Gorgeous sunny evening. A quiet beach with dancing lights on the water. Toes just beg to be dipped in gentle waves. An empty razor clam shell floats beachward, carried on the tide. One Good Food Ireland team member remembers childhood summer holidays spent finding razor clams on a West Cork beach. Filling their holes in the sand with salt till the unsuspecting creatures pop up to be harvested. This is why foragers love beachcombing. You don’t know what kind of free food you might find. Beach foraging is an art – if you fancy trying it, we suggest you seek out an experienced forager to go with you the first time. Or the wisdom of a good book. Not all shellfish can be eaten straight off the beach or rocks. Wild mussels sometimes pick up toxins not harmful to them, but certainly harmful to humans. They must be purged thoroughly before eating. Cockles and winkles can be collected by raking the sand at low tide – essential to make sure you are on a clean, safe beach, with no chance of the tide coming in around you as you forage. Seaweeds are popular foraged foods in Ireland. Certain types, like Carrigeen Moss, are used in an old fashioned dessert recipe pioneered by Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe House. In Galway, Good Food Ireland chefs Jess Murphy of Kai Restaurant and JP. McMahon of Aniar and Eat at Massimo use foraged seafood and seaweeds on their menus. These professionals know what they are looking for, or know the people that do. Beach foraging makes a great day out. The golden rule is to do it safely and conscientiously when it comes to amounts. (Preferably in the company of an expert the first time round.) Then leave the beach in the condition you found it – be respectful to our bounteous shorelines and the wild beauty of nature. They are there for us all to enjoy.