foraging

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Sustainable foraging tips

We all crave some sunshine and nature therapy these days. Who wouldn’t want to spend more time walking the forest paths? Foraging is all about taking time out to appreciate the land around us. This doesn’t mean trampling on natural habitats or stealing from the orchards. Picking fruit and wild plants is more than that. It brings us closer to the wildlife around us and connects us with a forgotten way of life.

Believe it or not there are some rules when it comes to foraging and wild plants aren’t something you want to be messing with if you don’t know what you are doing. Here are some simple do’s and don’ts when it comes to foraging:

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DO leave at least a third of the blossom, flowers, berries, seed heads, nuts, leaves, seashore vegetables and seaweeds on the plant and cut, don’t pull.

DON’T attempt to cook any plant you don’t know.

DO venture off the beaten track to find wild plants.

DON’T be afraid to get your hands dirty.

DON’T break branches to make gathering easier.

DON’T pick or bring home fungi that is over mature.

DON’T venture into private land without permission.

DON’T pick plants in conservation areas where there is a Department of Environment notice that states you should not do so.

DO avoid using chemical herbicides and toxic pesticides if you are re-planting.

DON’T forget to pick up litter if you see some along the way.

DO take care where you park your car. Don’t block farm gates.

DO close all farm gates after you. DO bring all your litter home.

DON’T dig up wild plants.

DO have fun in the wild and explore your surroundings.

For more information about our foraging and fruit picking adventure please contact one of our fruit loving team. If you want some foraging tips you can get your 6 Foraging tips for beginners here.

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Unique Foraging Experiences in Ireland

Getting acquainted with the Irish countryside is one of the best ways to spend a few days discovering the land around you. With our unique foraging experiences you can get back to nature, learn about the wild foods around you and spend time getting to know the local food experts.

I have been foraging the Irish coastlines and woodlands all of my life. The joy of stumbling upon a pool of peri-winkles or a patch of chanterelle mushrooms will brighten any day. The beauty of foraging is that no two tours are the same. Each time you head out on the trails you don’t know what to expect and the best part is using your recently picked treasures to cook up some fresh and delicious. Here are some of our top foraging experiences to try out in Ireland:

A Wild Food Adventure in Wicklow

Enjoy the spectacular landscapes in the garden of Ireland while taking the time to get to know the plants around you. On this day tour we be immersed in the peaceful countryside, taking you along quiet forest tracks and giving you a taste of the land. Look out for wild mushrooms, elderflowers, edible leaves and more.

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Student Food Tours

These tours are a live and learn experience. We take small groups of eager nature enthusiasts to the countryside to give them a taste of the wild foods growing all around us. This half day tour is designed to give you a true taste of nature. We will identify wild plant species and show you how we use these edible goods to cook up something delicious.

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Coastal Foraging on the Wild Atlantic Way

If you are planning a trip to the west coast of Ireland than this short day tour will delight your senses. We take a coastal walk smelling the fresh sea air and forage for some of Ireland’s hidden shellfish. Mussels, winkles, seaweeds and seabeet are just some of the goods you can expect to discover on this unique adventure.

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For more information or to book your next foraging experience in Ireland please contact one of our foodie experts.

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Bee extra careful Foraging and Identifying Mushrooms

Last week, myself and my fellow forager Emily headed for the wooded mountains of Wicklow to seek some freshly foraged wild goods. Although both of us enjoy foraging and have a reasonable knowledge of the wild plant species around us, neither of us pretended to be a mushroom expert.

We started in the stunning little town of Rathdrum which is perched high on a hill in the middle of the Wicklow countryside. For a small village, it has a bustling atmosphere and some pretty cafes to stop in for a well needed morning cuppa before we got going. We walked the jubilee loop, taking some detours along the way when our senses guided us deeper into the woodlands.

On this quiet trail you pass through a meadow of ferns and dandelions that greet you as the first foraging stop along the way. We carefully plucked a few dandelion heads and red clovers before heading deeper into the Irish jungle. Before entering the crowded forest we found that there were several Elderflower trees leading us towards the woods. Yes, we had a picking good time. It would be rude not too.

The weather was good to us as the sun was out but the previous three days had been damp and rainy. I just knew that we would stumble upon some fungi. Once we found out first patch of field mushrooms we saw them jotting up from the wet earth everywhere we looked. We were after the much prized chanterelles but it was much too early in the year.

However we did manage to get up close and personal with many different varieties of mushrooms. Luckily we had our guidebook with us so we could check up on the species as we came across them. It is a well known rule of foraging that you should never pick what you cannot identify. Here are some of the shrooms we encountered along the way:

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Mushrooms included: the Butter Waxcap/Hygrocybe ceracea, the Star Pinkgill/Entoloma conferendum, the False Chanterelle and the Phallus Impudicus.

Towards the end of our trip we looked up and found a tree bursting with heads of honeysuckle. The smell is sweet and delicious. This would later be boiled into a syrup.

Although our trip was a fun adventure we are looking forward to our next trip when we have studied the mushroom varieties and maybe bring a mushroom foraging guide to help us along the way.

Join us for a wild food adventure in Ireland:

Foraging Adventure for Nature Lovers €50.00 per personS
Wild Atlantic Coastal Foraging €75.00 per person
Student Foraging Tour €30.00 per person

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Elderflower Summer Cocktail with Pine Needle Juice

When we think of summer Elderflowers naturally come to mind. If you are walking through the pack, taking a hike in the woods or strolling by the canals in summer you will smell the sweet, cream Elderflowers.

Elderflowers are pretty easy to forage. The large white heads that hang out in groups will catch your eye. However be sure not to mistake Cowslips for Elderflowers, they look alike and grow along the same paths. Cowslips are whiter in colour and have longer stems. To be sure just lean in for a sniff of the flower and the scent will guide you.

 

Now, how do you forage for pine needles? This is an easy one. Look out for gigantic Christmas trees and you will be in luck. You only need a handful of this green giant so don’t be greedy.

These two ingredients make the perfect summer party combination; fun, easy to make and delicious.

Here is our Elderflower Summer cocktail recipe with a splash of pine juice:

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Large pot of Elderflowers (approximately 10 healthy heads)
  • 2 cups of pine needles
  • Vodka (your brand, your choice)
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 lime
  • A spring of pine to garnish

HOW TO MAKE

First you need to prepare your Elderflower cordial. To do this you need to shake the heads of the Elderflowers to remove any insects, cut off any stems and place them in a large pot of water.
Allow this mixture to simmer for at 30 minutes, making sure the heads are covered with water at all times.
While this pot is bubbling away gently wash your pine needles, and cut them or pull them away from their branches. Place the needles in a bowl and add two shots of vodka. Use a blender to whizz up these two ingredients and extract all of the pine juices. Sqeeze the juice from half of a lime over the mixture.
Let’s get back to the Elderflowers. Use a tea towel or cloth to strain the pot or flowers (you should be left with a yellow clear liquid now.
Add this flavoured water to a fresh pot, add 1 cup of granulated sugar and let it dissolve over a low heat.
Remove from the heat and let it cool in the fridge.
Ready to put these pungent ingredients together? Pour the pine needle juice first, followed by half a cup of Elderflower cordial, add an extra shot of vodka for a good kick and a spring of needle to garnish.
You are ready to serve up your Elderflower summer cocktail.
Enjoy!

If you have any foraging tips we are always on the look out for tips, ingredients, nature lovers!

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Sugar kelp: What is it and how to use it?

Giant strips of sugar kelp are often left over once a tide has receded. We picked up some delicious kelp on a coastal foraging adventure last weekend so we decided to do a little more research on this natural sweetener.

WHAT IS SUGAR KELP

This is a very impressive looking seaweed, often found washed up on the wild atlantic coastline. It is easy to identify due to it’s large size and distinctive pattern. When fresh it should look wet and slippery. Ideally you would cut this seaweed gently from its source but as it is usually hiding in the deep waters before the tide it isn’t easy to cut it from it’s nature habitat. As it dries you will see a coating of mannitol (a sugar alcohol) forms on the outside. The high levels of mannitol in sugar kelp make it a sweeter seaweed than most.

HOW TO MAKE SUGAR KELP CRISPS

Sugar kelp crisps can be made in two ways. For a super healthy crisp use the oven and for an extra crispy version deep fry in some heated vegetable oil.

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HEALTH BENEFITS OF KELP

An excellent source of Iodine which can help you to keep a health metabolism. It is also known to help detox the body and balance the level of cholesterol. Kelp also contains Vitamin k, Vitamin A, Vitamin B-12, calcium, magnesium and iron.

To see some of this amazing sugar up close you can join us on a coastal foraging experience along the Irish seashores. If you would like to learn more contact one of our travel team.

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Truffle Hunting: Taste the Passion for the Land

Foodie lovers from around the world will be familiar with the famous truffles that we find featured on luxury menus of high end restaurants. Both black and white truffles are highly sought after in the culinary world and considered a rare treat when brought from the land to the table.

Truffles are a type of fungus that grow on or alongside the roots of trees like beech and oak trees. If we didn’t need anymore reasons to start planting more trees, now we have another one. Expert Foragers in Europe hold onto the tradition of hunting for truffles with pigs and dogs who are trained as expert truffle hunters. In Italy, they have banned pigs from hunting for these delicies as they have a tendancy to eat them.

Truffle Hunting Experiences

We offer two amazing truffle hunting experiences, hunting for burgundy truffles in the french countryside and hunting for the famous white truffles in Northern Italy. These unique experiences will give you a chance to learn from the experts, explore the regions and taste this wild produce from the ground around us.

What does a truffle taste like?

Having tasted a few different versions I can report that truffles have a pungent smell and flavour. Enjoy the earthy aroma, perfectly paired with the burgundy full bodied reds and adding an extra punch to the fresh pasta of Italy. If you have tried and liked the taste of black olives than you may appreciate the humble truffle.

Easy Truffle Pasta Recipe

Fresh Linguine Pasta

Lemon

Parmasen Cheese

White wine

Salt

Pepper

Butter

To get a taste for Truffle Hunting in Europe please feel free to contact one of our travel specialists.

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Coastal Foraging: Our shellfish and seaweed adventures in Ireland

This week we will take you to our stories by the seaside and do some coastal foraging. Before the rise of agriculture as we know it today, our ancestors were foraging for their daily meals. Many of the vegetables, spices, seaweeds and shellfish we find by the sea today will have been harvested by our ancestors in the past.

Historically people have always chosen to live by the sea as the shorelines offer plenty of nutrients for our diets. From the cliffs and sand dunes to the rock pools when the tides go out, there are food sources everywhere you look. Today, this tradition isn’t as popular as we have got used of the age of convenience where our local supermarket offers everything we need for our daily meals.

For those of you who haven’t tried it, please give it a go or join us for a unique experience outdoors.

There are treasures to be found in unexpected places and it is the ideal way to spend an afternoon by the beach. Our coastal foraging treks take place in Ireland with the clean Atlantic coastline and predictable tides. Let’s start with the weather. The weather in Ireland is always a good way to start a conversation. Sunshine, rain, wind and changeable weather patterns make Irish people fascinated by the weather. I should know, I’m Irish. My friends and family could spend hours just discussing the forecast for the days ahead.

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 muscles to pools of winkles, 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.

Let’s talk through how we spend an average day by the sea, foraging for some coastal treasures. We rise early to greet the sun. After choosing a meeting point we take some time to make sure we have all the utensils we need. Bucket or basket, check, pair of scissors, check, seaweed guidebook, check, hat and gloves, check. We prepare a picnic, stuffed with local ingrediants to give you a taste of the land. Fresh nettle pesto, brown soda bread, a flask full of tea and some fruit are the basics we need.


We are ready to rock in the rockpools by the wild Atlantic sea. It is always best to go with a guide who has experience identifying the goods. After meeting up with our local guide we walk towards the sea, taking time to talk to fellow foragers and enjoy the fresh air along the way. We spend some time scouring the seaside to find the ideal place to perch. This can take some time but we have timed the tides so we know that the rockpools will be visible from the edge. FYI, always check the tides to ensure the tide is out before you get ready for your trip.

With our cups in hand we pour a hot cuppa while our guide gives us the lowdown on the items we will collect for the day. Mussles, peri-winkles, seaweed and seabeet are a must, everything else is a welcome bonus. We spend the next few blissful hours scouring the rocks, learning about the sea, picking shellfish and enjoying the sun shining down on us to provide us with a welcome bit of Vitamin D.

Once we have found our pickings for the day it is off to our local guides house to create some tasty wild dishes where we will use our recently found treasure to whip up some well deserved dinner. A glass of guinness in hand and a bowl of seafood chowder in the other, what more could we want. This is our perfect day by the seaside.

HERE ARE A FEW COASTAL FORAGING TIPS FOR YOUR NEXT ADVENTURE:

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.

Being near the sea, watching the tides, creatures, and plant life of the ocean can be a wonderful experience, away from screens and connecting with nature.

Enjoy every moment of your coastal foraging trip. If you need any more information on our fruit and foraging tours please contact us at Orchardsnearme.com

Until next time! Happy Adventures!

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HOW TO MAKE WILD GARLIC PESTO

If you take a stroll to the woodland or keep your eyes peeled in your local park you may discover some delicious wild garlic. Spring and Summer months are perfect for foraging this wild herb. It usually grows at the edge of woodlands, around damp soil. 

If you have just begun your foraging adventures than this herb is a flavorful find for beginners. You will smell them before you see them and they usually hang around in big bunches. 

The wild garlic flowers and leaves can be used in many recipes and salads but for today’s recipe we will focus on how to make wild garlic pesto which is perfectly paired with fresh pasta or toasted breads.


Picking and Preparation 
Don’t pick from the roots, leave some for others and be sure to wash the leaves thoroughly before you use them. 

  • If you are out foraging for wild garlic follow these simple tips: Never pick plants from the root, always use a scissors.
  • Make sure to wear gloves at all times.
  • Wild garlic is most commonly found from March to July.
  • Pick healthy leaves that are long and bright in colour! Try and pick the leaves from an area that’s less likely to have been crossed by animals.
  • The best way to check that what you’ve picked is wild garlic is to smell it. The smell is strong.

Here is a great and simple recipe for wild garlic pesto!

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How to make wild garlic pesto

INGREDIENTS

100g wild garlic leaves (a big bunch or a basket full will do)

50g nettle leaves

50g parmesan cheese

50g toasted pine nuts or walnuts are a nice alternative

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Lemon juice (at least half a lemon is needed)

A pinch or salt and a pinch of pepper 

METHOD

Wash wild garlic leaves and nettles thoroughly. Be sure to always wear gloves when cooking with fresh nettles. They sting until they are boiled.

Place the nettle leaves in a pot of cold water, make sure the nettles are covered and allow to boil. This should only take ten minutes.

Drain the water and squeeze the leaves in a dry cloth to get rid of all excess water and juice. Place the galic leaves, nettles, parmesan, and nuts into a food processor and blitz. Slowly add two tablespoons of olive oil.

Add an extra spoon of olive oil if the mixture is too dry. 

Add in your salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste.


Once you have your wild garlic pesto prepared you can use it with pasta, as a dip or add to sandwiches for extra flavour. You can store fresh pesto in the fridge for up to one week. If you want to keep it longer, freezing it will hold the taste for 9 months. 


If you are interested in embarking on a foraging adventure or learning more about the wild foods we work with contact our team anytime.  Join us on any of foraging adventures in Ireland.

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What foods can be Foraged in Springtime?

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.

Sea Beet

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.

Cow Parsley

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.

Wild Garlic

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.

Elderflower

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.

Dandelions

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.

Nettles

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.

Linden Leaves

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.

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