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.

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.


March dates

Two confirmed walk dates in March,Sat Mar 9th, Offaly and Sat 30th Co Clare, Seaweed forage.

In April I will be back with the good folk in Farnham Estate, Cavan for their Wild Garlic Festival,

Contact me on 087/7418536 or here for more info or enquiries for walks and workshops.


So it’s February, cold and wet, you might think there is not much for a keen forager to do at this time of year – not so!

I have been to Connemara on a seaweed forage collecting Carrigeen, Dillisk, kelp, sea lettuce and wrack, all now drying in my polytunnel, I will take another trip at lowest tide in March.

Meanwhile we have been enjoying Navelworth, and Corn salad as fresh greens and the Ground ivy is up and at its curly leafed best just now. Ramson’s Garlic patches close to coasts and in well sheltered areas have begun to appear and just as last year’s supplies run low it’s already time to make more garlic pesto.

There is still time to dig up and dry Dandelion root for dandelion coffee before the plant’s energy is concentrated in making new leaves and flowers.

Also keep a look out for Chick weed and Hairy bitter cress, both plants survived the winter in my veg patch. Soon Garlic Mustard will be appearing and Nettles.

Indoors there is Blackberry wine and Crab apple wine to bottle. I still have not started my Oak leaf wine, just lazy.

I have been reading up on how to grow your own mycelia and with a lot of luck I hope introduce at least one species this year, more about that in my post ‘mushrooms and more’.

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