Foraging in Northern Ireland
I love foraging the hedgerows on my daily walks near my Cookery School. Located in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland we are lucky to have an abundance of delicious local berries and fruits to forage from the hedgerows.
I’ve grown up foraging without even knowing it was a thing. From picking blackberries from the hedges as we walked to school to helping my mother gather the dog rose for her homemade rose hip syrup.
In my jam making classes we will discuss some of these wonderful native fruits that we can forage and you will be able to make some delicious jam and bread to take home.
Irish Hedgerow Foraging
The hedges seem to be particularly bountiful this year. I’m not sure that they are any different or just that I’m taking more notice on my daily walk down the road.
Rosa Canina (commonly known as the dog rose) the lovely pale pink wild rose is in abundance and just as well as I will be using the hips when they appear in the autumn to make rose hip syrup. My mother has making this for years and it’s always welcome as a natural remedy for the cold as it’s high in vitamin C and psychologically soothing.
The elderflowers are fast coming to an end and I have used them to make gooseberry and elderflower jam and also to make elderflower cordial which will keep me going through the year to serve with sparkling water as a refreshing drink or to use as a syrup for a lemon, elderflower and raspberry cake which I will make with swiss meringue buttercream and will feature in the cake making & decorating class.
Honeysuckle is plentiful and smells divine and the blackberry flowers are just starting to appear, I will use these to make blackberry jelly or jam in my Autumn Preserving class.
When I see the blackberries I often think of Seamus Heaney and his wonderful poem Blackberry Picking which I heard him read at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast a few years before he died.
By Seamus Heaney
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.