The Nire Valley

The Nire Valley
The Heart of the Comeragh Mountains.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Pignuts wild food in a wild landscape. The Nire Valley

I had a free day last Saturday, when you get a free day don't waste it, so I got up at eight a.m., rucksack packed including a lunch box, with two tomatoes, a tin of sardines, three slices of bread. 

Wood Sorrel
            I headed for a nearby woodland, on the way picking handfuls of Hairy Bittercress, a thin plant with a small white flower that is common and found as a weed in every garden. Hairy Bittercress has a wonderful peppery taste and is one of my favourite wild foods. Soon I am in the forest, a forest of mixed trees; this place is not a dark densely packed forest but a light-airy woodland with sunlight filtering through to the woodland floor. The woodland floor is covered in moss and what I am looking for, Wood Sorrel. 


Wood Sorrel, a three leaved plant that looks like a shamrock and has a bitter lemon taste. The mossy floored forest gives way to open moorland and the mountain, the mountain, to me, is freedom. I can walk for hours here and not meet another living soul; it is you and your ghosts alone. Today's walk is a short one and I soon find my self turning down hill and walking through long abandoned country roads. All the time getting lower the day is getting warmer and I am getting hungrier. By midday I am on the banks of the fast flowing Nire River, keeping a sharp eye open for the plant Ransoms, better known as wild garlic. It is getting late in the year for the plant but eventually I find some, its glossy green oval leaves and white flowers hiding among a small clump of Hazel trees. A few leaves picked and then the hunt for the king of forage foods, Pignuts, which are a tuber and not a nut..  They are scarce now days and hard to find, but I know a spot on the river where they grow After several miles tumbling down the mountain the Nire comes to a rest in a large pool under a wonderful old bridge. On the banks of this pool grows Pignuts. Pignuts do not surrender easily and nature has taught these delicacies a trick or two on survival. You have to trace the stem down underground to the pignut but as you go underground the stem becomes thinner and more frail and then it takes a right angle bend to the nut, if you rush you will either break the stem by pulling too hard on the stem or more than likely cut through the stem at the right angle, patience is always rewarded with a pignut.

Now! My reward for hiking and foraging, I open the tin of sardines decant the contents into the plastic container, add the sorrel, slice the pig nut as thin as possible, then I mix the lot, I spread the mix on bread, then I eat some of the Hairy Bittercress before tucking into to my sardines and forage mix. The Cress is a lovely peppery foretaste for the sandwich, the sorrel adds a sharpness which contrasts with the oily sardines and the pignuts provide crunch. All this is washed down with sweet tea. I dip my feet in the very cold river and relax. With my wild food lunch ate I pack up and head for home.
It is great to spend a day off the beaten track and escape to peace and quite with nature’s bounty all-around you. This Saturday looks good, might escape again.

Nire River. Co Waterford

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