Yet again, Evan Doyle and the Crew at BrookLodge, Macreddin Village have surpassed themselves with this year’s offering of Wild&Slow. Each year, Slow Food Sugarloaf presents their annual Wild and Slow Celebration. The day commences with a Wild Foods Masterclass where Evan, and his head chef James, talk us through all the wild foods they have foraged and preserved throughout the year, the majority of which will be presented at the celebratory dinner that evening. It is truly awe inspiring to learn that the preparations for that evening’s dinner have been 12 months in the making!
Starting in December last year, they save the sloes that were used to make that year’s batch of Sloe Gin and the Rowanberries from the flavoured vodka and make Drunken Sloes and Drunken Rowanberries. In March they make their famed Wild Garlic Pesto. May sees them tapping the Birch trees for sap to make the Birch Tree Booze. For me, July sees the hardest of all foraging expeditions, the Wild Bilberry. This plant is very low growing and grows in abundance all over the Wicklow Mountains. Its minute berries are hidden underneath its leaves so the only successful way to pick them is to shuffle around the Wicklow hillsides on your bottom!
August, September and October are the forager’s bountiful months, with blackberries and mushrooms galore, as well as crab apples, rosehips, elderberries, sloes, woodruff as well as honey made from the wild flowers surrounding BrookLodge. November signals the start of the Game season and we were treated to Sika deer, Widgeon, Wood Pigeon, Snipe and Mallard.
I know this sounds very much like a restaurant review, but the Annual Wild Foods Dinner is a truly special occasion, celebrating the abundance of wild foods Wicklow has to offer and which are free for all of us to take. If you want to learn more about foraging, Evan (and the late Biddy White Lennon) prepared Foraging Templates for the very first Wild&Slow in 2014 – these are available to download from the Wild&Slow website.
Although Wild&Slow first started as a two-day festival with a forager’s market, workshops and the celebratory dinner, Evan has been foraging and using wild foods in his restaurant “The Strawberry Tree” for over thirty years. He really is one of Ireland’s true food heroes and deserves to be recognised as such.
Below is this year’s amazing celebratory dinner:
*Belderrig Spray – might or might not contain Poitin!