As the country begins to emerge from yet another lockdown, so do the plants in the wild, gorse is dying back, while hawthorn, and elderflower and rowan take its place amongst other perennials, the hedgerow now a bloom of white flowers and the fragrant elderflower will undoubtedly brighten up the roadsides of rural Ireland, as always if your are picking roadside try find the quiet unused roads where traffic fumes will be minimised.
while all this is happening at eye level and above, the herbs of the undergrowth, are battling for space and sunlight, including cleavers, (robin run the hedge/sticky willy), herb Robert, daisies, sorrel, different varieties of cress, depending of the ground type different plants will thrive, many of which are edible, some pleasant some not so pleasant.Ive always found nature of a great place to be to pass time, think about things clear your head, and explore whats close to you, I think people forget that sometimes that the hustle and bustle of life can be overwhelming and the return to what I can only expect to be mayhem, even the crowds around towns, shopping milling around talking chatting while its great to see some semblance of what we knew of normality returning I know it will be extremely busy in kitchens and food outlets across the country, and not just our beautiful county, I just hope that people will remember that there is more to life than the mayhem that will be the summer season.
I know myself I will be once again making an elderflower cordial, using both lemon and lime separately, this elderflower and lime drink made an epic keifer, as well as a stunning addition to gin and tonic.
while picking flowers please bear in mind that the more flowers you pick the less elderberries you will have later in the year, while I keep an eye on the trees and the flowers Im also watching the world go n=by in a stream the runs through the forestry, its nothing spectacular its just a gargling, bubbling stream that splashes out, over stones and rocks, dousing herbs and mosses at random.
As always stay safe and you can follow my journey in the forest @chefpaulc on social media platforms
Starting with wood sorrel, this shamrock looking herb, has 3 leaves and produce a small white/pink flower, this is a beautiful herb that doesn’t do well when exposed to high heat though it imparts its flavour it doesn’t make lend a green colour if blended into a sauce.
It is best used in a medley of mixed leaves in a salad or as a garnish herb. It adds a lemony sharpness once bitten into, and eases off to leave a pleasant taste on the palate. It grows in old forests, or on mossy trees. It grows most of the year round while conditions allow. It grows best from mid-march onwards when the temperatures are that little bit warmer consistently, it then dies off after the 1st hard frost as it then just disappears as quickly as it appears.
It is also used in some alternative medicine, to help with high fevers, also to settle weak or sick stomachs used as a gargle for mouth ulcers, and also said to be good for healing wounds. Now I am not a doctor or a medical expert, I’m going to leave that to the professionals. The people who put in the years of training and studies and correlating results. That’s their job, I am merely passing on some of the uses that it has been used for in the past.
Follow along on the Facebook page for more and myself on my wandering in the countryside @chefpaulc on all social media platforms.
Since lockdown began at the start of wild garlic season picking was slim, beaches off limits even slimmer pickings I’ve always had hedgerows to pick from fraughans are beginning the fruiting process at the moment so they are small green berries now when ripe they will look like small blueberries and wild strawberries are ripe for the picking at the moment get them while they are ripe as birds love them and have infinitely more time to grab them than you.
Also fushia nss elderflower coming in thick and fast with the beautiful weather best to get them early in the morning to keep the best of the goodness before the bees take all the goodness.
Some people say it smells like cat pee in the evening, I’ve never picked it in the evening so no comment here.
I’ve always adored the smell of elderflower and this year I have acquired some water keifer from a friend to make some elderflower drinks fotr the year with a little fizz. Big Mason jar at the ready. Stay tuned for results. This could work amazingly or fail miserably. Fingers crossed.
A recent wander in ballyseedy woods revealed a number of pheasant back mushrooms or Dryads saddle mushrooms tasty mocerls I dried the larger ones that I found and had some for dinner myself.
How to cook them. You cook them the same as any regular mushroom, it just has a stronger “mushroom” flavour.
How I dried the larger mushrooms I hear you ask. After cleaning using a damp cloth and a light rinse of water to flush out any bugs I sliced as thin as I could and placed them on some parchment paper and into a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 10 minutes and then turned it off. When I turned it off I opened the oven to release the steam that will build up.
Check in the morning they should snap quite easily if they bend they are not done. Repeat the procedure once more if necessary.
Our shop has now gone live tralee culinary gangsters t shirts, beanies and vegtopia books availablr for sale.
As always stay safe, support local
Having survived the winter, many plants appear from their winter slumber, light shines for a little bit longer each day the ground encourages growth and light awakens new life in the trees and the hedges of our country side.
The first of which is the gorse, or furze bush with its bright yellow flowers and unmistakably sore thorns. (Use scissors) a bunch of these flowers smells like coconut when inhaled.
Though it has many medicinal purposes it was used alongside the hawthorn as the first wines in this country.
I personally love the smell. Next on my list is the unmistakable aroma from the sweet Briar or flowering currant in mid to late spring.
In the forest the chickweed is still going strong while it’s friends wild garlic, sorrel and chervil come to life. I’ve written enough about these herbs in the past this year the elf cup mushrooms and turkey tails are out in force on dead and dying wood, the more I look the more I see.
Though there isn’t many varieties of mushrooms at this time of year in our little patch of forestry, more appear later.
Looking forward to the year ahead where in my position in the hotel, I’m looking after the herb garden an I’m taking a few of the crew with me on the journey through the year.
Follow the progress @chefpaulc on the usual places
Since last i wrote about this topic, Ive done my usual foraging plus some wandering. I found some beautiful mushrooms and new places to pick flowers and berries,
Mushrooms were always the things that eluded me on my ventures in the forests. Then delight when i find my mushrooms on the rare occasion i find them. Ive dried pretty much all that ive found this year with the exception of the pheasant back which i believe got chopped up and sauteed with some butter and served with some turbot.
By the coast right now sea beet is currently seeding, as such has lost most of its nutritional value, so i dont pick it. So instead I pick samphires, or beach mustard or baby oyster leaf, or sea aster, some sea lettuce and grasses. So not exactly short on things to pick on our vast coastline and arguably our best asset.
I love our coast for its beauty and its bounty, its splendour and raw power of destruction when waves come crashing over rocks, seeing the quantities of seaweed thrust onto the rocks and beach after a storm is breathtakingly awesome.
I still receive funny looks of intrigue and inquisition about how to cook it or what to use it with, people are always amazed with the response hot pan, butter salt pepper serve. Simplicity is key to food no point over complicating for the sake of it. Cook it simply, let the natural flavours sing.
As always folks @chefpaulc on all social media platforms
As the spring kicks into gear, wild flowers, herbs, plants trees and shrubs awaken from their winter slumber. As I continue to forage on a pretty much a daily basis, I see the transformation in slow motion, little bits here and there then I go missing for a week and bang loads of stuff has sprung.
At the moment primrose and sweet briar are all coming along strong, alongside gorse, wild garlic wild leeks to name but a few.
Dandelions as I’m sure you may be aware are weeds, that grow uninhibited in area where you may not necessarily want them. These flowers are the 1st food for bees, along with the sweet briar, all very important to the bees for nectar and honey production.
Later in the season I hope to develop my mushroom hunting skills, as I can already pick the elf cup in abundance, on some days and in scarce supply other all weather dependant.
By the coast, all the greens are developing at a rapid pace. These spring shoots are soft, salty, delicious bursts of freshness, flavour and nutrients.
Now for nettles as they begin their growth on the roadways and hedges of the countryside stinging any unsuspecting passer by. I plan this year to develop a bit more than soup as these early nettles are loaded with iorn, and are a great detox after the winter to kick start the immune system after taking a beating all winter long.
As always stay tuned and follow on all social media platforms @chefpaulc for some random pics from my adventures
As it’s said on “game of thrones” a programme/ series I have no interest in winter is coming well sod that it’s here. Freezing howling winds on the coastline a warm car a short walk away I need to stay on the grass as the restaurant requires fresh sea greens as we once again run close. Now I don’t mind the cold, it’s now wet and cold it’s miserable and I’m stooped over some sea beet like I’m footing turf scanning around for the next plant to take a bit from.
While the forest still some respite from the elements, wild herbs still flourish and the hardier herbs remain, dandelion leaves still like through the undergrowth. While briars begin the annual purge of leaves, along with the rest of the deciduous trees, the sound of crunching leaves no matter how old you think you are brings the cheery child out of everyone. *kicks a pile of leaves.
Many of you know I enjoy forestry walks and have discovered mushroom hunting, Just wandering from a beaten track because something catches my eye, and intrigues my more inquisitive side regardless of my attire, in I go through mud, swamp, and water. Not often has my balance betrayed me when it does I have a soft/wet landing.
As always follow the restaurant on all social media @croitralee or myself @chefpaulc
Quick side note, butcher masterclass on the 15th November in the IT Tralee at 1pm. Check put our page events for more info.
As my summer harvests draw to a close the autumn/winter crops begin to flourish, amid shades of red orange yellow and green, whilst a hazy sunrise listens over the coast. A lapping tide caresses rocks with pools of seaweeds, and sea grasses.
The coast i find is an amazing place this time of year so peaceful and beautiful, yet silently deadly at the safe time as I fell foul of rock lucky to escape with bruising.
While near the coast a number of people who walk regularly whether with a dog or by themselves have come to associate me with the restaurant and my mandatory gangster gear.
Berries cascade from briars, along a pathway near the beach. Morning gangster, or chef, or Jez your out early to some new faces. A conversation about food and their memories usually ensues, I find these interesting and borderline inspirational, people talk about their childhood memories about picking this or that or my grandmother used to do this is that long-go (abbreviation intentional).
My forestry trailers still find my presence amusing, a hearty morning and continue on with their business, that is until they see tree leaves in my tub and all of a sudden, using those really??? Total confusion, tell them it’s dinner and this look quickly turns to disbelief, a little explaining and they turn to shock and awe, that idea is class.
Till next time people.
Follow on all platforms @chefpaulc and the restaurant the same @croitralee.
Recently Marcus Karl and 8 visited killarney to do a spot of mushroom hunting, with Marcus as our guide.
As luck would have it not 5oo many to be found. The summer has dried u o most of the moisture that would sustain these fungi throughout the summer months, heavy drought did not help. Never the less still some to be found if your eyes are peeled. To the right eyes mushrooms are easily found, Karl’s and mine not so good. However in the absence of fungus I spotted wild herbs that I myself required for the restaurant, decided to hijack the mushroom hunt for some green foraging.
Help a fella out. The day after Marcus and I met up once more and went hunting in another area, rich in hard white inedible “mushrooms” we noticed a number of these flying through the air, best not to follow as a 9 iron may be following the strange flying mushroom.
Anecdote over. Mushrooms are elusive just because they appear in one spot this year does not mean the same spot next year will be as plentiful.
As always with mushrooms be sure you have identified the mushroom as many dangerous ones share very similar characteristics as their safe to eat cousins
Chat soon folks
Summer time preserves.
Ok so, here goes I’ve got married and can say I’ve never been happier with my place in life right now, the path is clear for my personal life anyway.
Preservation work continues with chutney and cordials that have began to ferment to I suppose champagne is the best comparison, knowing when i made the “cordial” if I hadn’t killed the naturally occurring yeasts if end up in this position. Oh well elderflower champers, Wahoo. Tasty is an understatement for this beautifully light drink. I used this on the symphony of flowers dish for vegtopia menu, cooked and designed by myself and the 2 d’s Dave and Dale, fantastic dishes produced by these too lads also.
Now keeping nettles is much easier than the aforementioned elderflower cordial I’ve dried some and crushed some and rolled more into paper or as close as one can get to an edible paper. Fun idea I loved doing. Experimentation here is key to finding uses for this prolific weed.
Fraughans are in full flight at the moment I will be harvesting some this year, if I get a jar of jam I reckon I will have a lot.
More to the forefront of my preservation is that of the haws which will be colouring over the next few months. These little jems are all I’m looking forward to. Watch this space seriously there’s loads of them, I plan on hoarding them. Till the new year and far beyond if I can.
As always I’m on everything @chefpaulc for a more direct follow to me, the restaurant is on all social media platforms @croitralee
Chat soon people