It is good to finally be back after a long and winding hiatus since the pandemic hit us pretty hard here in Ireland. For me, it immediately put all of my foraging and tour plans on hold. After quitting my full-time job to spend years building up experiences of foraging with friends and pouring my heart into the idea, I was more than a little down in the dumps when covid struck.
After wallowing in self pity I picked myself up from the floor but the connection I had with my foraging world collapsing and COVID restrictions really made me question things so I quickly grabbed the comfort of my pen and began writing. I am pleased to say that I kelp my love for experimenting with wild foods and I am delighted to be starting this journey today to offer insights, tips and tricks from all of my foraging adventures.
I am so excited to be sending my first newsletter to a wild and waiting community that are eager to learn more about the wonderful world of wild foods, edible plants, mushrooms and natures delicious bounty. Those who know me or have been out on the trails with me know that I am an advocate for seasonal eating and want to promote patience when it comes to what we find on our supermarket shelves.
We live in a world that is now spoiled for choice but this choice has a grave cost on the environment and people working with the foods we love to find on our supermarket shelves. This weekly newsletter is designed to give you a taste for the foraging lifestyle, provide some recipe inspiration and share stories from our adventures along the way. Thank you for being here and supporting my love for foraging, food and outdoor living.
Someday soon we will meet again and forage through the woods with our shared love for the nature as the only comfort blanket and our knowledge that hard time are like clouds, they pass by with time.
If you like some of my updates I would love your support so that I can continue my foraging and writing adventures!
Back in 2013 I packed a suitcase and headed for British Columbia, not knowing how much the culture of outdoor living would have a longer-term impact on my consideration for the natural world. This organic affiliation with outdoor spaces was both inspiring and thought-provoking.
Why were the people of Canada so in tune with outdoor recreation? The climate certainly had an impact as the summer months allowed for the production of fruit varieties that would be the envy of many countries. Another factor was the close connection between the public and the farms/orchard operators.
Fast forward 10 years to 2023 and two failed start-ups to cater to those who wanted to connect with nature and food and here I am rambling about the same passion for picking fruit, wild foods and connecting with nature.
Last year I wrote an article about the issues facing our future food supplies if producers continue to ignore the trends pointing towards a green-focused economy. This article discussed the fragmented approach to food production and distribution, identifying key areas of improvement and future ways that we could consider using technology to enhance transparency within our manufacturing processes.
What are pick-your-own farms?
Pick-your-own farms, also known as “U-pick” or “PYO” farms, are farms where visitors can go to pick their own produce, such as fruits, vegetables, or berries, directly from the fields. These farms provide an opportunity for people to experience agriculture and learn about where their food comes from. They also offer the freshest, local ingredients and an alternative to supermarket chains that often bring in produce shipped from around the world.
Many pick-your-own farms have different types of products available at different times of the year. Additionally, many farms offer extra activities, such as wine tasting, pumpkin picking, jam making, petting zoos and family days out.
Why should we cultivate a pick-your-own culture in Europe?
Pick-your-own farms typically operate seasonally, which is another reason to love them. What happened to wait until it was berry season to pick berries, holding out for Autumn to get the best chanterelles or making apple tart in September when the kids go back to school? The food we eat is undoubtedly connected with our family traditions and identity. Increased demand for a year-round supply of all foods from everywhere threatens the very enjoyment of eating, tasting, and valuing the foods we grow up alongside.
There are many positive reasons to foster a love for picking locally grown food. From building a sustainable future to supporting local businesses to eating the freshest ingredients, the list is endless. Being closer to nature is now even prescribed by doctors in South Korea, the US and Finland with 5 hours as the minimum time per month recommended by some doctors in Finland. However, the common benefit for all who engage in pick-your-own activities is the sense of community.
By establishing pick-your-own farms and encouraging pick-your-own activities, a way of life develops within a community. Not only are traditional foods of a region preserved, but the outdoor lifestyle is also preserved and that feeling of attachment to a place or region is more firmly rooted as many people increasingly spend time attached to new ways of interacting and new virtual work patterns. A sense of community is what binds the notion of identity together.
The act of picking fruit at the weekends becomes a ritual, firmly engrained in community life.
Grow Local, Pick Local
If you already have the GIY ‘Grow it Yourself’ bug then pick-your-own farms that offer the chance to immerse yourself in the land will be right up your street.
Locally sourced food is the freshest kind you will find. Just consider the long distances traveled by food that reaches our supermarket shelves. Better tracking of our food supply chains will help us to understand the impact the origin of food has on our natural environments.
Another reason to canvas for a pick-your-own culture is to support local farmers and food lovers. By purchasing local food you are feeding the local economy ad helping to build a sustainable future for smaller farmers.
A major reason why I chose to write about local food, foraging and fixing our supply chains is to research the impact our food consumption is having on the environments where this food is sourced. Picking local and increasing our understanding of local food availability can help to reduce our carbon footprint and prevent unnecessary long-distance transportation of food.
Where to find pick-your-own farms
Pick-your-own farms are not very established in Europe. However, there is a growing interest in the development of rural tourism and green initiatives that encourage a newfound appreciation for locally grown produce. This list is not exhaustive but it does include a few key places that have established pick-your-own activities.
Wild, locally grown food is there to be discovered and cherished by everyone. Foraging brings us all a little closer to the natural world around us. A sustainable future may be more tangible than we currently imagine it to be.
For me this NFT collection is about bringing the old me into the new me, bridging the worlds that I love: technology and nature, to raise awareness of the abundance of wild foods patiently waiting to be discovered. From the woodlands to the sea, we gather, we chatter, we roam. I have used AI to design wonderous art from a series of high definition photographs taken whilst foraging. Most of the photographs
I currently write about the world of Web3 and how blockchain technology is going to change the future. One of the ways that I hope to see this happen is by offering more traceability of our food systems. It is easy to see that our relationship with food is broken but we have the power to fix it and we only need to start investigating to find the answers.
Orchards Near Me began as a passion project in Canada after a weekend fruit picking in the Okanagan. Rambling from orchard to vineyard and back to the campsite I was completely inspired by the real connection with the land. When I returned to Ireland I vowed to keep that connection with the outdoors alive. On a cycling trip in the Tuscan mountains near San Miniato I discovered Massimo and his truffle hunting dogs. This is where I first learned about the Italian truffle hunters and their love affair with the seasons best produce. The beauty of the truffle foragers is that they don’t manipulate the production as we find with mass producing farms across the world. They are patient, familiar with the time the earth needs to restore before offering up its most treasured truffle bounty.
Again, inspired by the In Ireland, I started a small tour company to bring people on wild food adventures. It didn’t pay the bills but was by far the most gratifying way to spend a morning with new friends. We would walk unbeaten trails learning about the wild foods around us, sipping homemade huckleberry tea and eating fresh raspberry jam. When the pandemic hit, the foraging tours were cancelled and the world seemed bleak but I knew that the fire had been lit in my mind and now that I was aware there was no way of going back. A lifelong quest to fix the food system must be madness but education in tangible, writing is achievable and so here I am.
Foraging for wild food teaches patience, durability, awareness, pleasure and connectedness. It gives gifts of various edible plant species throughout the year but a forager must be kind to mother nature to receive the precious gifts on offer.
Foraging for wild foods isn’t simply a past time, it is a way of life, a way of connecting with the natural world as it intended us too, a way of appreciating the abundance of nature and the constant replenishment of the forests with each new season.
My absolute favourite times are the beginning of Springtime when you walk through dense oak forests only to be greeted by the pungent small of wild garlic and then stumble upon a carpet of the deepest green, delicious leaves covering the forest floor around you or another favourite is looking up on a wonderous trail through a mixed wood forest in late summer only to find green walnuts. Pickled green walnuts are something of a delicacy and should be treasured by all foodie lovers.
This collection of NFTs is a representation of some of my favourite wild foods, including: Sweet Chestnuts, Blackberries, Pineapple weed, Green Walnuts, Spruce Tips, Gorse, Sea Radis, Seabeat, Orach, Turkey Tail Mushroom, Winter Chanterelles, Jelly Ear Mushroom, Penny Buns, Rosehips, Birch Nuts, Amanita, Dandelions, Thistles, Wild garlic and many other wild herbs straight from the parks, forests and coasts of Ireland.
Discover the natural Spring flavours from the forests and coasts. Foraging in Springtime is a great way to get to know the plants around you. Whether you want to broaden your palette or simply get a taste of the woods, foraging is a great way to get a taste of the outdoors. Dandelions, Wild Garlic, Sea beet and Chickweed are just a few of the many tasty plants that you will find in grassy patches during the months of Spring.
Lets get to know where to find, how to pick and how to prepare a few of our favourite edible plants at this time of the year.
This wild green edible plant is easy to find by the coast. Boil it or steam it to get the best flavour. It is known as the cousin of spinach and packed full of nutrients. Look out for glossy, bright green leaves on your next coastal walk.
Look out for fern like leaves when foraging for cow parsley. This plant grows tall just before the summer months. It likes the shade and grassy areas. You will find umbrella like bunches of tiny white flowers on the tip. Dont pick cow parsley if you can’t identify it as it is often mistaken for more poisonous plants such as hemlock.
Also known as ramsons, you might smell this plant before you see it if you are wandering in the woods in springtime. In May it is very easy to identify with it;s pointy small white petaled flowers. Common uses for wild garlic include making homemade wild garlic pesto, chopping it into salads and adding it to soups to give an extra punch of flavour.
If you live near any organic fruit store or hipster cafe you may have stumbled upon Elderflower cordial or better yet Elderflower champagne. This fragrant plant comes bursting to life at Springtime. Usually found in hedgegrows, on the banks of rivers and in wild wooded areas, it is easy to identify. All you need to make homemade elderflower cordial is a little bit of patience as it takes time for the mixture to set. Find our tried and tested recipe here.
The health benefits of dandelions are now widely recognised. Containing plenty of antioxidants and vitamins this may be the most undervalued commonly found plant. This humble yellow flowers are often a source of pain for gardeners who like to keep their gardens clear of wild weeds. However dandelions are rich in pollen and nectar that feed the bees so try to hold off on mowing your lawn the second that spring arrives. To get your weekly does of dandelion, use it is a hot pot of tea or add the petals to your salads.
Often feared for their stinging abilities, nettles are full of nutrition when picked at the right time of year. Most parks and wooded areas will have patches of nettles hanging around together in large crowds. They are rich in Vitamins C and K and contain more iron than spinach. Try this heart warming nettle soup recipe to get acquainted with this edible plant.
These nutrient packed leaves come from Linden trees. It has massive heart-shaped leaves with fragrant flowers that can be eaten fresh or dropped into any wild tea recipe. They are said to have relaxing properties like chamomile. Young Linden Leaves are a sweet addition to salads in spring and summertime.
If you have any plants to tell us about we would love to hear from fellow fruit and foraging enthusiasts.
Best time to Discover May – September Colour Purple, Red Habitat Grasslands and roadsides Where Throughout Europe
These furry topped plants are a member of the legume family. Often used in herbal medicine and found in many health shops these days, the wonderful Red Clover is abundant throughout Ireland and the UK.
They contain isoflavones, a type of polyphenol and associated with a number of health benefits, including increased antioxidants and maintaining blood vessel health.
In the olden days red clover has been used to treat asthma, coughs and cancer.
Today, Clover tea and small amounts of it in dishes is said to help with high cholesterol, indigestion and menopause symptoms.
Red clover is a friend of their environment, they fix nitrogen into the soil which is absorbed by other plants. “
“The use of forage legumes such as white clover, red clover and lucerne as well as grain legumes such as field beans and peas can significantly reduce the need for the application of inorganic nitrogen fertiliser” (farmingforabetterclimate.org)
As part of our foraging we study how beneficial native species are to the environments around them but what about invasive species and plants that are not considered native but do provide much needed nutrition to our diets? Rewilding the spaces around us and leaving local plants to thrive are two effective ways to combat ecological damage that has been ongoing. The negative impact that climate change is having on biodiversity around the world is now being felt by too many plant species.
Endangered plant species are often thought to have no value to humans and this is where attitudes can be turned around. More and more we are finding usefulness in the wild herbs, plants and fungi that pop up each year. If preserving whole eco-systems is now a trend then it must take the lesser known, lesser used plants into account. This endangered plants may not be for human consumption but they form a critical component of our life on earth.
Evidently, climate change is changing natural environments so much that it is no longer sustainable for some species to survive in their natural habitats or locations of preference. So the question is how do we relocate plants and animals to safe, unnatural locations without interrupting the flow of nature and native species?
A very interesting paper from Yale begins to ask these questions and discuss the idea of assisted colonisation for insects, plants and animals that are currently endangered due to climate change and environmental factors outside of their control.
35,000 threatened species out of 134,425 assessed. Out of these 6,811 species are considered to be critically endangered by the International Union for Conversation of Nature. This is due to a wide range of factors including loss of habitat, disease, pollution, exploited natural resources, hunting and invasive species exploiting areas. It is not a new idea to take one species and move it to a safer place. This has been happening for thousands of years. Humans and plants migrate together and form communities that go on to make up our ecosystems. Conservations have and are arguing about forced or assisting colonisation of plants into new places. However, there may not be enough time for long winded debates. The act of preserving this critically endangered plant species becomes about building an ecosystem fit to host multiple foreign species, alongside native plants, without interrupting the entire pattern of biodiversity in a region.
I write about assisted colonisation here and today because I think it will be crucial to our foraging tours of the future and mass appeal of education around the benefits that plant species (not just the grapes from the vineyard) bring to a community. It is hard to imagine life without wine Cork or the fun of escaping the Venus Fly Trap and the soothing calm that the agave plant offers when we see it.
Whatever projects we start or policies we make we better get on top of it fast as every day counts when it comes to protecting the landscapes around us. Are you interested in learning more about these endangered plant species? We will bring you to some of the places around Europe that enjoy the fruits and natural wild plants of their communities.
There is always time for tea in our house. In fact, in Ireland it is said that one person can have up to 8 cups of tea a day. Tea has to be the ultimate comfort drink.
Red Clover Tea
Red clover is one of the most popular wild teas and luckily for us the plant is available for most of the year. The soft spiky purple headed flowers are hard to miss if you find yourself in any wild fielded area. This wild gem is used for lots of traditonal medicines. It is often used to treat respiratory issues and skin conditions. Next time you are out for a walk keep an eye out for some clovers. To prepare your red clover tea dry out the flower heads in a warm dry area (a windowsill will work), add three teaspoons of dried flowers to a cup of boiling water, let steep for 10 minutes and enjoy.
Pine Needle Tea
The smell of pine is so enticing it is a wonder why this isn’t the most popular tea of all. Don’t be put off by the prickly pine needles, this tea is rich is Vitamin C and will give your immune system a welcome boost. There are many different species of Pine so be sure to do your research before picking. Spruce Pine is our favourite to use in teas. Be careful to watch out for Yew species as these are toxic. To prepare your tea simply boil a pot of water, add two handfuls of pine needles and drain. It smells like Christmas and you can have it all year round.
It is now common knowledge that nettles are a super food. The plant often disgarded and feared for its sting is one of the most valued plants by foragers. Nettles can help with urinary conditions, arthristis and blood sugar management. Always wear thick gloves when picking nettles. Add a spoon of honey and a slice of lemon for a little kick to one of the most popular wild teas.
Also known as the natural calmer, wild chamomile is the ultimate cup of relaxation. The flowers contain the flavour. They look similar to daisies but are much bigger and usually bloom in the summer months. You will find them alongside karst coastal landscapes. Dry out the flower heads and add them to a cup of boiling water for a cup of calm at the weekend. Pregnant women should avoid this herb. This flower also works well with any salad dishes.
Raspberry Leaf Tea
This tea tastes most closely to our common tea leaves found in the supermarkets. However, as with all plants, raspberry leaves contain anti-oxidents and the leaves are packed with nutriants. When you boil it and remove the leaves it looks like your average cup of black tea. It contains a property called fragarine that helps to tone and tighten the pelvic area. Hence why many women use it around their menstual cycle.
Bull Thistle Tea
These plants have to be one of the hardest to forage. These prickly forest friends are easily identifiable with their spear heads and purple flowers. The best tea comes from cooking the roots. Always wear gloves when handling thistles.
Check out our new Foragers Menu and Recipe eBook. You can download the full eBook and Menu here. Cooking with friends and for friends is the perfect way to spend a weekend. While we are all asked to stay closer to home and only connect with a few close family members or friends we need to become creative and use our time together wisely.
As the weather starts to become warmer we can consider foraging and outdoor dining. With each season there is something unique to find and add to your favourite dishes. For now, you can try our newly designed Foragers Feast Menu and eRecipe collection.
What you need to host a dinner party for friends
Decide on a theme for your Come Dine With Me evening. We always go for something wild or nature related as it goes with some of our favourite ingredients. Italian night is also very popular and there are plenty of foraged foods that can be used as pizza toppings.
Ask your friends for their dietary requirements (you don’t want to serve nuts in every dish when there is a guest with an allergy)
Prepare the dessert well in advance.
Read the recipes in full and decide where to find all of the ingredients (If foraging you will want to check the local park, forest or seaside).
Send the menu to your guests via email or phone. You can download the Foragers Feast menu here.
Make some homemade dips in advance.
The less you are cooking for, the more complicated the dishes can be but if you are hosting for 6 persons or more factor in the time it takes and stick to nice and easy if possible.
Make a spotify playlist to go with your dinner theme as have a background music. Atmosphere is everything when it comes to hosting dinner parties.
Don’t forget to join in the fun. You don’t want to spend all of your time in the kitchen.
Check out our latest nature inspired wall art that is available to download, print and use as a reference for your next adventure outdoors.
We have designed a number of unique posters that will inspire you to learn about the great outdoors. If you are trying to jazz up your home office or give a gift to a nature loving friend, these prints are designed from the heart. At Orchards Near Me we are a big fan of lifelong learning and what better way to keep learning than hanging some wildlife identification posters on your wall at home.
A black and white poster dedicated to some of our favourite edible weeds. The next time you are out in the garden be sure to keep an eye out for these amazing species. Better yet, hang this poster in your shed as a reminder of the beauty that weeds can bring.