First Forages 2018

It might still look like winter out there but things are stirring in the hedges and woods. Superfoods springing up all around.

Saturday March 10th sees our first foray of the year, time to get up close to nature, Ecofarm Gort, book through website or contact me by email contact@wildfoodmary.com (no phone at moment as I’m off in Australia enjoying sub-tropical storms)

Sunday March 11th sees us back in Clareen Offaly, places available, as above book through website or contact me by email.

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

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.

May News

Its summer at last,warm days and nights,of course this can mean high pollen and bouts of hay fever. If you suffer you might like to try drinking a herbal tea made from nettle, elderflower, plantain and camomile, just go to recipe section for tips. Also the wonderful Elderflower is again adorning the hedges and I have posted recipe for hugely popular elderflower delight.

For many people its also exam time and all that can mean; lemon balm is known as the scholar’s herb, and although it is not wild it deserves a mention for its very calming effect while also improving concentration and memory. It is lovely in your homemade cordial or as herbal tea. I have just made a batch of nettle and blackcurrant cordial and am sipping it now with added lemon balm, so summery.

What`s going on,

Everywhere is growth and life, the trees are in leaf and the grass is high. Its time to get beech leaf macerating before it becomes too tough, recipe provided and you could try an oak leaf wine too. Then the elderflower is just opening so elderflower cordial, “champagne” and delight are all crying out to be made. Elderflowers also dry very well if you’ve got the space, time and inclination.I have gathered some nori seaweed and it is drying, can’t wait to try a recipe from Prannie Rathigan`s book – either triple ginger cake with Guinness or maybe a chocolatey fudgy desert.

Also dried and ready for use is the heady scented woodruff. I will try it in homemade icecream which can be eaten with last few pots of raspberry compote, gotta make space for this year`s bounty.

I have met some very interesting fellow foragers on recent walks and swapped lots of tips andsnippets of knowledge. Alison has made beech leaf noyeau using unrefined sugar, honey or plain granulated and she is sure that the plain granulated gives the best results. Amelie uses carrigin to help set her jams and thats something I have often thought about, also would love to try in elderflower delight and try to produce a vegan friendly version.

 

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