Tag Archives: Forage

The Survival Series Part 11: Horn of Plenty

Walking across woodlands and along old ruins and walls, my inner forager leaps into action.

This week on the survival series, I’m going back to fungi and am looking at other edible treat that’s worth nabbing if you’re in a hurry:

Horn of Plenty or the Trumpet of Death

Don’t let this mushroom’s ominous-sounding name deceive you – it’s actually a very safe one to eat.

A horn or funneled-shaped mushroom with a rough, and crinkly dark brown cap, the horn of plenty can be found in the woods but especially in autumn. It can be found in North, Central and South America, as well as throughout Europe and Asia.

The mushrooms have no gills and their caps’ undersides will always be smooth or slightly wrinkled. They’re cousins to chanterelles and are often called “black chanterelles” given their similar shape.

Tasting far better than it looks, when cooked this mushroom can be made into a lovely mushroom sauce, added to a wild mushroom soup or used in a risotto. It has has a rich and smoky taste and dries very well.

Horn of Plentys are delicious but unfortunately are not the easiest mushroom to find as they blend well into the woodland floor – so keep an eye out! They love hardwood forests, particularly if there are beech or oak trees around and also have a tendency to grow in clusters.

As with all foraged mushrooms, it’s vitally important that you can identify them with complete certainty before eating them.

Mushrooms are the type of food that prefer to breath so if you’re foraging, it’s better to store them in a paper bag or basket rather than a plastic bag; if it smells rotten and soggy, don’t pick it up.

Movie to watch: Zombieland


(Lead image via Wikimedia Commons/Jason Hollinger)

The Survival Series Part Ten: Dandelions

Escapism can be such a release, but when combined with real world scenarios and food it can also be quite fun!

Inspired by my love for post-apocalyptic survival, wild food and adventure, part 10 of this series is focusing in on:


Often considered as one of those pesky weeds that hang about your garden, it may come as a wonder for some that you could actually reap the benefits of this plant if you tried eating it!

A rich source of minerals, vitamins and even antioxidants, the common yellow dandelion is bursting with healthy treats.

How to eat it I hear you ask? Well you could simply toss the young leaves into a salad for a great nutritional boost or even make fritters. It’s also a perfect addition to a wild herb risotto.

What’s great is that the entire plant is edible, the plant can be steamed, roasted, eaten raw or even ground into a powder and used as a coffee substitute. The flowers can also be used to make jellies or cordials.

Found in abundance, just make sure that your harvest dandelions in a place that isn’t sprayed with chemicals or on a roadside. Happy foraging!

Movie to watch: District 9

(Lead image via WikimediaCommons)

The Survival Series Part Seven: Dillisk

Wild food, ahoy – Grab your buckets and scissors, we’re off on another seaside adventure!

This week on the Survival Series, I’m taking a closer look at a rather tasty cold water algae:


Also known as dulse, this algae species is mostly found in the middle to lower shore.

Characterised by its red or purple colour, it can be found in many parts of Europe and the North Atlantic Coasts of America usually attached to rocks by means of a holdfast.

Dillisk can grow between 25cm and 45cm in length and is normally harvested during spring and summer.

It’s a rich and natural source of essential vitamins with high levels of ruffage which is perfect if you’re looking for a nibble along the sea shore!

A wild food that’s very common on the west coast of Ireland, it doesn’t require soaking or cooking.

I personally love just popping a bit of dried dillisk into my mouth and chewing on it but you can also add it to salads, use it as a change to salt in soups or even drop it into a cake.

As always, happy foraging and don’t forget to source sustainably!

Movie to watch: Cast Away

(Lead image via WikimediaCommons/secretlondon123)

The Survival Series Part Eight: Pepper Dulse

If you’re a fan of foraging food and finding edible treats in the wild, this series is for you.

For those who’ve been following this blog for a while, they may have noticed that I have a love for zombies and post-apocalyptic scenarios and so, this is how the survival series was born!

This week I’m looking at more seaweeds. Presenting:

Pepper Dulse

Also known as Osmundea pinnatifida (if you’re being fancy), this very small seaweed can be tedious to harvest but perfect if you’re looking for a snack on-the-go.

The taste? Well, you guessed it, it’s salty and deliciously peppery, and can be a great addition to any salad to give it more of a kick.

The colour can vary from a dark purplish brown to a musty yellow and it’s mostly found on rocks on the upper to lower middle shore.

You need to be very careful to forage this particular seaweed sustainably, so only take a bits of it from a place at a time using a scissors.

Containing about 8% protein, pepper dulse is also high in fibre and low in fat with up to 32% concentrated sea minerals.

As good as it tastes though, I’d advise not eating too much of it because people do tend to get a bit queasy if they gobble it down!

Movie to watch: Dawn of the Dead

(Lead image via Akuppa John Wigham on Flickr)

The Survival Series Part Seven: Laver/Nori

If you’re a fan of foraging food and finding edible treats in the wild, this series is for you.

For those who’ve been following this blog they may have noticed that I have a love for zombies and post-apocalyptic scenarios and so, this is how the survival series was born!

This week we’re looking at the delight that is:


This popular sea vegetable is used in many Asian countries and people may be most familiar with it from sushi where it’s often seen wrapped around the sushi rice.

A red algae, it’s also known as purple laver or black butter. It’s the most widely consumed seaweed in the world.

It grows in thin layers and sticks to rocks in the upper shore where it resembles black plastic sheets – easy to overlook if you’re not careful. You can lift the seaweed directly from the rocks in sheets or ribbons.

It’s a wild food that’s rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, B12 and E and even contains more vitamin C than oranges – a handy snack if you’re jumping from rock-to-rock.

(Dried Laver via Wikimedia Commons/SecretLondon)

Apart from using processed nori in wrapping sushi, I’ll happily nibble away at it as a snack. Forget crisps, this is a real treat.

To dry the nori out so you can rehydrate it later, simply leave it out in the sun or as I learned recently from Darach Ó Murchú, you can leave it out on your car dashboard.

As always, happy foraging and only take as much as you need. Nature will love you for it!

Movie to watch: 28 Weeks Later

(Lead image “Porphyra yezoensis” by Anonymous Powered. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

The Survival Series Part Six: Stinging Nettle

In a world that seems to be dominated by fast and convenient food, do you ever wonder if there’s such thing as a free meal?

This series, inspired by the “obviously impending” apocalypse and my love for survival, aims to share the best of food that can be found in the wild.

Remember, when you think you know a plant, always cross reference it to be 100% sure, because non-edible and poisonous lookalikes could fool you. This week:

Stinging Nettle

I know what you’re thinking, why in the world would I want to go near a plant that has the potential to sting me again and again? The stuff of childhood nightmares! Well then, you must try nettle soup.

Also known as the common nettle, this green plant is well known for causing havoc when brushed against unsuspecting skin.

Prolific in Ireland, nettles love the rich and fertile soil that can be found on our lands. They can be identified by their lush green colour and pear-shaped but serrated leaves.

The best time of year to pick nettles is during March, April and May just before they come into flower.

For those who are looking to use this delicious plant, the best way is to cook it. Pick only the young and tender leaves closest to the top of the plant, as older leaves tend to taste much bitter. Wear gloves if you’re worried about sore fingers when harvesting or chopping.

I’d recommend cooking it as if you were cooking fresh greens like spinach and it’s great to add to a soup, stir fry, scrambled eggs or even tea!

What’s great is that you can dry or freeze the leaves for later use, but honestly they’re best used fresh. Don’t worry, once the plant is cooked or dried the sting is no more.

Apart from cooking, this plant has been used as a cleansing tonic for centuries where it’s said that its properties can flush away toxins from the body and keep it refreshed and restored.

Always source out a dock leaf to rub onto you after a sting. As the old Irish saying goes: “Neantóg a dhóigh mé agus cupóg a leigheas mé” (A nettle stung me and a dock leaf cured me!)

As always, happy safe and sustainable foraging.

Movie to watch: The Hunger Games

(Lead image via WikimediaCommons/LeslieSeaton)

The Survival Series Part Two: Wild Garlic

Last week I started a new food series here on the blog focusing in on my fascination with survival (and coincidentally the ever-looming apocalypse).

Each week I’ll feature a wild food resource that can be found lurking where you least expect it.

See it as a guide for when things start to go down; if anything you’ll be prepared! This week:

Wild Garlic

T’is the season. Spring is truly here when wild garlic is in abundance.

It’s often remarked that wild garlic has been prized for many years in Ireland and I can see why.

These glorious tufts of green, fragrant leaves and flowers are filled with the most wonderful flavour.

Preferring more acidic soils, you’ll find the plant on the deciduous woodland floor where it grows like a carpet, spreading around trees and walkways.

What’s great is that the entire plant is edible, but unless you actually own the land where the plant is growing, it’s illegal to uproot the whole bulb (incidentally uprooting can prevent the plant from returning the next year so it’s better to be a sustainable forager!)

(Image via WikimediaCommons/PhilipHalling)

Your best bet is to take leaves, from a few plants around the area and pop them into a foraging sack.

Be wary that there may be dogs who have had to the understandable urge to pee in the woods, so it’s safer not to clip the leaves that are just beside a pathway.

There are a few plants that look like wild garlic but are highly poisonous (I’m looking at you Lily of the Valley), but use your nose – the plant should smell distinctively like garlic and be very pungent. Don’t pick it if you’re unsure.

For those with a little bit more time on their hands and are not in a hurry to feed their camp or run away from zombies, why not try to blend up the wild garlic with Parmesan, rapeseed oil, lemon and pine nuts to make a delicious homemade pesto – perfect on crackers or on pasta.

As always, happy foraging!

Movie to watch: Contagion

(Lead image via WikimediaCommons/michaelclarke)

Ballymaloe Day 45: Sweet dreams are made of sourdough…

Alfred churned around the bowl, licking up the sides and claiming the dough hook with gloopy glee. He was ready!

As our usual theory day commenced, myself and Sophie fed our sourdough starter and plonked him down in between the rows of seats.

photo 1(32)

Today Darina was prepping a Thanksgiving feast and assisted by Tracie and Emer, we were treated to a banquet of sorts with turkey, squash and other curious dishes demoed in front of us.

On Wednesdays, whatever is demoed at the start of the day is ours for eating during our lunch hour, and I was excited to taste so many new things (though I was skeptical of the marshmallows covering sweet potato and squash).

Since the tides were perfect, we got the opportunity the head out to the beach and forage for seaweed, periwinkles, mussels and other goodies on the shore.

(Maddie, me and Sophie at the beach)

Kitted out in our wellies, we sauntered across the sand and I was in my element.

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I absolutely LOVE the beach, and foraging is one of the things I love learning about, so you can imagine how happy I was splashing through rockpools.

“You need a wooly vest – very sexy garment!” Darina mused of the impending cold spell and how right she was – it was quite chilly!

(The whole lot of us, photo courtesy of Patricia Lydon)

Refreshed from the sea air, we headed into the dining room for a banquet like no other.

Suitably stuffed, afternoon demo was filled with brunch ideas and Alfred, now living his second life and enthusiastically bubbling up, was ready to see life outside of the sourdough jar.

After demo Sophie and I headed into the kitchen for some quality time with our bundle of joy and watching him grow from a humble starter to a happy dough, caused my heart to soar with pride.

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Hopefully he’ll soon make the natural transition into a manly bread!

So here I am now, sipping on my glass of Réserve Chardonnay (swit swoo), and thinking about tomorrow’s cooking where I’ll be making burgers.

Some random things I learned today:

  • Suet surrounds animal kidneys but needs to be rendered or processed down really before you use it.
  • For rendering suet, place it into an oven at about 50 – 100 degrees Celsius. Basically rendering turns things into liquid fat.
  • According to Darina, anything with almonds or nuts in it tends to keep a bit longer.
  • Cooking turkeys? They take 15 minutes to the pound in a moderate oven but if it’s a bigger turkey you need to reduce the heat to about 150 degrees Celsius.