“This place is in my blood” ~ Darach Ó Murchú
The wind blew the smells in my direction as I feverishly sautéed the pot of chopped almonds and eyed the seaweed like a hawk. This was an Easter Sunday like no other.
Based in Kerry, for the past few years Darach Ó Murchú has been running foraging days out, celebrating the vast variety of wild food we have to offer in the country. An experienced mountaineer and outdoor guide, I was delighted to hear that he planned to run a seaweed-specific course during the Easter weekend.
For many, seaweed instantly harks back to childhood when wary toes made sure that they were nowhere near its gooey strands.
Up early to make it out to our meeting point in Baile an Fheirtéaraigh (or Back West, as we Kerry folk affectionately call it), despite the fact that the sun was beating down I was glad to be wearing warm gear.
A keen forager myself, I was impressed with the length of time he planned to give us for the day, which was six hours including foraging, an insight into what to do with seaweed and a short cooking session.
A group of 10 women, we headed down to Wine Strand armed with our rucksacks, scissors, notepads and bags.
He started out by asking what we wanted from the course and with our queries under his belt, he launched into educating us about the basics of foraging and reading tide tables.
Darach, a former Silicon Valley engineer, moved back to Kerry to Ceann Bhaile Dháith outside Dingle, where his mother had grown up many years ago.
As we combed the rocks like hunter-gatherers, we came across some wonderful seaweeds and his passion for wild food continued to shine through.
There are about 10,000 varieties of seaweed in the world and over 600 of them lie on Irish shores, so naturally there was no way that we would be able to identify them all!
Among the ones we met along the way however were pepper dulse (deliciously addictive), dilisk, sea spaghetti, sea lettuce and a personal favourite of mine, nori which is also known as sléabhac.
The real Carrageen Moss also made an appearance which I tend to have a love/hate relationship with (I had to have it as a drink to knock back a cold recently and had a sour puss on me all day).
Stressing the importance of sustainable harvesting, we were taught the value that this exceptional algae had, fresh, dried or even frozen.
Taking a break from harvesting, we spent 10 minutes in silence admiring the scenery and listening to the gentle swell and slosh of the waves moving against the rocks. They don’t call this county “The Kingdom” for nothing.
Eventually it was time to head back to land where we set up camp to cook our freshly foraged goods. Invited to work in pairs and with recipes at our disposal, we got to work on five dishes with seaweed as the star.
Under Darach’s watchful eye we produced – in my humble opinion – creative food that any chef could be proud of, including a main dish of sea spaghetti with wild pesto, seaweed oat burgers, a Thai soup, channelled wrack salad with carrot and orange and a highly unusual seaweed chocolate fondant cake! It was a feast.
Sitting down on the rocks to enjoy our meal, much to the amusement of onlookers, we had the bright blue sky and water surround us with Mount Brandon in the distance and the Three Sisters keeping watch. This was something very special.
For those who have an interest in foraging and the outdoors but don’t know where to start, this is the perfect introductory course and it’s exceptional value.
Darach was willing to share everything with enthusiasm and passion that was palpable.
You really get the feeling that he loves the subject he talks about and the foraged food that he eats.
I highly recommend heading on one of his foraging adventures because you won’t be disappointed.
The nitty gritty
- Do bring either a pair of decent wellies or climbing boots – even if you’re a good walker, the rocks can be pretty slippy.
- Don’t be afraid to get wet and touch everything. You’ll miss out if you’re not willing to feel things and take note of the texture.
- If you’re not using your phone for photos or note-taking, switch it off or at least on silent.
- Do wear warm clothes regardless of weather. You could easily get a chill if you’re not careful.
Price: €50pp for six hours’ worth of knowledge and foraging including a cooking session with all of the ingredients.
Phone: 087 2153758