Fairy potatoes and sea spaghetti

Chatted with Bobby Kerr on Newstalk’s The right Hook yesterday and got to thinking of wild things to do with your little ones this Easter.

How about a trip to the woods and byways in search of Fairy potatoes,and pick pretty primroses and violets which you can candy for a stunning edible decoration on your Easter deserts.

If you happen to be by the sea it’s the perfect weekend to hunt for sea spaghetti and other seaweeds.
The seaweed can be used to make cookies or used mixed with regular spaghetti, it turns bright green on cooking which only adds to the fun.

Or make the first of the year’s cordials from nettle tops and Blackcurrant leaves.

So what are fairy potatoes and how would you recognise them?

They are a member of the carrot family, grow in grassland and woods and are a great thrill to find, (don’t forget to ask permission from fairies to take some) Also called pig nuts, Conopodium majus. The fine leaves are above ground just now and it is a delicate operation to follow the slender stalks back to the tuberous “nut” which is usually off to one side and not directly under the leaves. DSCN0036


Pignut / Fairy Potato / Prata Sioga

Once you have dug your fairy potatoes they need a good scrub, remove outer skin and they are ready to eat, you can shave or cut them to smaller pieces and toast on dry hot pan for few mins, add to salads or to top pasta dishes.

Crystallizing or candying flowers is easy peasy if a bit sticky and just yesterday I oicked up a new tip for drying them, First cover a bowl or rack with baking parchment, with a skewer make holes in parchment so you can thread the flowers through and suspend them while they dry, Next beat up some egg white and paint the flower all over with egg white, each side of flower and stem, coat in caster sugar, unrefined if possible as healthy option and “post” them into the holes in your paper.

The young leaves are lovely too and they can be draped over  a curved surface so they are not flat and more interesting.

Sweet voilets are perfect contrast to the primroses and these little beauties have a long and interesting history, the ancient Romans used them to make wine, they are still used for sorbet, they were a remedy for headache and pain relief and syrup as childs laxitive.Violet essence is very expensive to produce, needing 100kg of flowers to produce just 50grms of essenceapril-pics-125april-pics-117

Make sure you use wild primroses Primula vulgaris as  the garden cultivars are NOT edible.

Sea spaghetti himanthalia elongata, low tide this weekend is a good time to go hunting for this seaweed, it grows on lower shore and so is uncovered at lowest tides, brown spaghetti growing from a little button, the hold fast, when gathering seaweed, know your patch, never pull from holdfast, cut with scissors or knife, leaving some to grow again. take just a little.

Other seaweeds to look for at this time are Carrigeen and Nori to name just two. Prannie Rathigan’s  book Irish Seaweed Kitchen is the seaweed bible both for identification, recipies folklore and nutrition.

Sea spaghetti turns green when cooked which is great for kids of all ages and Prannie’s book includes a recipe for cookies using sea spaghetti, almonds and spelt.

There is also a recipe for land and sea spagetti from Eithna o Sullivan along with a host of other ideas from many of our best know chefs.

Sadly my seaweed photos are trapped in camera which is in intensive care, restored to full health by Saturday, Fingers crossed.

Nettle and Blackcurrant leaf Cordial,

here is an interesting drink, use unrefined sugar and drizzel undiluted into yougurt or over pancakes or dilute for a hot or cold drink.

2lites of loosely packed nettle tops,

2litres of Blackcurrant leaves,

1.5kg sugar, unrefined is best,

2teaspoons citric acid (optional)

I.5 litres of water.

Heat water in sausepan and add sugar, stirring to dissolve,

Bring to boil and turn off heat, add leaves and stir in as they wilt,

Add citric acid if using,

Cover and allow to infuse for several hours or overnight.

Strain bottle and store in cool place or fridge.Another wildfood enthusasist

Happy foraging, would love stories, pics or recipies from your forage.

Spring flowers

Almost St Patrick’s day, I’m off to Terryglas to forage the hedgerows and then join the ceili in the street. Despite the artic winds blowing at the moment the spring flowers are braving it and there are lots of Gorse blossom about, how about a little blossom wine? no tax on that! Also the Garlic Mustard is showing in the hedges along with new shoots of the Vetches, Dandelions, both leaves and flowers, Ramsons garlic, Tricorner leeks, Pignuts, Nettles and Ground Elder so plenty to forage for whether its a salad, green veg or homemade pesto or wine.

So lets get out and get gathering.

Dandelion Wine

At last the spring flowers are beginning to appear and not only do they lift the spirits mightily but they can be used to make some very pretty and useful things from syrups, wines, jellies to the very delicate and pretty crystallized

Julie's dancing flower fairy

Julie’s dancing flower fairy

flowers to decorate desserts and cakes.

If you have never made homemade wine a flower wine is a good starting place as they are easy and drinkable fairly soon after bottling, nothing as nice as a glass of flower wine to sip on a sunny day.This recipe is based on one from Peggy Hutchinson and you can try it with a combination of flowers like Gorse blooms, Mayblossom,Elderflower blossom.

Dandelion Wine

Per demijohn (5to 6 bottles)

5litre of dandelion flowers,cleaned of stalks and calyx.

5 liter water,


1 Orange, zest and juice,

2 lemons zest and juice,

1.5kg sugar,

450 grams raisins,

Sachet of wine yeast or baking yeast,

demijohn and airlock.

  • Pick flowers on a sunny day as dandelions close at night and in rain.
  • bring water to boil, in batches if necessary and pour over the blossom.
  • Stir and leave to infuse for 3 days, stirring now and then.
  • Strain and squeeze out blossom.
  • Put liquid, raisins, sugar,zest, juice into large saucepan and heat gently, stirring to dissolve sugar.
  • Bring to boil and boil for 10 minutes, allow to cool to blood heat.
  • Strain into sterilized demijohns and air lock.
  • Leave to ferment in a warm place, where temp is fairly constant.
  • Rack after about 3 weeks and allow to ferment to finish.This varies from 3 to about 6 weeks.
  • Leave to clear for 2 weeks.
  • Siphon into sterilized bottles  label  and leave to mature for 3 months.

This is lovely chilled and served half and half with prosecco. Last year’s Gorse blossom wine is our current favorite. If  you need help or advice on wine making please send queries, have fun.





Diary dates Mar and Apr 2013

Sat Mar 16th, Terryglas Co Tipp. As part of the Terryglas  St. Patrick’s festival I will be giving a talk followed by foraging walk from village, expected start time 11am, but check closer to date. Come along and join in meet new friends and swop ideas, stories  and recipies.

Sat Mar 30th, Co Clare, seaweed talk and forage with Matthew O Toole, come along and see the sea in a new light, exact location to follow and start time 12 noon.


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