SPRING has sprung and summer is on its way, and with it the foragers’ year begins in earnest once more.
Whatever you call it - foraging, collecting, rambling, picking - going in search of wild food is a simple pastime that is great for the whole family. It’s educational and the bonus is coming away with something deliciously fresh and wild to add some sparkle to your meals. There’s a certain magic about ‘free’ food growing in plain sight, often overlooked, and discovering new seasonal flavours.
Foraging puts us in close contact with nature, tuning into different growing seasons and stages of a plant’s life: sweet young shoots, blossoms; the berries, seeds, nuts that follow. It creates a feeling of anticipation for the next new thing to offer itself up, or disappointment that our timing is off, and we’ve missed the moment for picking something at its absolute best.
Foraging as a practice has gone beyond just picking leaves and berries. Health, mindfulness, biodiversity, climate, and food skills such as drying, fermentation and even bushcraft are part of the foraging mindset.
Thinking like a forager provides a holistic overview of the function of wild foods, not just as plants but in the environment in which they thrive and the relationship with our own health and wellbeing.
These past two foraging seasons have seen us become even more familiar with what is growing around us, but mostly in isolation.
With restrictions disappearing fast from the rear-view mirror of life, we can all look forward to taking part in the social aspects of foraging – guided walks, trails, tours and workshops in forests, local parks, coasts, and gardens.
So, here are the best foraging experiences and courses across Cork city and county, from spring into summer, so you too can take a walk on the wild side of food!
Forage & Find, Ballincollig
Kevin O’Connell was back with his first Foraging Walks of the season taking place last Saturday (April 9) at the Regional Park, Ballincollig.
His walks are food-focused. Guests learn how to cook wild food, the medicinal properties of wild food, and how to make some herbal preparations. There’s also a focus on wild spring greens and new shoots, as well as tips on spotting poisonous lookalikes.
€20pp, pre book in advance via Instagram @forage_and_find or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Blackrock Herbal Clinic, Blackrock Castle & Midleton
Jo Goodyear is hosting two Foraging Rambles to find local plants and learn about their uses in food and medicine with plenty of tastes and nibbles.
These easy-going walks are two hours’ duration, taking place on April 23 at Blackrock Castle and on May 29 at Ballyannan Wood, Midleton.
Further dates will be added over the summer, keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates.
From April 27, Jo will be delivering a new six-week course, ‘At Home with Herbs’, incorporating wild food recipes, such as seaweed tapenades, savoury snack balls, nettle soup, plantain pesto, marshmallow root brownies, and wild green smoothies. This fun, hands-on course includes tastings, notes, and samples to take home.
Foraging walks: €15pp (kids free).
At Home with Herbs course: €150.
Booking: email@example.com or call 085 727 6738
The Hollies, Enniskeane
The Hollies Centre for Sustainability hosts foraging walks throughout the year to showcase the variety of plants available at different times, with three full-day Foraging Workshops scheduled for April 23, May 22, and June 4.
Learn about seaweeds, hedgerow, woodland, and garden forage as the day moves from coast to field to The Hollies itself. A hearty homemade lunch is included, making use of everything collected during the day.
“Learn to recognise the right plants and experience tasty ways to prepare and eat them. We will be picking prime ingredients full of interesting flavours, packed with natural goodness.”
€70 pp, including lunch. Workshop is full day from 10am until 4.30pm. Book your spot online at www.thehollies.ie
Ballymaloe Cookery School, Shanagarry
The organically managed lands at Ballymaloe Cookery School offer prime foraging conditions in a relaxed and informative way. The Spring and Summer Foraging Walks are led by the inimitable Darina Allen, whose enthusiasm for wild bounty will leave you fizzing to seek out wild food for yourself.
Led by Ireland’s doyenne of food, it means that not only do you get knowledge to identify what is edible amongst a tangle of weeds and hedgerows, but also insider tips for how to prepare, cook and eat them to get the best out of their seasonal flavours.
This course frequently books up well in advance. Currently, spots are still available but be quick! €220 pp. This is a full day event from 9am until 5pm. Lunch is included, and a pack of recipes will be provided to keep you inspired. Book online: www.cookingisfun.ie
Kinsale Food Tours, Kinsale
Suzanne Burns is your knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide for this Coastal Foraging and Picnic Tour in Ireland’s gourmet capital of Kinsale.
Guests are greeted at Sandycove with a gourmet picnic of favourite local Kinsale tastes before heading off with full bellies to learn about the wild food bounty of the coastline.
Suzanne is a seasoned wildlife and marine guide, a qualified zoologist, and an enthusiastic foodie! Yes, there will be food, historical tales of Kinsale’s maritime past, foraging, grazing, and a bit of craic, too!
Tour available every day, year-round. Time dependent on tide. Minimum two people per tour. €60 pp, 2.5 hours. Book your spot via www.kinsalefoodtours.com
Atlantic Sea Kayaking, Reen Pier, West Cork
Picture the scene: a blue-sky sunny day, calm crystal-clear waters – just you, the sky, and the ocean! The team behind multiple award-winning Atlantic Sea Kayaking really know our coastline: how to interpret it, how to experience it, and, with their Secrets & Seaweed Tour, how to taste it too!
Kayak out to where sea vegetables grow in abundance, learn to identify them, how to pick them sustainably, and how to incorporate them in culinary, cosmetic, and medicinal uses.
Tour duration is 3.5 hours. It’s suitable for anyone aged over 16 years old, making this a great educational adventure for young adults in your family.
All equipment and a safety briefing is provided. €75pp. Time depends on tides. Book in advance online: www.atlanticseakayaking.com
I’m all for opportunities to combine my Nature Girl alter ego with my need for a touch of luxury!
Celtic Ross Hotel, Rosscarbery
A unique opportunity to visit West Cork, discovering the joy of wild ingredients as you explore under the guidance an expert guide on this Rosscarbery Foraging Weekend.
A two-night escape is an opportunity to enjoy destination West Cork for food lovers seeking a local and authentic food experience that gives a true taste of place.
A warm welcome awaits with home-baked treats and a signature drink using locally produced Five Farms Cream Liqueur.
A cooked to order breakfast on Saturday morning fortifies for a relaxed guided coastal walk pier-side in Rosscarbery, with a local foraging expert, to gather wild ingredients.
On your return, laden with wild bounty, a foragers’ cocktail awaits paired with seasonal West Cork nibbles from land and sea.
Enjoy a tasting menu in the evening featuring foraged and local food. Complete the ultimate foodie escape with brunch at CRAFT, the hotel’s Artisan food truck, for a lazy Sunday morning.
The Rosscarbery Foraging Weekend Experience includes two nights’ accommodation with breakfast each morning, cocktails and nibbles Friday and Saturday, guided tour, tasting menu Saturday, Sunday brunch and late check-out.
August 26 to 28, prices from €399 inclusive based on two people sharing. Book online at www.celticrosshotel.com
Longueville House Hotel, Mallow
Nestled in 400-acres of lush green lands in the Blackwater Valley, Longueville House loves to celebrate each changing season by offering educational, entertaining, and mouth-watering events to guests.
In April, the Cider Tour and Talk Weekender combines luxurious comforts of the house and gastronomic delights of the restaurant with an inspiring guided tour of the Victorian walled gardens and acres of cider orchards.
April is apple blossom time when orchards are literally buzzing with life. A guided tasting of Longueville House cider and brandy helps warm the cockles post-walk while whetting the appetite for dinner.
In May, and one for early risers, Longueville hosts its Dawn Chorus Weekender. The estate works hard to preserve and enrich the biodiverse habitats of its lands, and to experience the soul-stirring sounds of a dawn chorus is testament to that.
Both weekends include two nights’ accommodation, sumptuous breakfasts, evening meals, afternoon teas, and a guided tour.
Cider Tour & Talk Weekend, April 22 and 23, Dawn Chorus Weekend, May 27 and 28. All inclusive prices based on two sharing from €750. Book online at www.longuevillehouse.ie
Day-long workshops get you started on your wild food adventuring, but maybe you want to learn more about our wild plants and how to interact with them.
The Irish Calendar Year, Dr Rosari Kingston
Dr Rosari Kingston is a medical herbalist specialising in how traditional Irish calendar days and customs have their origins in eating and working with plants for optimal health.
Following the publication of her book, Ireland’s Hidden Medicine, Dr Kingston has launched an online 12-month course entitled The Irish Calendar Year.
An online self-guided course means that, whatever time of year you chose to sign up, it begins and cycles through 12 months from then.
Working through the Irish seasons of Imbolc, Bealtaine, Lughnasa and Samhain each month and season will explore herbalism under five topics: plant medicine, tradition, stories, food for the table and food for the spirit. €575pp - fully online course. Book online at www.drrosarikingston.com
Herbal Fermacology, April Danann
April Danann is a naturopathic nutritionist and herbalist specialising in wild fermentation. Now, using her decades of knowledge from studies and her herbal practices, April has created a one-year Herbal Fermacology (Pharmacology) programme.
The course aims to re-establish a deep trust relationship with nature through a variety of nature-connected modules including nutrition, beekeeping, foraging, bushcraft, wild fermentation, herbs, and medicinal trees, and more besides.
April says: “This is an in-depth course teaching many things I have studied and developed over these decades and am often asked about.
“The course is hands on where possible, with up to two days a month in-person classes, as well as Zoom groups and online modules.”
The course runs throughout the year. An application process is required prior to securing a spot. Applications are open now: email firstname.lastname@example.org.
€3650 pp including all tuition, meals for in-class days, notes, books, field guides, herbs, remedies, bottles, jars, and samples