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!).
False Caragheen (works the same as the real stuff)
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.
Tempura hogweed shoots
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
Artichoke hearts with wild herb dressing and homemade bread
It is so exciting to see and be part of a movement that is looking to change the world, starting locally, making a difference at home, and then taking the message out to the wider community. The Zero Waste movement in Ireland is very inspiring. There is a closed Facebook group (Zero Waste Ireland) that has over 6000 members. If you are looking for tips, support and inspiration to reduce the plastic and waste in your home, and you are on Facebook, I would urge you to join.
I have been to three super interesting events this year to do with Zero Waste. (All free, or just about free). The most recent being the Zero Waste Festival on the 25th of June in Dublin. This was a very well attended event, all Eventbrite tickets were sold out and entry to the hall for those without tickets was somewhat restricted. (I did not have the presence of mind to buy my ticket online, so I had to wait a while for a space to become available)
I learned a lot. Firstly, that if you don’t really know what to do next, or temporarily feel a little out of your depth (socially awkward) find someone who you can help and help that someone out for a while. You get to meet people, you get to share insights that may help the common goal to be achieved and you get to practice at being collaborative.
There was a clothes swap; I came home with the best T-shirt: ‘I shot JR’. Just like the one in Father Ted. It is good as it is, but it is also the perfect quirky T-shirt that can be upcycled into something a bit more interesting. There were vendors there too, a place to buy second hand baby clothes, bamboo toothbrushes, homemade palm free soaps, reusable handmade sanitary towels, refills for washing up liquid and olive oil, bulk buy items such as rice, oats and sultanas and a stall that was selling fruit leathers. There were also a number of excellent workshops on throughout the day. I went to the fermentation workshop.
Blog followers would know that I have at times been a fairly enthusiastic fermenter, so at this festival, I went to a fermentation workshop given by master fermenter and chef Neil Barrett. (He gives fermentation classes) It is always interesting to relearn what you already learned or know from a different source. You get different perspectives and a deeper understanding of the topic because each person focuses on what interests them the most. (That is the reason I enjoy going foraging with other foragers, I always learn new snippets of info)
I left that wonderful workshop with the knowledge that I have been mistreating my milk kefir grains, and that I need to make and eat sauerkraut again. I also left with the feeling that I need to be a little more careful with measuring ingredients, especially when feeding cultures. To put my scientific training to work while experimenting with food. Using scales, keeping notes, aiming for reproducability. All that without loosing the sense of play that I get when I try something new or tread uncharted territory in the kitchen. So I have removed the milk kefir from the fridge, boiled up some water for the newly acquired water kefir, fed my ginger bug and fed my newly acquired sourdough starter, I think I will dig that ancient sauerkraut out of the fridge and have a go of that with dinner. Thanks Neil for the re-inspiration!
This was a great festival, so much to learn, so many interesting people to meet, and re-meet. And to think, I almost chickened out of going.
My mom used to make Pineapple beer when we were kids, whenever we had pineapple, she would use the peels to make this super easy very bubbly pineapple flavoured soft drink. It is along similar lines to ginger beer in that it does not require the addition of yeast. I love this recipe because it delays the peels’ transit to the compost heap, thus ensuring that all of the nutrients/ goodness are not lost to the system. Next time I make it, I will be freezing the peels that come out of the water to use in fruit scrap vinegar that will then get made once there are enough fruit scraps.
Ingredients and Method
- Wash, peel and core pineapple, retain the peel and core. Discard green leafy bit into compost pile
- Into a large ceramic, glass or stainless steel container, add the peel and core, a cup of sugar (250ml), handful of raisins (optional) and 2L of water
- Stir till the sugar dissolves and cover with a cloth or loose lid to keep the flies out
- Stir daily for 2 days, then strain the liquid into pressure safe bottles like the ones in the picture. Not all glass bottles are suitable for this purpose, if the bottle originally contained sparkly stuff, then it should be safe for this purpose. (1L Bulmers bottles are perfect)
- Allow the gas to build for a few days, as the drink matures, more of the sugar will be turned into carbon dioxide, so it will get drier and more gassy
- Enjoy chilled! Warning: This drink can be very fizzy, so care is required when opening the bottle!Notes: If less fizz is required, use less sugar, this is a loose recipe, and open to be experimented with.
June for me is synonymous with elderflower. It is probably the best thing to forage for this month and there are so many things you can do with it. Elderflower sparkle, cordial, addition to rhubarb or gooseberry dishes, and fritters. Elderflower fritters are a good dessert this season; they are light, not too sweet and full of that lovely somewhat musky flavour.
So here is a super easy recipe for flower fritters, other flowers to try in this recipe are white and red clover.
- 3/4 cup cornflower
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1tsp baking powder
- pinch salt
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup icy water
- 2 inches of oil in a pot
- 6 large flower heads, separated into florets with stalks attached
- Icing sugar
- Heat the oil in the small pot
- To a small bowl, add the dry ingredients and mix
- Add the egg and the water, mix through
- Coat each floret in batter, shaking off the excess
- Fry for less than a minute till cooked through, turning if necessary
- Remove fritters from oil and set aside till all are done
- Dust with icing sugar and serve while still warm
….is my family’s secret to living waste-free since 2008!” Bea Johnson
Earlier this week I attended a brilliant talk by Bea Johnson, author of the book Zero Waste Home and proprietor of the website Zero Waste Home where she provides a host of resources (bulk buy sellers in Ireland) and tips on how to de-plastic and declutter your life. She lives in California with her husband and two teenage boys, The amount of black bin waste their family created last year fits inside a small mason jar. That is impressive, and it gets me thinking about our black bin waste, we are down to one and a half black bin collections a year (husband, myself and a cat) which is not terrible, but it could be so much less if we found plastic free alternatives to more food items and planned meals for the week and bought stuff in bulk or was part of a local bulk buy group.
Things we currently regularly buy in plastic:
(B) = black bin; (R) = recyclable; (U)= unsure
Some nuts (B)
Lemons and limes (B)
Free range chicken (B&R)
Food that I regularly buy that I have found waste free alternatives for
I buy most of my veggies and fruit naked
I have bought nuts using my own cotton bags
Meat (I bring my own plastic ice-cream boxes to butchers)
Oats in paper bags
Free Range Eggs in boxes, no plastic
Unlike Bea, we have decided that we are not minimalists, but I (more so that himself) want to own less stuff, so this year, I would like to divest myself of my things in our lives that I don’t use, don’t have solid plans for or don’t like. When I buy things, they are to be the right things, preferably second hand or homemade things that will last a long time. I have made a list of the purchases/ things I need to make this year or next that will be the right things for our somewhat pared down, more plastic free lives.
Areas that I will be working on to become more zero waste:
Buy bamboo toothbrushes next time I need to buy toothbrushes
Look for a BB cream that comes in glass next time I need to buy that
Perhaps make mascara as per Bea’s instructions in her book when I next feel inclined to buy the stuff
Work towards creating a bulk buy group in my area
Get back to making my own yoghurt especially now that I have discovered porridge bread
Ask online sellers to only send items in paper or cardboard
Make a few fabric and net baggies to facilitate buying loose nuts, veggies, pulses, rice, etc
Look for plastic free dishwasher detergent that doesn’t cost a fortune
Make/ buy beeswax wrap for buying cheese in and as a substitute for cling film
Find a place to buy dry catfood in cardboard or from a bulk supplier
Limescale cleaner for the toilet
Bea pointed out that because they have all the stuff that they need (not much stuff at all) it leaves them as a family with more time (not looking after stuff) and money with which to pursue experiences such as sky diving and interesting holidays. The gifts that they give each other are the gifts of experiences, not gifts of stuff. Please check out her website for more information on how to live well and create less waste. If you are interested in a zero waste lifestyle, and are looking for support, join the Facebook group Zero Waste Ireland. This is a very active (over 4000 members) Facebook group that are a great resource.