Foraging: Hi, I’m Connor, one of Stillgarden’s Social Botanists. I know it may not seem like it when you look outside at the pouring rain or have to wear at least three layers to get your groceries, but spring really is just around the corner.
I’m very much into foraging, and when I first moved to Inchicore back in summer 2019, I was thrilled to discover the abundance of wild food we have here in our local area. As spring arrives, nature’s larder reopens for business. As a student at Trinity College, I am known for embarrassing my friends by garnishing my lunches with the odd bit of edible greenery I find in a random bush around campus. With our latest lockdown and the bleak persistence of Zoom university, I’ve been sticking to the available offerings of the local area, safe from the judging eyes of my fellow existential arts students.
One of my favourite wild foods is wild garlic, and three-cornered garlic is already beginning to pop up and flower. A delicious garnish to scrambled eggs and salads, it also makes a great pesto. Although the leaves look like many non-tasty, toxic plants (such as daffodils), it’s very easy to identify because the leaves unmistakably smell like garlic when you break them.
Chickweed and wood sorrel are other nice spring garnishes that I have seen around Inchicore, and they can add a citrussy bite to your meal. Easily recognised, the young leaves of dandelions add a strong kick to a salad. And we all know what stinging nettle looks like from those traumatic childhood memories. Most people have heard of nettle soup, but the young leaves have a delicious spinach-like taste when they’ve been cooked (the heat removes the sting—no need to worry about a sore mouth). Just make sure to use the younger top leaves before the plant goes to seed (normally in summer), otherwise it has a bit of a gritty texture.
Alexanders has a similar taste to celery, and grows with even more abundance than three-cornered garlic around here, from the canal to Grattan Crescent to Phoenix Park. There’s actually a mini forest of it in the latter, in a spot by where the deer like to graze and hide from the gaze of the human visitors, and there’s even a cat that looks after it. I’m not even joking: the cat sits there in a little shed like it’s the guardian of the wild celery forest. Thou shalt not pass unless you bribe me with loving pats! Spring is the best time to eat this plant, before the stalks grow thick and tough.
The end of spring brings elderflower, which grows near the distillery. This beautiful flower makes a flavoursome cooler for a warm spring day, or a floral tisane (herbal tea) for a more-than-likely cold day, as well being a delicious botanical for gin.
Very recently, a local rewilding project planted several fruit trees around Inchicore, including by the distillery’s community garden. Hopefully, they’ll soon start to flower along with the established cherry blossoms and will fill our community air with their sweet scent and pretty colours. With all the other treats Neal and the Social Botanists are cultivating at Stillgarden, Inchicore’s native Black Honeybees certainly have a sweet year ahead of them, and hopefully the slightly less fluffy human foragers do too.
Your friendly neighbourhood forager, Connor.