Tag Archives: farmer’s market

The Ireland Chronicles: Part 9 – Wild About Stinging Nettles! – A Plug For A Tiny Irish Farm In Wexford, Ireland

My Summer at home in Ireland this year was filled with all sorts of trials, trips and adventures. I have been documenting lots of the interesting bits (Click on Ireland Chronicles for first installment) since I have come back to the United States, and it is quite an undertaking. Non more so than knowing where to begin my stories about one of my favorite cities, Kilkenny.

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny is a pleasant 20 minute drive from our house, and it has always been my go-to place if I decide to do something fun last-minute. It has everything I love packed into one walkable metropolis: Art, History, Architecture, and Restaurants. It is known as the Medieval City of Ireland (although the earliest settlement was 6th century) and you can plan a visit every day of the week and experience something different.

High Street, Kilkenny City

High Street, Kilkenny City

I have many stories to relate, but this tiny installment about Kilkenny is focused on a plant that conjured up nothing but bad childhood memories for me until August of this year. It was during Kilkenny Arts Week (next installment!) that I discovered this ecologically hyper-conscious food stall at a food market outside the castle gates called WILD ABOUT Ltd

Wild About Ltd

Wild About Ltd (can you see why this stood out!)

What made me stop? I have been in so many food markets this year alone, that I tend to walk through them at a pretty fast pace, only stopping if something really grabs my attention. I have become jaded by the trendy Farmer’s Market scene with everyone trying to cash in on organic this and organic that. Organic doesn’t necessarily mean quality or really give you an indication of what their definition of organic is.

Jams, jellies, chutneys and more

Jams, jellies, chutney and more

This was not the case when I happen to catch a bit of the conversation the owner, Fiona Falconer, was having with a customer at her insanely colourful stall whose psychedelic-ness happen to transfix me for a moment. My eavesdropping turned into looking when I noticed a bottle of something called Nettle Syrup. As I turned it over to find out more about this clear sticky liquid, Fiona was on a passionate cheery rant to a customer about how she and her husband had transformed a minuscule piece of land in County Wexford into a Foragers’ Paradise.

In short, this Dublin native and her Welsh husband, Malcolm, upped and left London and started a Smallholding farm in Ireland. They planted it with every wild indigenous Irish plant known to man, and before they knew it, WILD ABOUT Ltd was born. I loved everything about this woman, and she possessed that special trait which is sometimes the only reason I need to like somebody: passion! To have passion for something is to be alive as far as I’m concerned, no passion, no life.

This laughing, chatty redhead had it in abundance, and it’s what made her products a success. She loved the things she created with her wildly organic ingredients and I couldn’t help being infected by her charisma. Her booth was a hive of activity and she was the Queen Bee.

Syrupy Syrups!

Syrupy Syrups!

When we began to chat I knew instantly I would have to write about her farm. She is committed to introducing native wild foods back into the market and insists that if you eat them you will enjoy a  longer and healthier life. Her amazing assortment of chutney, jams, jellies, preserves, dressings, and syrups (to name a little of her product line) are made from native Irish plants, most of which are considered SuperFoods. In other words, full of good stuff like calcium, potassium and mineral salts essential for an iron-clad immune system. Being low in calories and nutritionally dense didn’t hurt either.

the food market by the castle gates in Kilkenny city

the food market by the castle gates in Kilkenny city

This could be all very droll too. You know sometimes when you talk to people about food, the new diet craze, nutrition etc, it can be not just boring, but the person you are talking to can come off as an annoying know-it-all. I am interested in healthy food and lifestyle, but I don’t want to be lectured (or worse still, lecture someone else!). It is all very practical stuff, but I think that some people have taken organic and eating right to an elitist level. I suppose my philosophy is that if we ate more like we did a hundred years ago we would all be better off. Easier said than done, I know, but it doesn’t have to be complicated either.

Can nettle syrup sting your tongue?

Can nettle syrup sting your tongue?

Speaking of simple, let’s finally talk about those stinging nettles in my title. I was drawn to the nettle syrup because when I thought about nettles my skin started to tingle (not in a good way), as I remembered the countless times I accidentally fell, rubbed up against, walked, or was pushed into them. Nettles grew in abundance everywhere: in the field behind our house, along the ditches by the road and in the fields at our little country school where I played and ran. Have you ever been stung by a nettle? It is instant pain and the whole area becomes red and bumpy. My cure when stung was a remedy my foraging friend would have been proud of. I, and everyone I knew would grab another kind of weed, a dock leaf, crush it on a rock to release it’s juice and then apply it to the poor stung body part. It worked great. In Ireland they are not called Stinging nettles, they are simply nettles. Everybody knows they sting!

Fiona Selling her homegrown products

Fiona Selling her homegrown products

Fiona told me to taste it in a drink she mixed. All it needed was rum and it was a mojito. She poured from a jug filled with crushed mint leaves, sparkling water, maybe a little lime, and her nettle syrup. It was truly refreshing with the nettle syrup giving everything a leafy, grassy undertone. The only thing she regretted was not being licensed to add some glistening rum. I was sorry about that too!

James St. Kilkenny City

James’s St. Kilkenny City

I tried to buy the nettle syrup but she insisted that it was a gift, and so off I went with the bottle under my arm and the knowledge that there was a farm in County Wexford at the forefront of some new frontier, a frontier that is bound to become the next “new thing” when someone like Taylor Swift happens upon Fiona at some market or other and thinks it is the cutest thing ever!

Check out their website, Wild about and consider stocking up on all things Wild, for you and your friends.

Magical Braised Short-Ribs with Optional Squash & Pepper Side-Dish (serves 4)

Magical Braised Short-Ribs

I had no idea when I awoke yesterday morning what I was going to make for dinner. When it is the weekend I get a bit more excited about the evening meal. It happened that we had some friends staying from out-of-town, and we wanted to take them to our local Farmer’s and Flea Markets. They could get a taste of the local breakfast fare, and afterwards, try to find a treasure amidst the mountains of offerings that ranged from world war 2 memorabilia to a full-sized stuffed grizzly bear, in a threatening pose!

As we walked around I wondered why I only came here when I had visitors in town. Dotted in amongst the dealers are countless vendors selling meats, vegetables and baked goods.

The ribs that swayed me

I stopped by one of the butcher stalls as we were leaving, and fell in love with some beef short-ribs. Usually I am not drawn to beef, but this cut of meat, sitting behind the crystal clear display glass looked luscious and tender. It was settled, I was compelled to make short-ribs for dinner.

And oh, they were delicious. It was tender beyond belief, and the broth was full of a rich sweetness. I cooked the last of my winter squash to go with it. I cooked it in a little curried cream and it was the perfect balance the hearty dish needed.  We ate in silent revery until we were all just a little too full – yum!

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For Short Ribs; You will need: 3 lbs beef short ribs, cut into 2 or 3 bone segments, 4 tbs olive oil, 2 celery ribs, including leaves, sliced, 1 med/lrg sweet onion, large dice, 1/2 lb white mushrooms, washed & left whole, 10 sprigs thyme, 4 tbs roughly chopped parse;y, 1 bouquet garni, 1 1/2 cups red wine, 1/2 cup dry Marsala wine, 1 tbs balsamic vinegar, 3 cups chicken broth (OR, 3 cups of water and 1 good quality bouillon cube).

For Squash Side-Dish; you will need: 1 winter squash, peeled , scooped & diced, 2 tbs oil, 1 tbs unsalted butter, 1 small yellow onion, small dice, 2 long skinny red peppers (Anaheim), OR, 1 green pepper, diced, 1/2 tsp of curry powder, (if your curry is very mild, use 1 tsp), 1 sprig thyme, 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream, 1/2 tsp sea-salt, (I use Maldon Salt), several grinds cracked black pepper.

Preheat oven 325*

sear meat in batches

1 – Cut ribs as instructed above, and season with sea-salt and pepper. Put heavy casserole (the one you are going to use in the oven) on high heat and add 2tbs of oil. When it is smoky hot, add some of the short-ribs. Do not crowd the pan or the meat will not brown. When well browned on both sides, remove to a plate and continue to cook until everything is seared. You will need to add more oil as you go.

saute veggies

2 – Turn heat down and add the onions, celery and thyme to the pot. Saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook for another 8 or so minutes.

add wines and vinegar

3 – Add the wine, Marsala and balsamic and turn heat up to high. Cook like this for about 7 minutes, stirring frequently. The liquid will reduce and intensify.

add broth and place in oven

4 – Add the broth (or water & bouillon cube), and bouquet garni, and bring to a boil. Add the ribs in even layers and cover with a heavy lid. Place in preheated oven for 2 1/4 hours. When done, take out of oven and let it sit on stove top for 15 minutes. (leaving lid on).

blanch squash

5 – When meat has about 20 minutes left in oven, start on the squash dish. Put pot of water on and when it boils, add the diced squash and cook covered for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

saute peppers & onions

6 – Put saute pan on medium heat and add the oil and butter. When it has warmed, add the onions and peppers and cook for 12 or so minutes, until vegetables are soft.

creamy pepper & squash side-dish (this would be good with so many other dishes)

7 – Add the squash and thyme sprig, and continue to cook for another 3 minutes. Add the curry powder, salt and pepper and stir into vegetables. Add cream and turn heat down to low. Keep warm until ready to serve (you may want to thin it out more, and you can do so by adding a tbs of cream or broth until you are satisfied with the consistency).

The Magical moment (in other words; time to eat)

Divide meat into shallow bowls and top with juices and squash. You may also feel like another accompaniment, and I suggest, boiled potatoes, rice, or crusty bread. Divine with just about anything really.