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What’s in Season? Foraging in February

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.

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Hairy Bittercress

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.

Nettles

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.

Pennywort

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.

Wild Garlic

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.

Watercress

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.

Salad Burnet

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.

Gorse

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.

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Inspired in Nature: Forest Walk Playlist

What music do you listen to when you are out for a walk in nature? Mostly, we tend to listen to the trees around us or the rivers running or the birds whistling but a good forest walk playlist with the right beats can put a spring in your step.

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Here are some of our favourite songs to listen to when we are out in the forest:

It was hard to narrow this list down to the above but we finally managed. Do you have your own forest walk playlist? We would love to hear your favourite tunes for outdoor listening. Send them to us below and we will add them to the list.

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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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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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7 reasons to visit France for Nature

The world’s most visited country is blessed with stunning countryside landscapes, farms, fairy-tale cities and the french riviera. When visiting France your senses will come alive. From smelling the sweet vineyards of Burgundy to the pear fields of Normandy. This country is a food lovers paradise.

Renowned around the world for it’s fashion and romance, Paris is a must stop place to visit on your journey to France. The romantic capital is filled with public squares, spectacular architecture and the most delicious foods. Although the Eiffel Tower continues to be one of the most talked about visitor attractions in Europe, there is a lot more to see outside of the capital and we want to get you back to the natural landscape.

If you are looking for a flavour of France then venturing to the countryside will give you a taste of the land. Join us for unique food and orchard experiences in France. From the fruit filled vineyards of Burgundy to the luxurious champagne region to the orchards of Normandy, there is something for every nature lover in France.

Boasting a number of historically famous painters, philosophers and writers, France is a land of cultural gems. Starting in the culture packed centre of Paris you can travel to some of the charming surrounding regions.

  1. Picturesque villages

You are not going to be bored in France. You can get busy and cultural in cities like Paris, Lille, Lyon, Dijon, Marseille, just to name a few big French cities. You can reach a nice countryside, take your time, enjoy local specialities, take part in harvest…vineyards are waiting for you …Beaujolais, Cote du Rhone, and other countryside experience in Provence, Alsace….just choose the part of France you want to see first and enjoy its charm and beauty! Then I bet you will fell in love and continue to explore more of this stunning country.

2. French Cuisine

Pastry heaven with croissants and bagettes dripping from bakers windows. French food is elegant and comforting all in one. From the delicate crepes to the freshly plucked escargot, there is something sophisticated about the food culture in France. Each time you get a taste of the fresh produce and classic dishes you are creating long lasting memories. Bon appétit!’

3. Endless Vineyards

At Orchardsnearme.com we are all about the vino and the wine regions in France are first class. The deep red “vin rouge” of Burgundy to the sparkling Champagne region, there is so many flavours of wine on offer in France. In certain regions of France, you can sip on wine from grapes grown on the very land you’re stood on. Head to Bordeaux for the best red wines and the Champagne region for the iconic bubbly. Join our wine filled adventure in Burgundy.

4. The weather

It never gets too cold in the South of France – but man, does it get hot. If you want to see the spectacular blue waters of the Mediterranean or stroll along the Promenades des Anglais in Nice without getting a layer of skin burnt off, now’s the time to come. It’s warm enough to sit on a chaise longue all day and read a book; yet still chilly enough at night to wear that fabulous sweater you packed. Cole Porter might have loved Paris in the springtime, but nothing beats the South of France on a sunny day.

5. Art & Heritage

From the Mona Lisa to the Eiffel Tower we all know that France is synonymous with art and culture. There’s the famous battle sites of the Somme and the D-Day landings, as well as the stunning chateaux, churches and cathedrals that decorate the landscape. Avignon, Canal du Midi and Loire Valley are just 3 of the 39 Unesco world heritage sites that make France special.

6. Cafe Culture

Everywhere you go in France you will find charming cafes dotted along the side streets where you can grab a café au lait and let the world pass you by. If you are really living the French fantasy you may have a philosophy book or a journal with your musings with you.

7. Orchards and Country life

The idealised version of rural life in France isn’t a dream for the locals who enjoy the stunning countryside everyday. France is the ideal destination if you are looking to escape city life for a break. Cycle the fruit trail of Normandy to soak up the french lifetyle, visit some of the wonderful orchards and get a glimpse into history at the imperial war museums and d-day beaches.

From historic towns to the smell of fresh bread to miles of perfectly manicured vineyards you can’t help but fall in love with the french landscape. We are interested to hear your top tips when visiting France.

C’est magnifique!

For more information about our fruit and foraging tours in France please contact one of our travel specialists.

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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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7 Unmissable things to do in Porto

  1. The Church of St Francis
    If you are a fan of gothic architecture then you will find plenty of treasures in Porto. The Church of Sao Francisco do Porto was completed in 1410. The gold plated interior is dazzling. Discover the eerie catacombs.
  2. Palácio da Bolsa
    You won’t need to walk far if you are visiting the church as the Palace is right beside it. You can opt to do a short guided tour to learn about the art, history and construction of the Palace. Be sure to explore the central courtyard, the golden room and the Octagon.
  3. Dom Luis Bridge
    This iconic bridge is part of the Porto landscape, linking the Port wine houses with the lively Ribeira district.
  4. Café Majestic
    Café Majestic is situated on Rua de Santa Catarina. It is one of the most beautiful examples of Art Nouveau in the city. With leather seats and chandeliers this cafe and book shop will leave you with life long memories. The perfect place to have coffee with a pastel de Nata. J.K. Rowling is thought to have spent time here when writing Harry Potter.
  5. Livraria Lello & Irmão
    We feel that all bookshops are inspiring in a way and this wonderful attraction is no exception. Rich in history this ornate book shop has been around since 1906. Stained glass, a magical staircase and books as far as the eye can see are just some of the features of this famous bookshop.
  6. Sip Port by the Harbour at Wine Quay Bar
    It would be rude not to sample a sip or two of Port when you are visiting the city of Porto.
  7. Cycle to the beach
    Porto is well known for it’s stunning city centre but did you know that you will be surrounded by some stunning beaches. So if you feel like a dip in the Atlantic ocean you are never far from the sea. Grab a bike at the hungry biker cafe and head to the beach for a day in the sun.
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We fall in love with this city over and over again. The hilly streets, the antique shop windows, the harbour, the galleries, the gardens and the restaurants will keep you entertained for days. A city that’s full of life while also maintaining a relaxed vibe gives us the perfect balance to start and finish our journey.

HOW TO GET TO PORTO

Getting to Porto is relatively easy. There is good access from some major hubs in Portugal and Spain. Here are the three easiest ways to get to Porto if you are flying from mainland Europe:
Fly into Porto Airport
Travel up from Lisbon 2 1/2 hours
Travel down from Santiago de Compostela 2 1/2 hours

If you are travelling from the US than you may want to fly directly from New York to Lisbon. If you plan to fly into Madrid than be mindful that you will need to get an overnight train from Madrid to Coimbra (12 hours approx), followed by a bus or train to Porto which will take approximately 1 hour.

WHERE TO EAT

Homemade chocolat at Chocolataria Equador with a wide selection of bonbons, truffles and chocolate bars. If you have a sweet tooth than this is a firm favourite for locals and visitors. You will find stores on Rua das Flores and Rua Sousa Viterbo.

Try the famous Bacalou dishes and the fish cakes at Adego Sao Nicolau, a restaurant that has become an institution nearby the river. The low curved roofing makes it feel intimate and homely. Pair your dishes with some of the regions finest ports.

If its a lunchtime snack you are looking for than Bar Gazela is where you want to be. Situated on Santa Catarina you will enjoy the traditional atmosphere here. We highly recommend a spicy hot dog with a cold beer.

These are just a few of our top tips when travelling to the charming town of Porto. If you would like to add a fruit picking or wine tasting experience to your Portuguese adventures please contact one of our travel team.

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What is your Celtic Tree Sign?

Our fascination with star signs dates back thousands of years to a time when the sky was still mysterious and NASA hadn’t yet made its mark on the world. In Ancient Greece astrologers were known as scientists.

Is it a way of us understanding our place in the natural world?

Maybe reading your horoscope provides you with a welcome boost in positivity or knowing a few of your key personality traits gives you that extra stream of confidence. Whatever your reason, it is a nice to know that you might share similar positive and negative fates with others in the world. With Astrology we are allowed to remain inquisitive, to wander, to imagine a different future and this longing to predict the future self has stood the test of time.

Farmers used the skies as a calendar using the farmers Almanec calendar to read the pattern of the seasons from the sky.

Travelers used the skies as a compass. First compass was developed by the chinese in 2nd century BC but used for geomancy and fortune telling, not navigation (wikipedia).

The astronomer Ptolemy recorded the 12 signs that we know today and promoted them in his book. For centuries, astronomy and astrology were considered the same thing as both involved the study of the planets. After the 17th century the study of Astronomy became more and more scientific as Newton popularised his theory of gravity.

There was a renewed appreciation for the zodiac in the Age of Aquarius in the 60’s and 70’s. Psychologist Graham Tyson found that people used astrology “under conditions of high stress”. This doesn’t mean that a person believes what is written about their sign but it could be related to the fact that our lives are so stressed and busy we find horoscopes to be a manageable way of making sense of the immediate future. With positive predictions we can imagine a better future.

In a sense it may give some structure to an otherwords disorganised society where we are overloaded with information, facts and figures.

Each star allows us to be a little different from the other but also part of a community. Knowing that their are many more like minded aquarius people out there gives me some hope. In addition, it holds enough mystery that we can elaborate on the general characteristics and create our own narratives.

Everyone knows there sun sign, even if you aren’t a horoscope fan. This is based on where the sun was on your birthday. But have you heard of your Celtic tree sign? Let’s breakdown the Celtic tree signs a little bit.

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4 UNIQUE EUROPEAN TOURS FOR WINE LOVERS

You have seen the decorative labels in your local wine store, you have tasted the goodness of wines straight from the shelves but would you like to know more about where these delicious grapes come from? Our tasting tours are designed for wine lovers who love to get to know the grapes and meet the famous wine producers of Europe. Here are a selection of our top picks for wine enthusiasts:

Douro Valley Adventure

The grapes of Northern Portugal avail of a special climate where the valleys of the Douro bask in the sunlight and the winds from the Atlantic ocean sweep through the vineyards. The soil is rich in nutrients providing flavoursome wines for you to try out year round. From the sweetest ports to dry whites that pair well with the fresh fish from the nearby coast, this is an epic wine tasting experience for all to enjoy.

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Burgundy Food and Wine Experience

A world class wine destination Burgundy wines can be found in most reputatable wine stores throughout the world. However, visiting the region is an extra educational journey through the heart of France.

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Alba Wine and Truffle Tour

Luxurious, sensual and memorable are three words to describe a tour through this stunning region of Italy. Our wine and truffle experience in Alba is simply unforgettable. Along the way you will have the chance to meet the wine producers, taste the land and sip of bold vintage wines.  

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Travel through the Vineyards of Tuscany on Two Wheels

Cycling through the Italian countryside is an unforgettable experience. Join the locals to learn about the best wine on offer in the region of Tuscany. On this wine filled adventure you will discover the beautiful landscapes of Italy, taste famous Italian produce and sip the most delicious Italian wines.

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For more information about any of these handpicked tours for wine lovers please contact one of our travel specialists.

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TOP 8 ORCHARD EXPERIENCES

At OrchardsNearme.com we go to grow. Every experience allows us to immerse ourselves in the culture, history and food of the places we visit. From the rolling hills of Tuscany to the sun kissed vines of the Duoro Valley, there is so much to be explored. Every moment of your orchard adventure is unique and will leave you with long lasting memories. Here are some of the top orchard experiences we would suggest:

  1. Discover the grapes of the Douro Valley
  2. Experience the wine harvest of Rioja Region in Spain
  3. A Citrus Cycling Adventure in the Algarve, Portugal
  4. Walk through the heart of Tuscany at Harvest Time
  5. Cycling in the stunning Loire Valley – France
  6. Stargazing and traditional suppers in Central Portugal
  7. Walk a taste trail for the senses along the Italian Coastline
  8. Cycling romantic Italy at harvest time

Now that you have a few great ideas it is time to make a plan. Whatever orchard experience you choose we are here to help you go to grow. Getting ready? Get your free packing checklist here.

For more information on any of the suggested tours please contact one of our travel specialists.

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