Tag Archives: foraging

The Survival Series Part 14: Purslane

Surviving in the wild is not easy – not only do you have to weather yourself against the elements, but you also have to find a way to sustain your energy too!

This survival series looks at the many wild foods that you can come across on your travels, that you can safely forage and snack on when you need to.

This week I’m looking at the lovely green plant that is:

Purslane

A succulent plant that can be found in many countries, purslane is a very rich source of omega-3 fatty acids which strengthens the immune system.

You often find this delicious plant in driveways and footpaths but they also tend to crop up in all sorts of gardens, fields and roadsides.

With a distinctive thick and reddish stem, this plant is easily recognisable and what’s great is that you can eat the leaves, stems and flower buds!

It’s said that purslane “provides six times more vitamin E than spinach and seven times more beta carotene than carrots”.

Purslane can be snapped up and used in salads or sprinkled on top of any dish – it’s really tasty, trust me!

As with all foraged things, cross-reference any food before you pick it up and don’t forget to wash it thoroughly before consuming.

Happy foraging!

Movie to watch: The Evil Dead

(Lead image via Wikimedia Commons/TonRulkens)

The Survival Series Part 12: Periwinkles

Heading out to the beach this week and looking for something wild to bring home? Look no further!

This week, the survival series is back on the coastline where I’m looking at the small treasure that is:

Periwinkles

Though some may flinch at the idea at cooking and eating snail-like creatures, these little molluscs are perfect for a quick protein boost. The only problem with them, is that they’re a bit fiddly to eat.

Periwinkles are really easy to find and forage, and identifying them should be no problem at all. They can be commonly found on the seashore by rock pools and all you need to bring with you is a small carrier bag.

Identification is also quite simple, basically you’re looking for periwinkles that are darker in colour (I think they’re tastier!). They will also have a round opening.

The best way to eat periwinkles is to cook them in sea water so that they keep their wonderful salty flavour, then with a needle, skewer the inside of the periwinkle and pull it out to eat.

You can also combine them with another foraged ingredient and steam them with wild garlic!

As always, be careful when foraging and make sure you don’t gather food from a source that is close to a sewage line.

Happy foraging!

Movie to watch: Battle Royale

(Lead image via Wikimedia Commons/Eirian Evans)

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The Survival Series Part Nine: Comfrey

Some day when all hell breaks loose, there will be a group of us who will be able to make our way in the wilderness and embrace survival.

A little knowledge goes a long way!

This series is inspired by my love for post-apocalyptic stories and foraging, and this week I’m looking at:

Comfrey

A hairy green herb with spear-shaped leaves and clusters of mauve bell flowers, comfrey can be found in ditches and damp places.

The root itself is edible raw or cooked and Darina Allen in her Forgotten Skills book has a lovely recipe using the leaves, if you’re willing to try comfrey fritters.

Common_Comfrey_(Symphytum_officinalis),_Bishopstone_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1360418
(Image via WikimediaCommons/Trish Steel)

Not only that, but this great plant also has medicinal purposes and was historically used to treat ailments such as sprains, arthritis, gastric and varicose ulcers and acne.

Like all things that are edible, it’s best that you don’t overdo it on the comfrey but it’s perfect for if you’re looking for something different (or of course, if you’re in an apocalyptic scenario). Moderation is key.

Whatever you do, do NOT confuse this plant with the deadly Foxglove or that will be the end of you!

As a side note: If you’re a keen gardener, comfrey can be your best friend, as it’s an excellent fertiliser when it’s mulched down and perfect for organic growth.

Movie to watch: War of the Worlds

 

(Lead image via WikimediaCommons/BernardDUPONT)

Word of Mouth: Foraging with Darach Ó Murchú

“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.

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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.

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(The delightful Carrageen that resembles a “tree of life”)

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.

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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.

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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.

Email: darach@inmyelement.ie

Phone: 087 2153758

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 Five: Wild Rock Samphire

Not all food has to have a price tag, some of the tastiest treats out there can be foraged for free!

Like many out there, I have a fascination with survival and dystopian futures, and I often wonder would I be able to survive in the wild if things started to go haywire.

This series aims to capture those feelings while also educating people about wild food. A little bit of knowledge, goes a long way. This week:

Rock Samphire

Found on shingle beaches, this green, perennial plant can be found adorning fleshy stems and wide yellowy flowers.

Great for those who simply want to grab and go, this plant can be found in abundance in coastal areas, particularly on rocks by the sea. Its season lasts from May until about September.

Mentioned by Shakespeare in King Lear, gathering samphire is not always easy, and one must take care when climbing rocks to reach it:

Half-way down
Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade”

The leaves, flowers and seeds are edible with salty and parsley flavours coming through, and its green body is rich in aromatic oils.

It’s simply delicious in stir-fries, steamed or as an addition to a simple salad, and though there are people who find it particularly pungent, I think that’s what makes it unique.

For those who have the time, it’s well worth taking a jar of it and pickling it.

As always, be mindful to only take what you need and to leave plenty for others and for the plant or animal to come back in abundance. When it comes to foraging, sustainable harvesting is key.

Happy foraging!

Movie to watch: Snowpiercer

(Lead image via WikimediaCommons)

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!)

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(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)

My fascination with food stems from survival – and video games

One of the most unusual reasons why I love food so much, apart from the pure joy of preparing it, is my fascination with survival.

I’m a geek at heart, and when it comes to gaming I love to immerse myself in a world where I have to fend for myself and survive in the wilderness (hat-tip Minecraft and Lost in Blue).

Food plays such an important part of our existence and sometimes I like to imagine what it would be like to have to come up with a food source and construct a make-shift shelter.

Could I survive? I’m not talking about running to a supermarket and raiding it clean, but what could I actually make from the most basic of ingredients, straight from the wild?

Despite what a lot of post-apocalyptic games and books lead you to believe, often times it’s not about what’s in store, but what’s in your backyard. And wild food can be just as delicious as anything found on shelves.

Growing up in Kerry I was spoiled for choice when it came to trying out nature’s finest and I would rarely give up the opportunity to try something that was on the doorstep.

Periwinkles, sea spinach, samphire, elderflower and wild garlic became regular features on my foraging adventures and I’d always wonder about what else the world had to offer.

I adored, and still do love putting on wellies and traipsing through fields – consulting my books on edible plants and get an even bigger kick creating something with them (elderflower is currently in season too!).

I can safely say that video gaming and post-apocalyptic literature contributed to my love of food.

Survival will always be one of the main reasons why I pursued my interests and I think that’s what’ll keep me going in years to come.

Consider what Ireland’s outdoors has to offer – you won’t be disappointed.