be just for you. I have a tendency to plough through life like it is one long episode of back to the future. Going from place to place, idea to idea, job to job and always trying to solve an insolvable issue as I go. Do I seem like a bit of an Aquarius? Yes, this is me. There is rarely a moment when my mind isn’t racing to grab the next opportunity.

When I was introduced to foraging by my mother and my grandfather I thought that it was a thing that every child did when they were growing up. Just like picking blackberries on an Autumn’s day. Didn’t you pick winkles and mushrooms too? Sometimes the answer was no and so my mission to forage with the masses began. For me life has always been one great foraging adventure. I seek the wildness in the mundane, I approach business like an arts and crafts project, I never considered myself an innovator but I grew to love innovation.

When I was young my mother would tell us stories of how Dad would try to invent the next big thing. He would write his big idea on an A4 piece of paper, put it into a briefcase and stroll up to the bank to get the funding he needed to take over the world with his brainstorming session. It is safe to say that the banks needed more than 1 sheet of A4 paper. However, this approach to entrepreneurship stayed with me. If you have a passion for something than give it a try.

Determination and effort were two concepts that seemed to come natural. I am not afraid of hard work. Being Irish helps. I think as a culture we always feel like the under dog, forcing us to re-imagine possibilities. However, these two traits don’t necessarily lead to success. Focus was always a struggle for me. No sooner would I have one project completed than I would be on to the next, not even staying to find out the results and listen to the feedback. Hell no, that was yesterday. What’s happening tomorrow? I got a bit of slack for this.

Although many of my ideas would work for a client I was bored when they wanted a report or even asked how they could repeat the process. For me, the success of an idea is as much about the energy as the implementation and once that energy is burned through it is difficult to articulate the sense of urgency and opportunity it created at that one time. Ask me to think of the future and I am buzzing. Looking back at the past isn’t always necessary as long as you learn from your mistakes.

Now when people say that I need to focus on one thing I ask them why? The usual answer is that you can accomplish more if you focus on one thing and keep working on it. Foraging would be quite frustrating for somebody who basks in consistency as one day you find something, the next day it is gone. I say, everybody is different when it comes to their approach to productivity. Don’t try to conform, don’t change just because somebody wants you too, don’t give in to a preordained situation; Keep transforming and keep asking questions. This is the buzz, the drive and the passion that will allow you to live wholly.

This is why foraging is a perfect match for me and others. Once the mushroom season is over I am forced to rethink my surroundings, re-imagine the landscapes, study new herbs, plants and trees. Nature wants you to focus for a period of time but doesn’t feel it is necessary to sit at a desk for 45 hours a week. Nature asks you to discover, to seek, to explore and to wander about the spaces around you.

I just wanted to put this out there for any creatives that struggle to stay focused. You don’t have to be doing the same thing, find a way to use your creative energy and you will find success. Find something where you are forced to re-imagine the possible outcomes and you will learn to love what you do.

You are free to listen to this article here on our dedicated YouTube channel.

To learn more about our foraging adventures please get in touch with us.

Happy Foraging!

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The Top 10 Must Have Herbs

If it was up to us herbs we would live in herb paradise all year round. We love all herbs, great and small. The flavours, the smells and the nutrients that we get from herbs make them an irreplaceable part of our diet today. Herbs can transform the everyday meal into a special treat. The great thing about our renewed love for all things green is that our minds are curious and we are starting to really experiment with herb flavours.

List of the top 10 must have herbs for your kitchen

  1. Basil
  2. Thyme
  3. Mint
  4. Coriander
  5. Lavender
  6. Chamomile
  7. Sage
  8. Yarrow
  9. Rosemary
  10. Dill

BENEFITS OF HERBS

Here is why this list of herbs is extra special. Firstly, herbs pack a punch when it comes to flavouring our meals. They can help to cool things down, heat things up and balance our ingredients. Next, our list of herbs includes some native wild species that can be found close to home and we know that herbs also contain many essential vitamins and nutrients. We hope that you enjoy this herbtastic collection.

If you are in search for organic Irish herbs feel free to get in touch with us and we will connect you with the best herbal magic.

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Healthy Herbal Roots: 3 Roots to Harvest in Autumn

Here is why Autumn and Winter are the perfect seasons for getting back to your roots. Firstly, the cold will convert some of the sour starches to sugar, making the roots a little sweeter. Secondly, they are easier to pull out of the ground as they have stopped growing. Thirdly, it is a great time for foraging and working with roots as some take time to harvest.

Autumn isn’t just mushroom heaven, it is also the perfect time to get to grips with your healthy roots. Here are three of our favourite roots to harvest in Autumn:

Yellow Dock Root

This invasive plant is great for Autumn. You don’t have to be concerned about picking yellow dock because it is an invasive species. Hence, why foragers love it. Yellow dock is your friend if you are lacking iron. It helps us to get our necessary dosages of iron. It is actually more efficient at producing iron in our system. If you suffer from constipation and other cramps Yellow dock will help you through the day.

Wash the roots gently under water. Your immune system should be used of the scraps of dirt that are left over and if they are not than you may need some more wild herbs in your diet.

Just like tumeric, this root will stain your hands yellow. Best to use gloves when you are working with yellow dock and all roots. Pull off the hairy substance around the root.

To make a basic tincture chop up the roots and pour a high alcohol vodka over the top. The tincture should turn bright yellow. Leave the mixture to extract all of the properties over a period of approximately 3 weeks and you are good to go. One Yellow dock tincture coming up!

Dandelion Root

If you have read any of our previous material you will know that we love all things Dandelion. From the leaf to the root, each part of the Dandelion is nutritious and edible. Containing vitamins A, C and K these humble flowers are more than just a garden weed. As foragers we feel that it is part of our mission to disclose all of the nutritious benefits of these underestimated plants.

The roots specifically contain anti-oxidents that can help to fight bacteria and help to fight inflammation. It’s safe to say that we love Dandelions.

Here is a simple recipe for Dandelion tea: 3 teaspoons of dried dandelion roots, 1 teaspoon of butter, 1 cinnamon stick and 2 cups of boiling water.

Burdock Root

This is a firm favourite for herbalists and foragers who like to work with their natural environments. There hasn’t been much scientific research done on this wild plant but it is said to lower blood sugar levels and has been used in traditional chinese medicine for centuries.

Burdock root should not be consumed raw. You can roast it or slice it up and use it alongside your carrots in a healthy stir-fry.

If you are in need of some natural roots feel free to get in touch with us, we stay pretty close to the roots and have being drying for some time. If you want to learn more about wild plants you can team up with us for a foraging adventure in Europe.

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