Two weeks ago, the Galway Food Festival celebrated its seventh year. Over the Easter weekend 70,000 people came to Galway to enjoy the event, taking part in food tours and enjoying our open markets.
For the food festival, I lead a foraging walk in Barna woods, entitled “Walk on the Wild Side”, in celebration of the new season of wild garlic that has popped its head up.
The recent snow has set everything back, so I was astonished to find the garlic had not suffered too much in the cold spells.
I was also surprised to find so many people in attendance when I pulled into the carpark. More than 90 people were waiting there to learn a little bit more about our uncharted wild woods. Though foraging now is extremely hip and sexy ( as opposed to being a necessity), I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of people eager to learn a new skill. We walked and talked, wandering into the wood. I explained about the different seasons of wild food, what was the easiest to find and the nicest to eat. I call wild garlic the gateway drug for the novice forager because of its distinct smell and ease of identification. It’s hard to go wrong with wild garlic. Its pungent aroma hits you as you walk into any wood where it grows.
Wild garlic is a truly ancient Irish herb and has been eaten in Ireland for thousands of years.
There are so many different stages of wild garlic as it grows through the season.
In early spring, I love to eat it raw straight out of the ground. Its tiny tips taste outstanding. As it grows larger, it’s great for wild garlic pesto, made with hazelnuts and extra virgin rapeseed oil.
When the flower pops up, toss into a salad or use to garnish fish.
Finally, in early June, the petal falls off and you are left with the seed head. Salted overnight and then pickled in malt vinegar for three months, these tiny little Irish capers are probably my favourite Irish food.