We have lost touch with the wild food that surrounds us
Creating a feast of wild green edibles on the Aran Islands
Seaweed: Bláth na Mara is a family-run company that handpicks seaweed on the island of Inis Mór
Two weeks ago, I finally got back to Inish Mór, the largest of the three Aran Islands. It was a gloriously sunny day and I was there to barbecue some fish and shellfish for a segment on the RTÉ Today Show.
Freshly caught lobster, brown crab and spider crab were brought ashore to be cooked alongside the John Dory that I brought with me. Between the foraged sea herbs (such as sea beet, orache, and sea radish) and the seaweed (from Bláth na Mara the family-run company that handpicks seaweed on the island), we had ourselves a little feast.
The lobster was split in half and cooked directly on the barbecue, then dressed with a little extra virgin rapeseed oil and seaweed vinegar (seaweed infused in apple cider vinegar) and served with the seaweed and sea herbs.
I stuffed the belly of the John Dory with dillisk and then wrapped it with sugar kelp. It was grilled on the barbecue for about 15 minutes. I served the Dory with asparagus. This I cooked by simply rolling the asparagus over the ribs of the barbecue until it was tender.
Strangely, the fisherman who landed the lobster didn’t particularly like eating it. Is this a metaphor for the Irish food condition? We seem to constantly seek out food from elsewhere while forgetting about our own. We’ll take avocados from Peru but reject the food that is in front of us.
I was surprised by the amount of Alexanders growing on the Island. Alexanders are a wild green edible that have been growing in Ireland since at least 1500 BC. It tastes somewhere between celery and parsley. It also goes by the name horse-parsley.
I don’t know if the monks planted it on the islands but it was common in the gardens of monastic settlements, especially before the introduction of celery into the country. Jenny from Bláth na Mara said her father Máirtín Ó Conceanainn a native of Inis Mór, who started the seaweed business in 2002, used to eat the Alexanders. It’s strange how we have lost touch with the wild food that surrounds us.