Foraging at Navan Fort and walking through history.

Even though I was raised in the city, one of the things my Dad loved to do was to take us on nature walks. During these he would point out trees and plants and let us pick wild blackberries and hazelnuts.

Elderberries, packed with vitamins and antioxidants

Foraging isn’t practical for everyone but when you get the chance I would recommend it. It helps ground you to where you live, and best of all it’s free. It’s also a fantastic activity to do with kids (just make sure to watch what they’re eating).

Celtic round house

Recently Navan Fort and Visitor Centre in Co. Armagh, ran an event which provided a guided foraging walk and demonstration of the food and cooking methods our Celtic ancestors would have ate. I’m a big history nerd, so this was right up my street.

Iron Age fire pit

The staff in full Celtic regalia complete with spears really brought history alive, showing not only what the Celts ate, but how they cooked and lived, complete with a genuine Iron Age round house.

Inside an Iron Age round house

The staff were brilliant at getting younger visitors involved and having banter with the participants. They’re also extremely engaging, knowledgeable , and were really interesting.

Tripod cooking
Celtic bread oven

We were then treated to the foraging element led by Fergal. It was great to be back in nature and learn the history and use of local plants.

Robert’s plant or herb Robert

I have to admit in being remiss at not taking more photos of the edible berries like haws, rosehips, and sloes (yes the things they make sloe gin with). One of the more interesting plants was Robert’s plant/herb Robert. Apparently this will be one of the most important cancer fighting drugs in the next decade. If you want to put it in a basin of warm water and soak your feet it also has great antioxidant properties.

I honestly couldn’t recommend the place highly enough. We were also treated to nettle soup (packed with iron and surprisingly tasty), pork and apple stew (we were in the orchard county after all), and a dessert of toasted oats and nuts, local honey, and berries and cream. The charming and entertaining Ita not only cooked all this but demonstrated how our ancestors would have made bread. The foraging events are coming to an end due to the time of year, but the place has different events all year round and is still well worth a visit at any time.

Coastal Food Foraging

I’m fortunate enough to live in a part of the world where you are never far from the sea. Despite this as a nation we don’t eat enough sea food. We definitely don’t take advantage of the absolute heaps of sea vegetables and edible coastal plants we have access to

On a mild but rainy day, the immensely knowledgeable David (former National Trust Ranger, with a passion for coastal flora and fauna), was kind enough to share a small portion of his encyclopedic knowledge with me and a small bunch of other food nerds.

To make things even better David’s partner Celia, an extremely talented and well known chef in her own right, treated us to a fabulous meal centered around foraged food.

Who knew that trendy foods like sea purslane can be collected for free!, and scurvy grass was used as far back as the Romans to give sailors a massive hit of vitamin C on long voyages, (it also tastes like wasabi).

Other top discoveries were pepper dulse, which tastes somewhere between an oyster and black truffle, OMG it tastes so good.

All sorts of terrestrial plants such as sea spinach, sea radish, wild peas and orach all make amazing salad vegetables, and sea vegetables like channel wrack, and sea spaghetti are super tasty when lightly steamed and are bursting full of iodine, and other trace elements that are really good for you.

Who would have thought of baking fish in sea weed. Celia treated us to hake wrapped in sugar kelp and it was properly delicious. She also made us a feast of breads seasoned with seaweeds, dulse butter, wild garlic pesto, and great salads.

Get out and get foraging, make sure you check what you are picking, and don’t be a d’ck and over pick plants that are scarce. Other than that, go forage!