As keen foragers we are always looking for new ways to learn from the natural world around us. U-pick farms and open orchards are the ideal way to get hands on with the landscape and learn about some fruit growing techniques. U Pick farms offer the surrounding community the chance to get to know their farmers. With a U-pick farm you can get up close and personal with the local produce, the production process and the scale of the operations for various types of fruits and vegetables.
When I was in Canada it amazed me how close the local people were to the orchards around them. It was a joy to simply head out to a local orchard at the weekend and pick away until you had enough fruit to fill you for a month. The idea of the U-pick farm is simple, you go to the farm of your choice nearby your location and pay for whatever you pick on the day. Instead of stealing the apples from an orchard, you are invited onto the grounds to choose your very own produce.
Benefits of U-Pick Farms for Orchard Owners
Build brand awareness
Develop Community Relationships
Show off and sell fresh fruit
Demonstrate the Value of Produce
Make the most of harvest season
When I first returned to Ireland I approached some fruit farmers about the U Pick idea and although interested they dismissed it as their current production process was working and they were worried that people would steal the fruit as they picked. I suppose scale is important here and if you are counting every last piece of fruit to achieve your revenue at the end of the year then you wouldn’t be open to anyone taking a bite out of your tree.
However, we should be open to discussing this trend and orchards across Europe have already embraced this model as a way to interact with their customers and build their brand reputation. I have already mentioned some of the benefits of U-Pick farms but here is a solid list of reasons why U-pick farms are a part of our future and why going to a U-pick farm can be a fun activity for all of the family.
Reasons to Visit a U-Pick Farm with Family and Friends
Support local business
Learn about Local Produce
Make New Friends
Enjoy Fresh Fruit
Discover the Joy of Picking
Get back to Nature
Studies have now proved that spending time in natural environments gives us a positive boost in energy and allows us space to gather our thoughts.
This super simple recipe is becoming a staple in the kitchen for the Autumn months. Learn how to pack a healthy dose of fresh Vitamin C into your breakfast balls with these tasty foraged Vitamin C packed Oat Balls aka Rosehip balls.
Just before we head into winter the rosehips are ripe for picking from the thorn filled bushes. There has to be some natural force behind this as our bodies are craving some Vitamins to sustain us for the long winter nights. We have come up with the most delicious way to use up your unused hips at this time of the year. Here is our delicious Oat ball recipe, made with freshly foraged and dried rosehips.
Oats (3 cups)
Brown Sugar (1/2 cup)
Honey (5 Tablespoons)
Condensed Milk (1/4 can)
Dried and Fresh Rosehips (2 handfuls)
Blackberries (1 handful)
Grated Apples x 2
Dark Chocolate (1 Bar – 200g)
Sea Salt (1 Tablespoon)
How to make Vitamin C Oat Balls
Step 1. Head out on a local foraging adventure to pick some fresh rosehips or buy dried rosehips from us if you don’t have time.
Step 2. Gather the other ingredients of oats, sugar, honey and condensed milk and gently combine them. Stir in a handful of raisins and two handfuls of loosely chopped dried rosehips. Now add two grated apples and a handful of blackberries.
Step 3. Roll this mixture into small balls and leave in a heated oven for 20 – 25 minutes.
Step 4. While your oat balls are in the oven heat some dark chocolate over a hot pan. Add a tablespoon of sea salt.
Step 5. Take your balls from the oven and coat them in the chocolate, leave in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Voila, you have your very own foraged Vitamin C oat balls. It is easy to play with this recipe, adding different seasonal products at different times of the year. We will give some Spring Oat balls a go in a couple of months.
Taking time out for you is one of the most rewarding things that you can do is today’s busy world. At Orchards Near Me we like to bask in the power of nature healing and all of the ways that the natural world can help us to be more mindful each day. Those of you who engage in meditation will know that is has the ability to transform our connection with the space and people around us.
Combine the art of meditation with nature and you have a winning strategy for overcoming obstacles, staying positive and connecting your self with the wider world. Download or use this nature healing menu as a guide to help you develop your appreciation for the power of nature and establish a greater connection with the outdoors.
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?
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,Its 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 nature 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.
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.
Spear leaved Orache is a dusty green leaf that is commonly found on and near the beach. Coastal tracks will lead you to this salty wild treat. The first time we encountered to wild edible leaf was on a coastal foraging excursion to the west coast of Ireland with our foodie friend Denis. He would often stop and taste the delicacies of the land: samphire, dulce and chamomile were definitely on the list but then we stumbled upon Orache and he told me to try some. I was blown away.
This is the salty spinach I wanted to add to every soup dish I had tried so thanks to Denis we made a new discovery and have been using Orache to experiment ever since.
What is Orache?
Orache is a green plant that loves to grow in saline laced sand and coastal areas. It is also know as Atriplex (A.prostrata)
How to Identify and Eat Orache Leaves
The spear headed leaves and the coastal location makes this tasty plant easy enough to identify.
There is a look-a-like plant called lambs quarter which is also an edible cousin of this plant but not as salty and mostly found near woodland.
The leaves are arrow like triangular shaped.
You can eat Orache leaves raw in a salad or fry them up in a little olive oil. Substitute it for some of your spinach recipes.
When to eat Orache?
Forage the young leaves in late March and April. They maintain their saltiness while also having sweeter tones that are easy to digest when raw. Harvest the mature leaves in summer time. I snip the leaves in the summer months, leaving the stems for wildlife to nibble on.
Cleavers aka Sticky Willies aka Goosegrass is a herbal treat in Springtime.
It is an annual sticky plant that you will find in your parks and woodland walks. They have small star shaped flowers attached to their pointy leaves. If you brush up against it you won’t need to pick it as it will naturally stick to any piece of clothing.
Traditionally used to cleanse the blood and strenghten the liver, cleavers are particularly useful for a spring cleaning tonic. Native Indian tribes used this plant as an anti-inflammatory and to help with gonorrhoea. The cleansing properties can help to get rid of toxins in the body and decrease congestion. It has also been reported to help with Urinary tract infections and swollen lymph nodes. They can help to protect the lining of the bladder from irritation. Cleavers are also rich in silica, used to strengthen hair, nails and teeth. It may be worth adding a little cleaver smoothie to your beauty routine in Springtime.
Ways to Use Cleavers
Cleaver infused Water
This is the perfect afternoon refresher on a bright Spring day. Pick the young stems of the plant before they growth tall. Rinse them gently under water and chop finely. Add to a jug or bottle of water and let them infuse over night in the fridge. Add a slice of lemon to your glass and pour over the infused cleaver water.
Cleaver and Nettle Smoothie
Cleavers, nettles and pears are all that you need to make this delicious, healthy Spring smoothie. Packed full of nutrition and made to detox the body, this delicious smoothie is just what the doctor ordered. Blend 1 bunch of cleavers, 1 bunch of boiled nettles and 2 pears together. Add crushed ice, a squeeze of lime juice and a sprig of mint for extra flavour.
Herbal Cleaver Tea
Harvest your cleavers, leave them dry out for a few days, cut them into tiny pieces and use them with a spoonful of honey for a soothing cup of tea.
Cleaver Infused Oil
Dried cleavers and almond oil makes the perfect massage therapy. Put a half a cup of dried cleavers in a jar, fill the jar with almond oil and leave to infuse for two weeks. Enjoy this herbal skin treat.
Cleaver, Nettle and Wild Garlic Soup
Tis the season for green, wild soup and there are plenty of delicious plants out there to add to your homemade soup recipes. For this one we use 1 cup of cleavers, 1 cup of boiled nettles, 1/2 cup of chopped wild garlic or three cornered leek and two large potatoes. Boil the potatoes, add all contents to a pot of cold water and boil until bubbling hot. Add salt and pepper. Blend the ingredients together. Serve with some fresh, warm bread.
Note: Cleavers have a high tannin content and it is generally advised that you don’t use it or consume it for long periods of time.
This plant is natures way of telling us that we need to Spring clean our bodies as well as our houses. There are so many ways to use cleavers in your foraging recipes but hopefully the above tips will give you some food for thought. This plant is one of the reasons why foraging in Springtime is so much fun.
This is one of my favourite Spring dishes. Serve them as snacks to impress your dinner guests or rustle them up as a lunch time treat. Our wild samosas will put a spring in your step. We used three of our most loved wild Spring ingredients for these delicious samosas but feel free to get creative and add your own wild herb mix.
Three cornered leak
Salt and Pepper
Step 1. Boil your potatoes and mash them.
Step 2. Add a little olive oil to your pan. Next add chopped garlic leaves, three cornered leak, dandelion leaves, cumin, tumeric, chilli flakes, salt and pepper. Fry gently for 5 – 10 minutes.
Step 3. Add your curry mix to your mash potatoes. Add 1/2 cup of frozen peas and stir for another 5 minutes.
Step 4. Roll out your puff pastry. Turn over a bowl and cut out circles. Cut your circles in half and brush tips with flour and water. Make cone shapes with your pastry and add a spoonful of your samosa filling. Squeeze the sides together.
There are wild treats to be found throughout the year but as we make our way into the Spring months the forests start to come alive. In February the snow capped slopes will start to appear green again and we can venture outdoors to get closer to nature.
So what’s in season at this time of the year. Foraging in February is fruitful if you know what to look for and where to find them.
A common plant that grows year round and is the perfect replacement for cress or rocket in your salad dishes. Pick the leaves when young; February is an ideal time of year to collect these.
This versatile stinging leaf is one of the most undervalued wild edibles around. From warming nettle soup to fresh nettle pesto there are so many ways to use this ingredient in Springtime.
Another underestimated small plant is pennywort. Often found crowded at the sides of forests and trees, this wild gem is said to help lower blood pressure. Eat it raw in salads or add it to dishes like you will find is some cuisine of Sri Lanka.
You will find this pungent plant growing in large patches in dense forests. Both the leaves and flowers are edible and chefs around the world will be out and about for wild garlic season. Follow your nose instead of your eyes for this wild plant as the smell will guide you to its location.
As the name suggests this wild plant can be found near the water sides. It works well in soups and the raw leaves are packed full of nutrients and anti-oxidants.
As a member of the rose family we love this refreshing wild plant species. The leaves are small and delicate and often hard to identify. Many say that it tastes like cucumber which makes is a perfect addition to all winter salads.
This is one of our favourite flowers. It has a mild coconut flavour and works a treat in salads and smoothies. Remember to leave some for the bees as they love these bright yellow flowers.
Be sure to wash all of your wild foraged foods carefully under luke warm water, never uproot the plant, be gentle and don’t forget to enjoy the journey along the way.
Now that you know whats out there you can begin your foraging in February adventures.
Enjoy learning about the wild foods around you and join us for a local forage in Ireland if you are nearby. You will find our guided day tours here.
Join us for a taste of the wild as we embark on unique adventures in Dublin and Wicklow for some Springtime foraging fun. We will enjoy learning about the land around us, getting a taste for foraging and making some new friends.
We are pleased to announce three public foraging tours for the coming months.
Friday 21st of Feb – Dublin
In February we will walk the trails, sample the wild food and discover the wild foods around us.
How will we cope with any scarcity of food in the future if we don’t learn about our sources of food today? There is an alarming amount of coverage about the adverse effects of climate change on our eco-system. There are many ways that our food production could change in the future and climate change could have a severe impact in the foods that we already consume today.
It has been reported that our oceans are absorbing much of the heat from greenhouse gas emissions and this is damaging our coral reefs which are key breeding grounds for our marine life. Where will our fish go to survive? And with the pressure on farmers to pivot away from traditional beef farming where will we source or meat from?
Now isn’t the time to panic, its the time to plan and make some food choices that will help us to better understand the foods around us.Of course there are innovators coming up with brilliant solutions and there are farmers schemes like CSA’s that are re-imagining modern farming but we could also take a closer look at the forgotten, often ignored food sources, such as weeds. This week we present foraging as one way to substitute some of our key ingredients.
A series of freak climate events in the 1870s caused a Global drought that resulted in the death of millions of people. In India it was known as the Great Famine. The most significant climate event was El Nino of 1877 where warm waters released heat into the air creating storms. In addition to the Indian Ocean, the Pacific and the Atlantic recorded higher temperatures than normal.
Today, we rarely find famines in the developed world. The majority of famines hit places where organisations cannot enter and trade issues are hurting local people. However, with all of these climate unknowns in front of us we must be prepared to take action in the case of a climate crisis. Eating local and community supported agriculture, known as CSA’s, have become trendy in recent years.
We hear about many people adopting sustainable agricultural practices and promoting community food initiative. They are not just farming enthusiasts but socially engaged individuals who enjoy spending time outdoors and learning about the land around them. A few examples to look up include Juniper Hill Farms and Moy Hill Farms. These farming communities should be admired for the innovative approach to farming. They also encourage the sharing of knowledge, which we love here at Orchards Near Me.
However, there are other opportunities if we decide to broaden our knowledge base and look at the traditional farming methods of nearby regions. It could be just as beneficial to learn about the foods coming from nearby resources. For example, in Europe we have many different climates that lead to the production of a wide variety of food species. In a time of crisis wouldn’t it be great to know what foods could your neighbours offer as a substitute if you run out? We believe this is all about immersive farming education and understanding the role of nature in the production of food.
Chefs from around the world, often privileged and guys that are striving for their next Michelin star love to travel to learn about other food cultures. We think the general public can also get it on this interesting past-time. Learning about the ancient art of crushing grapes in France or discovering why bee keeping is a national tradition in Slovenia or why the warm summer days of Bulgaria led to the popular cold soup of Tarator are ways to preserve traditions and carry them into the future.
Food is closely linked with the weather and geography of a region or country. Traditional dishes often reflect the mood associated with the climate. The proximity to the wild atlantic coast makes Portugal heaven for fish lovers and the cultivation of fruits and olives makes Greece a mecka for salad eaters.
If we begin to understand the landscapes around us and how they are affected by the climate we can better educate ourselves in food production and regain knowledge of how our ancestors used wild plants and integrated them into their dishes. Although large corporations have successfully harvested key ingredients for human consumption and distributed major crops around the world, it is also worth knowing about the lesser known and lesser used crops that can act as substitutes if the time comes when we need them too. This is one of the reasons why we encourage foraging and learning about the wild plants around you.
There is enough food to feed the masses as long as we teach ourselves about the food sources available to us and re-train our palettes so that we can adapt dishes to include some wild flavours.