EUGENE DALY continues his series on various aspects of Irish folklore and customs


Autumn is the time for harvesting the crops – not just the cultivated crops but also the wild and free. Here are some of the herbs and fruits with which most of us are familiar.

The apple is the most common eaten fruit in Ireland and there are many crab apple trees growing in the hedgerows around the countryside. Eve took a bite of the apple and handed it to Adam and that was the end of the Garden of Eden.

The French for apple is pomme, which comes from the Latin, pomum, which simply means fruit of any type. That the apple in French can also mean any other fruit, surely shows how very important it is.

In the Middle Ages, St. Hildegarde did not confine herself to the fruit, but also recommended the flowers and leaves for eye complaints. St. Hildegard of Bingen was a brilliant herbalist who believed God gave us herbs for health. She was the first woman to write a book on medicine and herbe.

The apple is not only a fruit of health, it is also a fruit of beauty. In Irish the apple is úll, but has other meanings also. Ulla clis are juggling balls; úll mairt a thigh bone of beef; úll na scórnaí, the Adam’s Apple; ag caitheamh úlla san úllord, throwing apples into an orchard–a waste of time, like bringing coals to Newcastle.

The Dog-Rose, Rosa Canina or Feirdhris in Irish, has beautiful pale pink or white flowers and is a well loved sight in Irish hedgerows in summer. It is closely related to the cultivated or garden rose, of which there are thousands of varieties and is a symbol of love and beauty.

Its fruit, the bright red rosehips, were considered a useful source of food in ancient times. It is recognised as an important source of vitamins C and D. Rosehips are orange-red and egg shaped; it is full of downy seeds that tickle the skin, and practical jokers like to drop them down people’s necks. If the rosehips are emptied of their seeds, dried and stored during the winter in a well-aired place, they will be ready the following spring to cleanse the blood. The rosehips have a great variety of names; itchy back, Jacky Dorys, Johnny Magories, etc.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own