Blackstairs EcoTrails Wild Food Summer School

eco barnAt last! I have a moment to myself to write up a blog about the recent Wild Food Summer School that was held in the fabulous new eco barn at Blackstairs EcoTrails in Carlow last weekend ( Fri, Sat, Sun 8,9,10 Aug).
I was able to make it on the Saturday only but many of the people there had been there the day before and planning to stay the following day too.
Reports of intense rain and anoraks spilled forth however no dampening of the spirits!
On Saturday the day began with meeting old friends and making new ones over coffee and Marys very own homemade oatcakes before the first speaker began.

Paddy Woodworth – Ecosystem Restoration

paddy wordworthPaddy Woodworth was first to speak telling us about his recently published book “Our Once and Future Planet” (Restoring the World in the Climate Change Centurywhich has been a 10 year project.
I found this talk to be really interesting as Paddy explained the many restoration projects currently being undertaken worldwide.
He questioned the view of restoring to a past idyll and wondered if instead we need to look to a future version of ‘paradise’ but still value the past and indeed learn from it.
paddys book is on sale nowHe specifically mentioned soil and the lack of knowledge that we have about all that lives within it and what those microbes etc could help us with in the future.
He spoke of monoculture and society and ways to try to find a place for humans – we are also part of nature after all.
His knowledge was obvious and I for one will definitely be buying this book asap! I liked his quote that we need “A self interest that doesn’t contradict the common good”

The Blackstairs Region – Helena Fitzgerald

mary-mulvey-helena-fitzgeraldAfter a short break (chat and more cookies!!) we met Helena Fitzgerald, a local (Blackstairs) rural architect who ran through the challenges that the Blackstairs region is currently facing.
Helen introduced us to the 103+ protected species that currently reside in this area including Osprey, Long eared owl, Pinemarten, Fresh water pearls and more.
Helena spoke of how the local business and farming community are working together to create a foodie hub mentioning Gaelic Escargot, Blackstairs Lamb, Honey, Brewing and Osbornes bar with a new bunkhouse for visitors to stay in.
She also mentioned an exciting October with film events and a walking festival! Keep updated by following her on Facebook or on Twitter.
lunchLunch was a splendid affair with healthy wild foods in the form of salads, goulash and local cheeses outdoors on the rather groovy stone bench.

Foraging with Biddy White Lennon

I was super excited to see Biddy White Lennon speak after lunch especially when she gave us a few top tips of places to go looking for rock samphire, meadowsweet, and peppery Alexander to name a few plus she explained what to look for each season and what one can do with your foraged finds – preserves, drying, freezing, cordials, baking, etc.
biddy white lennonI was intrigued to see many items mentioned that we enjoyed last winter at the Wild food dinner at Brooklodge last November.
I’d like to take a moment here to stress the importance of the ‘Rule of thirds’ when foraging. Popularity of foraging is a two way thing – There is no reason why everyone cannot enjoy wild foods as long as they stick to the ‘rule of thirds’ which basically is:

  • Take one third for your own use
  • Leave one third for other people
  • Leave one third for the future

Learning how to correctly pick and harvest wild food will ensure that you are encouraging future growth so that the cycle can continue for future generations.

Time to go Into the Wild Ourselves!

off we goOff we went – Carpooling- to the nearby Barrow river, a really gorgeous walk with ample space for cyclists, walkers and buggys. Mary and Robert pointed out all the hidden treasures in the hedgerows and I had a go of Paddys’ seriously high quality binoculars!
I have so much more knowledge about foraging and wild foods and lovely new people to share it with!
Check out Mary & Roberts  Wild Mushroom Hunt in Galway this October >>
P.S. It seems both Biddy White Lennon and Myself may have Opium Poppies growing in our gardens!! #WhoKnew
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