The Wild Irish Foragers & Preservers
The custodian's eye works like a microscope.
Miniscule changes that elude the casual observer are noted, recorded, remembered. The changes from year to year form a cultural rolodex: the yield from the crab apples; the profusion of dandelions in late spring; are the elderberries early or late, compared to last year?
The custodian observes, at the microscopic level. But without a microscope.
Sharon and Gordon Greene, who run the Wild Irish Company, call themselves “custodians”, and their custodianship of their 50-acre farm, at Shinrone near to Birr in County Offaly, means tending to the most microscopic detail: collecting the elderflower berries; collecting the dandelion flowers; hauling in the crab apples; avoiding the thorns to get the rosehips.
But if their attention to detail is microscopic, their canvas is enormous: on the 50 acres, there are 20 miles of hedgerow to pore over. 20 miles! Mile after mile of budding fruit, of berries, of seed heads. And after Gordon has foraged, Sharon gets to with the alchemy, so the dandelion flowers are formed into a preserve, old recipes from bygone days, old recipes that understood culturally – through attention to detail, to recording difference – what we can today diagnose scientifically: dandelion flowers are a source of leicithin, and leicitin helps our liver function, as well as increasing the brain's acetylcholine. Liver and brain tonic in one little bottle of delicious, precious preserve.
The Wild Irish Foragers & Preservers is a precious venture. The Greenes produce precious potions, forgotten foods. But they don't just brighten our breakfast bowls and dinner plates. They also reveal to us what we overlook, they make tangible what we disregard. That taste of dandelion flower preserve that comes at you with the spoonful of breakfast porridge does two things: it thrills the palate, but it also makes you look at each and every dandelion in a different way. You begin to look, microscopically, seeing the individual beauty and character, the promise, the potential. Sharon and Gordon have refocused your gaze.
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