With its clear waters and undisturbed natural coastline that’s rich in vegetation, there are few better places for coastal foraging than the west coast of Ireland. Irishman Brian Gannon has been foraging for vegetables growing in the wild since he was a child and puts a lifetime’s worth of honed skills to good use in sourcing wild foraged vegetables for the kitchens at Ashford Castle. Here, he shares some of his expert tips on when and where to forage and how to best enjoy the spoils.
How did you first get into foraging?
“I have been a forager all my life. I was introduced to it at an early age by my uncle. I used to travel with him in his car and I would be sent into fields to pick the mushrooms that we had spotted from the road.”
Why is the coast near Ashford Castle a good location for foraging?
“The west of Ireland is ideal for foraging because the waters are so clean, so much so that they are thought to be some of the cleanest in Western Europe.”
What edible delights can be found there?
“The range of edible plants that can be found on the coast is very varied, from seaweed to sea vegetables. Most seaweed is edible and the sea vegetables that you can find are actually the ancestors of some of the vegetables you’d typically find in a supermarket, such as spinach, radish and wild cabbage.”
When is the best time to go coastal foraging?
“The best time to go foraging is at low tide because the rocks are exposed and all the seaweeds that you might be looking for are available. Plus, access is much easier and you won’t get your feet wet!”
What are your favourite beaches in the area for foraging?
“I do most of my coastal foraging in Mayo, Galway and Clare. For the BBC series Amazing Hotels, I took presenter Monica Galetti to a beach called Silver Strand in Galway.”
What are some of your favourite ways to serve these foraged ingredients?
“Seaweed is full of nutrients and I like to include it in as many dishes as I can. I recommend adding it to curry, soups and stews as well as adding it to boiled or blanched vegetables.”
What are your top tips for first-time foragers?
“In my opinion, the best thing for beginners to do is to take part in a foraging tour to give you an idea of where and what to look for, as well as getting your hands on a decent book on foraging coastal wild food.”
Sample some of Brian’s freshly foraged seaweed and sea vegetables when dining at George V Dining Room at Ashford Castle.
Image credits: lead image © iStock/pastie. Seaweed © iStock/ands456. Irish beach © iStock/HelenL100. Samphire © iStock/yalayama.