Lisa Long

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Can Nature Therapy Help Us to Live Mindfully?

Can nature therapy help us to live mindfully? If we are seeking to live In times of uncertainty we tend to float towards the familiar; the morning routine that helps us to start the day, the habits that keep us grounded, the meals that provide comfort and the people that love us unconditionally. However, we also crave the excitement and adreneline of the new. Adventure is now firmly embedded as a popular form of holiday to be taken each year.

This familiarity and newness that nature brings with every season is one reason why nature is so important in our everyday lives.

What is Nature therapy?

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Nature therapy, sometimes referred to as eco-therapy, describes a broad group of techniques or treatments with the intention of improving an individual’s mental or physical health, specifically with an individual’s presence within nature or outdoor surroundings (Source: Wikipedia)

Nature therapy is anyway in which our senses are connected to the natural world around us. It often involves some kind of outdoor activity and enables us to live mindfully, in the moment, turning off our busy minds.

Keats celebrated nature and all of the elements within his natural surroundings. As a romantic poet he basked in the natural environment, admiring its ability to heal us.

“O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,
Let it not be among the jumbled heap
Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep, —
Nature’s observatory—whence the dell,forest-bathing-nature-therapyIts flowery slopes, its river’s crystal swell” John Keats

How to Live Mindfully with Nature

There are many ways that we can choose to live mindfully with nature. From guided walks to gardening, nature related activities help us to disconnect and eliminate distractions.

  • When you go out for your next walk in the wild practice the art of observation. Look up at the trees, admire the flowers, search for the cracks in nature and allow your sense of sight to explore all of the elements around you. The simple activity can help you towards mindful living.
  • Enjoy discovering wild food with the art of Foraging. This is one of our favourite mindful outdoor activities. There is no better way to plunge into the natural world then to taste it. Learning about the wild plant species and how to use them in our very own recipes is the ultimate reward when it comes to mindfully engaged nature therapy. Download our foraging planner pack to get started.
  • Listen to the sounds of the birds, the trees swaying, the bees buzzing and know that guided-walks-nature-therapynature is alive and well. The restorative power of natural sounds is worth exploring.
  • Enjoy outdoor activities that allow you to immerse yourself in your natural surroundings; sea swimming, walking, running, cycling and gardening are just a handful of the many outdoor activities that connect us with nature.
  • Learn about the many bird species as you engage in bird watching. You may need a pair of binoculars for this activity but even without them, watching the many beautiful birds and how they interact with the landscape it fascinating.
  • Study the plants like you have never seen them before. Many wild plants, trees and flowers become familiar sights throughout the seasons but do you know their scientific names? Do you know that many of them are used by herbalists? Do you know which ones are poisonous? Learning botany can be a lifelong passion.
  • Take your camera for a stroll. Photography is a skill that takes time to master but we all enjoy capturing those memorable moments. Use your photography skills to observe your natural surroundings and focus your lens on one or two important shots.
  • What do all of these activities have in common? They take place outdoors, in our natural environments and they don’t cost a thing if you wanted to try one today.

If you want to embark on a week long excursion or book a guide to do a tour and learn a new skill you are going to have to fork out some cash but once you are aware of the benefits of immersion in the natural world, it is always worth learning more. Believe me if you have experienced a holiday where nature is a key feature such as foraging in Europe or guided walking holidays, you will find it hard to go back to lounging at the pool for the week. Live mindfully as much as you can throughout the year with the activities above but once a year treat yourself to a special break away on one of our recommended tours and enjoy the nature that somewhere new has to offer.

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Virtual Nature Experiences

The subject of visual healing is not a new phenomenon. It is proven over centuries through the use of various art forms in therapeautic settings. Art therapy has been used in the history of mental health treatment so it makes sense that visual therapy offers the ability to reduce stress and inspire wellbeing. The term was officially coined in 1942 however is it clear from the renaissance art of the 14th century that appreciation for visual representations that evoke feelings and depict reality begin to come to the forefront. This notion of art as an expression of moods is developed further in the 20th century with renowned artists like Vincent Van Gogh using his paintings to reflect a mood at a point in time. Nature can also be used to reflect the mood of the seasons and give us living art and moving visuals to reflect upon.

What is new is the combination of virtual experiences and how we interpret moving visuals. By combining natural visuals with technology we can incorporate nature therapy into our everyday lives without leaving our homes. From scanning Google Earth to watching videos of surfers take on the waves of the Atlantic to using outdoor meditation videos on YouTube to practice meditation in your living room. The mechanisms needed to incorporate nature therapy into our lives is all around us. These applications will become more dominant as we increase our need to associate with the natural world, seeking out spaces that allow us to be live mindfully and peacefully.

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GO TO GROW PODCAST: Coastal Foraging Adventure in Ireland

We have a special podcast from the west of Ireland to give you some insights into coastal foraging along the Wild Atlantic Way

You are never guaranteed to get warm weather when walking by the shore in Ireland. Raindrops comes in all shapes and sizes, tiny drops that sprinkle the ground, sideways rain that catches you off guard, warm drizzling rain that soaks you to the bone but all of these weather conditions combine to make it extra rewarding with you stumble upon some unique culinary treats.

From fresh mussels clinging to the sides of rock pools to the shy winkles hiding beneath the brown seaweed. You will find everything you need for a warm cup of seafood chowder along the Irish coastline. My first coastal foraging excursion was fruitful.

As a child my mother would buy us small plastic buckets and short fishing rods to scoop out the seaweed from the giant rockpools all along the Co.Clare coastlines. Picking was part of every stage of growing up. From child to adolescent I made the transition from bucket to bag and back again when picking along the shore.

My grandfather would take the whole family to a nearby beach and we would eagerly wait until the tide had gone fully out, revealing the rockpools, seaweed and most importantly the shellfish hiding underneath. The art of picking was simple, patience was the only real skill required.

Myself and my sister would spend hours scanning the shallow pools of water for the biggest winkles, crabs and mussels. Although all of the shellfish that we scoured for were easily identifiable, not all were easy to find.

Winkles were the easiest to collect. They tend to roll with the tide so it was not a matter of searching for them but more time was spent deciding on which ones to collect. I never tool the baby ones. This was my one rule for collecting winkles. Once you have avoiding the baby shells you can enjoy scooping out large handfuls of winkles alons most shorelines.

When it came to crabs I was always a little nervous to pick them up. Their claws would reach right out to stab pinch you if you were too quick. Sometimes we would just play with them for awhile before placing them carefully back in were they belonged. Laughing as they scrambled off to find their pals. Mussels were always considered the biggest treat. They clung tightly to the edges of rocks, making it more difficult to pull them off. Nothing can beat a pot of fresh mussels cooked in garlic and tomato juices. Give it a try. Believe me you won’t be disappointed.

Why not try a spot of razor clam hunting while you are by the shore. Simply bring some salt on your journey and seek out the small holes in the beach. Pour in the salt and watch in awe as the razor clams come to life.

Other favourites of mine include kelp and seaweed. These make delicious additions to salads. You can also use them to enhance the flavour of any seafood dish.

DON’T let the weather prevent you from your next adventure. Remember that a little rain never hurt anyone. If you happen to get a sunny day then take advantage of it, spending a few hours by the shore.

LEAVE enough for others. Everyday we hear warnings of over fishing so be mindful of this when you are foraging by the sea. Only pick enough for one days pickings, giving the shores time to replenish its goods over time.

WEAR suitable clothing. This is key to any foraging adventure. Waterproof shoes comes in handy when you playing in rockpools. Also, bring a spare pair of socks to keep your feet dry.

KNOW the tides. Most countries will offer websites that give you the times of the tidal currents. Keep a close eye on these. You don’t want to venture all the way to the beach to find that you have to wait five hours until the tide recedes.

DON’T be afraid of seaweed or crabs. The waves may look rough but the sea is gentle with many varieties of produce to try. You never know what treasures you will find.

To join us for a coastal foraging adventure get in touch anytime at info@orchardsnearme.com

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Wild Recipe: 3 Cosy Wild Tea Recipes for Winter

Nothing warms the heart like a hot cup of tea in the winter months. Sitting by the fire with a mug of your favourite wild tea will bring a smile to your evening. We love to forage for wild tea ingredients. From calming chamomile to energy boosting dandelions, there is inspiration everywhere in nature. Here are three of our favourite wild tea recipes to try out at home.

Sweet Rosehip Tea

Rosehips are a ripe winter fruit that contain large amounts of Vitamin C.

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Dandelion Delights

This little yellow weed never fails to surprise us. We use the flower heads for tea, starter snacks and additions to our pies. The leaves and root can also be used in your wild dishes. Dandelions contain anti-oxidants and are said to reduce cholesterol and inflammation.

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Soothing Yarrow Tea

Yarrow is a relaxing herb. It helps your muscles and improves blood circulation. Note: do not use this herb if you are on other medication or pregnant.

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To learn more about Wild herbal teas and make some delicious blends you can download your own Wild Herbal Tea Recipe Collection.

For more information about foraging for wild tea ingredients contact the team or join us on one of our foraging experiences.

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Foraging Gift Vouchers: Give the Gift of Nature

‘Tis the season to be jolly and think about the ones you love. We have been getting a few requests for gift vouchers and we are delighted to provide you with two unique foraging gift vouchers for your family and friends. If you are looking for something different and a special item to add to your Christmas stocking then we can arrange a private foraging experience in the new year.

€50 Gift Voucher

If you know somebody who would like to spend more time in nature and give one of our tours a try we are happy to arrange a private group session for €50.00 in Ireland. Foraging will be weather dependent and we will decide the best availability with the group in advance. Along the way you will learn about wild herbs, edible flowers, edible plants and mushrooms.

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€100 Gift Voucher

Spoil a loved one and get a private foraging adventure for 2 people. These day tours are limited and you must check availability in advance but we are delighted to provide introductory day tours for food and nature enthusiasts.

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If you are planning a longer trip to Europe and would like to embark on one of our week long food adventures these vouchers can be used to help towards the overall cost of the tour.

To give the gift of nature this Christmas reach out to us and we would be delighted to offer you a unique foraging and food adventure in Europe.

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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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Natural Skincare: 9 Wild Plants That are Good for Your Skin

At one time or another we all suffer with some skin irritation. Whether its a small rash or periodic eczema or dermatitis, your skin needs taking care of and there are some herbs that can help with your natural skincare routine. Plant based skin care isn’t a new phenonemon. Extracts from wild plants combined with essential oils and beeswax are one of the oldest ways to treat skin irritations.

We are all familiar with the beautiful Aloe plant that grows in tropical climates and soothes inflammation but if you are from Europe then you may find more plants with botanical compounds that are closer to home.

Here are just a few of the many wild herbs that have been found to be good for your overall skin health.

Lavendar

Antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, lavender is a superb skin herb. You can use dried flowers to make a lavender oil and apply it gently to cuts and sores to help them heal.

Burdock Root

This is a detox plant. It cleanses the body and if you take it regularly it is said to help with acne and eczema.

Dog Rose Petals

Try a rose water toner to cleanse and hydrate the skin. Rose is a mild astringent and helps to hydrate mature skin. Another useful tip is to use the rosehips that come from this plant. Rosehip oil is commonly found in natural food stores and pharmacies these days but you can try to make your own. It absorbs quickly and is often used in anti-aging products.

Thyme

If you suffer from spots and acne than thyme is your friend. Take a small amount of Thyme mixed with alcohol and apply it to the affected areas. Let nature do the rest.

MarshMallow

Use the root of this common plant as an extra daily moisturiser.

Plaintain

This common weed found along the woodland footpaths is a natural tonic. This one is great for moisturising the skin.

Chamomile

This pretty daisy like flower is a powerful wild herb. It has been used for centuries to treat inflammation and muscle pain. It can help to clear up acne and even out the skin tone.

Basil Balm

Basil is known for its cleansing ability and can be used as your super natural skin cleanser. Like most of our favourite herbs basil has lots of anti-oxidants and is also said to help with dark circles so instead of cucumber why not try out some fresh basil leaves.

Chickweed

This tiny flowering plant is bursting with properties that contain natural skin benefits. It is an anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and anti-fungal. It is a popular ingredient in salves as it has a calming, cooling effect on the skin.

If you are interested in recording your herb knowledge and getting creative with the herbs around you feel free to download our Herb Planner Pack.

There are many plant extracts with natural skincare benefits and the above are just a handful to keep a close eye out for. If you any skincare tips please send them to our team at info@orchardsnearme.com

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Wild Tea Party: Wild Herbal Tea and Recipes

If you are interested in building a long-lasting healthy habit then herbal teas with natural anti-oxidants and health benefits may be just for you. Both hot and cold teas are a refreshing way to relax in the evenings.

Now that the summer is over and we have spent time experimenting with our favourite wild flavours we are ready to share our collection of Wild Herbal Tea recipes with the world.

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Foragers and herb enthusiasts from around the world will have different ways of using their dried herbs and we are no different. From combining wild herbs with traditional herbs and spices we have come up with our top choices when it comes to foraging for wild teas. You can get a copy of our full Wild Herbal Tea recipe collection including our favourite iced teas and detox juices here.

Here are some easy wild tasty tea recipes to try out at home:

Dandelion Tea

 

  • 1 Cup of freshly picked Dandelion Heads
  • 1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Teaspoon of Honey

Add all ingredients to water, gently simmer for 15 minutes and bring to a boil!

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Yarrow Tea

  • 1 Cup of Dried Yarrow Flowers
  • 1/2 Cup of Dried Raspberry or Blackberry Leaves

As one of our favourite herbs we stock up regularly so if you are looking for Yarrow head over to our Be Wild Store. Add all ingredients to water, gently simmer for 15 minutes and bring to a boil!

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Clover Tea

  • 1 Cup of Dried Clover Flowers
  • 1/2 Lemon juice
  • 1 Teaspoon of Honey

Add all ingredients to water, gently simmer for 15 minutes and bring to a boil!

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  • 1 Cup of chopped up Pine Needles
  • 1 squeeze of lemon juice

Add all ingredients to water and gently bring to a boil! For extra flavour you can leave the pine needles in the water overnight and bring to the boil when you are ready the next morning.

For our full collection of recipes visit the Be Wild store and for more information about foraging for wild foods please get in touch with us anytime.

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What’s in Season? Foraging in October

Bolete Mushrooms, hazelnuts, rosehips and sloes are four of our favourite wild edibles for the month of October. Ripe fruits are falling, fungi is calling and it is time to step into nature. Autumn is the perfect time to stock up on some foraged treats.

What you could find

Rowen Berries

The distinctive orange Rowen berries grow in large groups and pair well with any red meat. The berries are also packed with Vitamin C.

Elderberries

Elderberries are ripe on the trees right now. Their deep purple colour is easily spotted parks and woodlands across the UK and Ireland. Used to combat the flu, elderberry jam is a great plant for combating the winter cold.

Sloes

Have you heard of Sloe gin? Gin is all the rage at the moment so Im sure you have. Sloe gin is delicious but it takes awhile to allow the gin soak up the berry juices. Three ingredients: Sloe berries, sugar and gin. Put a lid on it until Christmas time and you will have the perfect after dinner cocktail.

Hazelnuts

Hazelnut moose has become a firm favourite here at Orchards Near me and these delicious nuts are plentiful when foraging in October.

Blackberries

It is hard to pass through a park that doesn’t have a blackberry bush here in Ireland. We consider ourselves to be very lucky at this time of year. The bushes are bursting with black juiciness and it is the perfect time to stock up on jam for the winter months.

Pullball mushrooms

We don’t list too many mushrooms as their are over 10,000 species to be found, many of which are poisonous. Identifying mushrooms is an art all by itself. Examining the cap, the gills and the stem is all part of the process. Pullballs are one of the easiest to identify and can be picked up in local woodlands throughout Europe.

Rosehips

Packed with Vitamin C this winter fruit is the perfect addition to your herbal teas. Simply wash the hips, leave them to dry out over a few days, add them to a pot of boiling water, strain and enjoy!

Other wild edibles to keep an eye out for in the month of October include: Acorns (must be leached), Apples, Walnuts, Bolete Mushrooms, Chickweed, Chestnuts, Dandelions, Hedgehog Mushrooms, Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms, Mint, Plantain, Prickly Pears, Shaggy Mane Mushrooms, Sheep Sorrel and Wild Grapes.

When and where to go foraging

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Nature is all around us, all you need to do is look up and go for a stroll in the woodlands. Depending on what you are looking for you will be greeted by different plant varieties everywhere you go. When mushroom hunting it is best to find your local forest or team up with a local forager who knows the area. Herbs grow plentiful all year round but spring and summer are bursting with herbal goodness. Berries and mushrooms appear in Autumn.

What you will need for your Foraging Adventure

  • A pair of scissors, or a good pocket knife.
  • A wicker basket or some reusable container.
  • Gloves
  • Sturdy shoes or boots
  • Long sleeves and pants (trousers) to protect from nettles, thorns and poison ivy
  • A small notebook for keeping track of all of your finds.

Resources

Download your Foragers Planner Pack

Get our Free Foraging Tips: A 6 week guide for beginner foragers!

Join us for some foraging adventures to learn about the Wild plants around you.

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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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6 reasons why fruit picking is food for the soul

How easy it is to take the natural environments around us for granted. It is even easier to take the fruit that we eat each day for granted. Bunches of bananas, bags of all kinds of apples, bunches of grapes and endless plums greet us as we shop in our local stores.

Where have these fruits come from, you don’t ask. How about we get to know the fruit we eat a little more and better yet hear from the fruit pickers who spend endless days picking these ripe treats.

Learn about the land

There is no better way to learn about the landscape of a region then getting out and feeling it (literally). Any of our fruit and foraging experiences offer the chance to get to grips with the harvest around you. Lifelong learning is no longer undervalued, it is an essential part of our growth. As long as we stay inquisitive, our mind will stay active. Let’s go and see what the land has to teach us.

Get back to nature

Nature therapy is becoming very trendy these days with forest baths, eco hide-aways and orchard experiences playing a part in re-kindling our relationship with the outdoors.

Turn off to Turn on

Another reason why fruit picking is food for the soul is it forces us to turn off from our screens and tune in to the life that surrounds us. When we stop looking down and start looking around we can observe the wildlife, the harvests and participate in the farming activities that are crucial for our survival.

Live in the moment

Fruit picking and foraging for wild foods forces us to live in the moment. Allow all of the troubles of yesterday or the worries of tomorrow subside and enjoy spending time with the fruitful landscapes around you.

Give back to the community

When you visit a place do you think about how the land around you is used by the local community? Oftentimes the agricultural activities of an area are outside of the main resort towns that we visit. By linking up with the fruit suppliers and wild food foragers of the land we can introduct you to these hidden activities.

Discover the Taste

Do you ever wonder why homegrown fruit tastes so much better? There are a number of factors at play here but mainly it is fact that the fruits are freshly picked from the trees and go straight into your mouth. In our minds there is nothing better than the bursts of flavour from freshly picked fruits.

If you are a fruit and food lover looking for inspiration for your next adventure then we are here to help.

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