Last weekend I had the privilege of spending some days on Lambay Island, attending what is essentially a foraging masterclass with Monica Wilde, a master forager, science-based herbalist and amazing cook. What Monica does not know about seaweeds and their varied sex lives is hardly worth knowing. I learned about harvesting and using seaweed, the uses of nettle seeds (mood booster), a grass- shaped sand- dweller that tastes like coriander (coriander grass), dock gel and so much more (my brain has had to forge new connections to contain all this!).
Monica was so generous with her knowledge. She took care to explain (in layman’s terms) the chemical/ hormonal action various plant substances have on the body. I was impressed with her scientific approach plants, the chemical analyses she does and the depth of her understanding of plant interactions with our bodies. This approach really appealed to the Biology graduate in me.
The island is so lovely, and yes, the rumours are true, there are wallabies! We even ate wallaby stew one of the nights. My new friends Rory (http://eatdrinkrunfun.com) and Mark (https://www.facebook.com/skerriesphoto) got a few great shots of some wallabies. There are also puffins, guillemots, buzzards, and razorbills on the island, it is a perfect spot for seabird enthusiasts. If you fancy a visit to this extraordinary private island, there are tours that you can take that will get you to Lambay and take you on a walk around the island. If you want to spend time there, the accommodation is exquisite.
I left the island with so much more knowledge and so many new ways to incorporate wild food into my daily diet. If you want to learn about harvesting and eating wild plants, go on a walk with me (my next walk is a berry forage in Wicklow), but if you are already a forager or chef, and you want to extend your plant knowledge, go on a foraging walk or a course with Monica. She will be back on lovely Lambay in Autumn and then again in Winter.
I returned home on Monday with a pile of seaweed and nettle seeds that I dried in the dehydrator. I made a carragheen milk pudding flavoured with dried lady’s bedstraw and vanilla. We had oarweed lasagne, with the seaweed as the lasagne sheets, boiled up for 15-20 mins prior to being layered with lasagne stuff. (My niece and nephew loved it and thought that it was the best lasagne ever!) The seaweed taste disappears in the cooking. I also tempura battered and deep fried some tiny hogweed shoots that we found on the island (That also got the thumbs up from the little ones). I do believe I am all equipped for improved foraging and culinary adventures