When you think of Irish food what comes to mind? Perhaps bangers and mash, Guinness stew, cottage pie, fish and chips? What do all these dishes have in common? The potato! While these staple dishes are very Irish, there is a whole other side to Irish food that is quite wild. And that’s Ireland’s native, indigenous food! The food the islanders survived on hundreds of years before potatoes were even introduced to the island.
When humans first arrived to Ireland about 10,000 years ago, the island was covered in trees so the first very Irish were incredible hunters and gathers. They survived off fish, wild game, and plants like wild garlic, wild watercress, wild dandelion, wild nettle, wild gorse, and more.
Now that we are approaching summer, there are lots of wild plants coming into their prime. Here is a few that are abundant and easy to find right now!
This wild food is a bit smelly, but good smelly. You may have noticed it as you walked through Killarney National Park in fact. And that is wild garlic! Wild garlic grows stupendously and expansively in Ireland making it easy to find and pick. This plant played such a significant role during the Celtic times, that there actually used to be annual garlic feasts where the plant would be used as an herb for fish, soup, stew, and salad. And believe it or not, Ireland actually had garlic bread back in the day!
The best time to find garlic is usually from mid-March to mid-April, but if you venture to the park now you will still be able to find some!
Here’s a recipe you can’t miss and will spice up any pasta dish!
Wild Garlic Pesto Recipe
By Good Food Ireland
50g ‘oil preserved’ wild garlic
25g cashew or pine or hazel or chestnuts
200ml olive oil or rapeseed oil
40g grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Season to taste.
Blitz the nuts and half the oil in a food processor and add in the grated cheese. Add the wild garlic and blitz with the remaining oil to the right consistency. Season. Pour into a sterilised jar and keep in the fridge.
Typically used to either infuse, flavour, or turn into wine, gorse flowers are easy to pick and deliver a tasty treat. Gorse vinegar is particularly tasty on white fish and can even be used to make an Irish version of ceviche.
Here is a tasty recipe to make some wild gorse wine.
Wild Gorse Wine Recipe
By Eat the Weeds
12 cups of gorse flowers
1 gallon of water
4 cups of sugar (can substitute with honey, 3.3 pounds)
1 1/2 cups seedless white raisins
2 lemons (or 1/4 oz. citric acid)
2/3 cup strong tea or 8 drops grape tannin
2 heaping teaspoons all-purpose wine yeast
1 teaspoon yeast nutrient
(Optional, two ounces of ginger root)
Put the flowers into the fermenting bucket immediately. Boil half the water, half the sugar and the chopped raisins together for 1 to 2 minutes, then pour over flowers. Thinly peel the rind from the oranges and the lemons, and add to the bucket. Squeeze out the juice and add that too. Add the cold tea or the tannin and stir thoroughly. Make up to 1 gallon with cold water. When tepid add yeast and yeast nutrient, stir well and cover. Ferment for 1 week, stirring daily. After 2 or 3 days, when fermenting well, add the remaining sugar and stir to dissolve. Strain through a sieve or cloth and siphon into a gallon jug or bottle. Fill up to the neck or the jug with cool, boiled water. Rack when clear, bottle and keep for six months.
Seaweed foraging has grown extremely popular in recent years for several reasons. It’s very easy to find, its extremely nutritious, and it’s scrumptious. Ireland alone has over 625 species of seaweed, many of which have been used for hundreds of years. Seaweeds can be 10 times more nutrient-rich than their land siblings and are a good source of omega 3, iodine, iron, zinc, and B-vitamins. There are lots of different ways to use seaweed, depending on the varietal that you find, including food, natural fertilizer, and hair and skin products. Luckily, there are several organizations that can help you tap into foraging for seaweed, seeing as this wild plant is a bit more unknown.
Here is a healthy recipe that is a good way to get familiar with how to eat seaweed in a delicious way.
Wild Seaweed Smoothie
By Irish Seaweed Kitchen
Alaria (type of seaweed), about 15cm (6 inch) piece rinsed, snipped finely and soaked overnight in just enough water to cover, or 6–8g (¼oz) dried and ground.
1 banana chilled or else peeled, chopped and frozen overnight, or 2 chilled pears
¼ pineapple, including core, chopped
300 ml ( ½ pint) cold water
6 large green leaves, well washed
a little local honey or agave to sweeten if needed
Just like any other smoothie recipe, throw all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy 🙂
This is just a small list of edible, wild plants this spring. While out and about on your travels, keep your eyes peeled for for these plants and other native and wild plants. And remember, stay wild and happy!!