22 Sep 2020
As Ireland’s fertile fields and pristine coastal waters yield rich returns, autumn is the best time to explore two of the island’s top culinary delights.
With the consumption of juicy bivalves having been a tradition in Ireland for over 4,000 years, the oyster competes with the potato as the national symbol of Ireland’s food.
The native oyster (Ostrea edulis) is of tremendous cultural value in Ireland; its farming and cultivation have been central to Wild Atlantic Way and other coastal communities for centuries.
Native oysters are the only species that spawns in Ireland’s temperate waters, which usually happens in the summer months from May to August. This explains why the Irish oyster season kicks off in September and gives rise to the foodie tradition that dictates only eating wild oysters during months containing the letter ‘r’.
Irish oysters are rich and varied in taste according to the bay where they are grown, with the particular blend of sea water, clean freshwater rivers and minerals from an unspoilt landscape making each one a unique taste experience.
Oyster experiences abound on the island of Ireland, with the Galway International Oyster Festival the most popular and well-known. Described by The Sunday Times as “one of the 12 greatest shows on earth” it is the oldest oyster festival in the world and one of Europe’s longest-running food extravaganzas.
For more intimate tastes of your favourite bivalve, the Shuck-Off Oyster Experience in County Clare offers an immersive and humorous introduction to the world of oysters. Here, guests are invited into an oyster holding and packing premises where they receive an educational workshop into the biology of oysters, how they are farmed, how their environment influences their taste, and how they are graded and packed for the domestic and export markets.
After learning how to open oysters, the shellfish can be tasted fresh from the sea in an ‘all you can eat’ experience, complete with condiments, dressings and a glass of wine.
Apples have also long been associated with Ireland’s autumn harvest, Halloween feasts, and of course County Armagh, where the unique texture and flavour of the Armagh Bramley has earned it a reputation as the king of culinary apples.
A celebration of the Orchard County’s much-prized apple is officially back on the menu this autumn as the Armagh Food and Cider weekend safely returns with an exciting new line-up of events.
Taking place from 24 – 27 September, there will be fine foods, foraged lunches, cookery masterclasses, cider tasting, tours, talks and fiction amongst the apple-laden orchards.
Combined with award-winning ciders and the most stunning surroundings, this will be a real harvest season treat in one of Northern Ireland’s top foodie destinations.
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