Nettle cake, anyone? The way forager and garden designer Kloë Wood describes her version of it, you’ll be asking for seconds. Like a Jamaican ginger cake, it’s moist and has a stickiness to it, but it’s also velvety, bright green and utterly delicious, she says.
And it’s packed full of nutrients. Nettles contain more protein than most leafy greens and they are full of iron. Kloë Wood and Adam Carveth, a Royal Horticultural Society-trained gardener, are so excited by nettles that they have found a way of harvesting them year-round to use in pestos, pizza, lots of nettle cake, even homebrewed beer.
The couple — in life and in business — are passionate about the environment, wildlife and food and have spent the last 18 months crafting Two Green Shoots, a brand that celebrates all of their passions.
Their latest addition is the garden of reimagination, a magical Willy Wonka-inspired edible paradise designed to nourish people — and places. You can sample what’s on offer in a two-hour taste tour that starts the moment you arrive. The entrance avenue is lined with fruit trees (mulberry, pear and cherry and many others) while a nuttery slope is planted with heartnuts.
“They grow very well in Ireland and are especially romantic as you crack them open to discover a little heart-shaped nut,” Kloë, a native of Goleen and Glengarriff, explains.
Once inside, visitors are invited to literally eat the garden, with topiary that tastes of bubble-gum. For the sweet-toothed, there is the aforementioned nettle cake, but also barberry jam — like a cross between blackcurrant and blueberry — and wonderful wild strawberries.
There are endless savoury possibilities too. Wood sorrel pesto, salads with a splash of vivid colour from the daylilies now in bloom. “They are bright orange with flecks of scarlet red and have a lovely fresh floral flavour,” Kloë tells Feelgood.
Bittercress cheese soufflé is another favourite at this time of year. Bittercress is a tiny white-flowered plant with leaves that taste like rocket. It grows wild in almost every garden, but most people probably consider it a weed and add the delicious leaves to their compost heaps rather than their dinner plate, Kloë says.
She and her partner met in Cornwall almost seven years ago through a community gardening project Kloë was running as a volunteer while completing a PhD with the European Centre for the Environment and Human Health. Adam was working as a gardening columnist and running his own gardening business.
In 2017, Kloë was drawn home when her parents, who run the interactive sculpture garden, The Ewe Experience in Glengarriff, were thinking of putting the house on the market.
Instead, she and Adam Carveth took it over and now, just a year and a half later, have succeeded in reclaiming a lost garden hidden under the jungle of rhododendrons that had taken hold in the grounds.
“We gleefully went for it and we were astonished by what we found,” says Kloë. They uncovered steps leading to a sunken garden; a stone stairway that wends its way through the garden; little fountains and the remains of terraced walls, all of which had been put in place by a Mrs Hardstaff during the 1940s.
“We call her Mrs Hardstuff because of what she did. She spent 10 years creating a complete wonderland inspired by a visit to Garnish Island. We’d love to find out more about them if anyone knows anything.”
For now, though, the focus is on the taste tours and feasts that will run right through the summer until September. Visitors are introduced to the plants and then invited to try rare edible plants, such as the pink flamingo tree and Dahlia tubers. The feast itself includes a savoury and sweet dish and a drink, all made from freshly harvested produce from the garden.
There is foodie fun for children too with Seaweed Six Ways, a two-hour workshop on August 24 when they can learn, among other things, how to make jellies from carrageen moss.
If you find it hard to leave — and you might — you can stay in the Botanical B&F (Bed and Feast) or go glamping in a forest clearing with mountain views.
If you are looking for a fruity, non-alcoholic drink for the summer evenings, check out two new flavours from Naturally Cordial, the Wexford-based range made by Clodagh Davis. The flavours, fragrant orange and lemon & lime, are available in new smaller, 330ml party-size bottles, at €3.49 per bottle.
Two other Naturally Cordial flavours are available in the smaller size too; Wexford blackcurrant and strawberry, and cucumber & lime. The cordials can be enjoyed diluted with still or sparkling water or in a mocktail or cocktail. For stockists and ideas, see www.naturallycordial.ie
Looking for a good summer foodie experience, but just don’t know where to start? Good Food Ireland has just launched a website that allows you to book a range of food and drink experiences throughout Ireland.
The experiences range from hands-on bread-baking to foraging along the Wild Atlantic Way. See www.goodfoodireland.ie
Anyone who grows their own tomatoes will tell you that there’s absolutely no comparison between shop-bought and homegrown ones. Take time out to visit the National Botanical Gardens where Ireland’s green-fingered growers display over 250 varieties of this nutritious fruit.
Last year, there was a record-breaking 256 varieties at the Totally Terrific Tomato Festival.
This year, the event runs in the Teak House at the National Botanical Gardens in Dublin from August 17 to September 1. If you want to get in on the action entries are accepted Friday August 16 and Saturday August 17.
Some low-income families have to spend up to one third of their entire income on a basic food shop, according to new research from Safefood. The study also found that those households have higher levels of obesity.
Dr Marian O’Reilly, Safefood chief Specialist in nutrition, said the organisation supported low-income households through its Community Food Initiatives programme and its START campaign, which aims to help achieve “small wins” in the weekly food basket that can have a positive impact on health.