The Irish Times Magazine - - FOOD- FILE -

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.

En­joy for­ag­ing!

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