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Using hand tools and draft animals, a family harvests wheat in Ethiopia’s famine-prone highlands.
Small Farmers, Big Questions Large agriculture companies are taking an interest in Africa’s arable land.
Humanitarian groups that deal with global hunger and peasants’ rights call corporate land deals neocolonialism and agri-imperialism.
This land outside Maputo provides a snapshot of Africa’s agricultural choices: Will its food be produced on giant, leveled plantations like Bananalandia (at left) or on small farms, called machambas? Fertile land, skyrocketing demand for soybeans and rice, and a government willing to cut big land deals have put the former Portuguese colony at the center of the land rush sweeping the continent. At left, Mary Mukarukaka, 36, peels and ties maize husks with her children on their farm in Rwanda.
With the right policies, small farmers can be extremely productive, Kuyek says, pointing to the rice farmers of Vietnam or the small dairy farmers in Kenya, who supply more than 70 percent of the nation’s milk. Ajiem Ogalla, 11, scavenges for awieo, an edible shrub, amid corn planted by the Indian firm Karuturi Global, which holds part of a large agricultural lease in Ethiopia’s remote Gambela region.
A few miles down a washboard dirt road from Hoyo Hoyo, a soybean farm run by a retired schoolteacher is an example of a productive middle path.
Gouws believes in a mix of big and little farms, with small farmers raising cattle and tending plots of land as a safety net and source of pride, and big farms like his bringing in roads, power, and infrastructure that the government does not provide. The key is leveraging that investment to yield benefits for all, ensuring secure land rights, thriving markets, and increased productivity on all farms, big and small. Berbera (left), where these sheep and goats are being led to the ship bound for Saudi Arabia, has been a key port for Arab traders since the second century. Berbera, where these sheep and goats are being led to the ship bound for Saudi Arabia, has been a key port for Arab traders since the second century. Workers herd livestock aboard a ship in Berbera, Somaliland, that is headed to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. On a long road in the heart of the proposed ProSavana project, I stop at a mud-brick hut to talk with Costa Ernesto, a 35-year-old farmer, and his wife, Cecilia Luis. Two other men walk up during the conversation, and I ask if they would give up their small farms for a job on a big farm.
Whether Mozambique’s future farmers will look more like industrial farmers in Iowa or the small but productive rice farmers of Vietnam remains to be seen. The magazine thanks The Rockefeller Foundation and members of the National Geographic Society for their generous support of this series of articles. Esther Nyirahabimana winnows soybeans on a small farm in Rwanda, having been given seeds, fertilizer, and training by the nonprofit One Acre Fund. Scientists already knew that the marine invertebrate, which lives in the shallow ocean waters off the Pacific coast of North America, breathes with its butt. The respiratory trees receive oxygen when water is pumped through their anus using the muscles of their cloaca, an opening at the end of the intestinal tract. The sheer amount of water flowing into the anus got two invertebrate biologists thinking—since P.
Their first hint that the sea cucumber anus was doing triple duty came from a structure called the rete mirabile, a set of blood vessels that connect the sea cucumber’s respiratory trees with its gut. Initially, Jaeckle, of Illinois Wesleyan University, and Strathmann, of the University of Washington, thought that the rete mirabile was used to transfer oxygen from the respiratory trees to the gut.
To test their idea, the team fed several sea cucumbers radioactive algae, which also contained iron particles. Not surprisingly, the results showed that the sea cucumbers ate the algae through their actual mouths, which then traveled through their gut. However, the researchers also found a high level of radioactivity when they looked at the rete mirabile.
When the scientists looked at tissue samples from the sea cucumber under the microscope, they found even more hints that P.
In addition, the sea cucumber’s respiratory trees had small, finger-like projections known as microvilli that are normally found in the gut and aid with nutrient absorption.
The authors conclude that although they looked only for evidence of bipolar feeding—the more formal and perhaps polite term for eating with your butt—in one species of sea cucumber, many other species are likely to use this method of feeding. Sea Cucumbers are the most disgusting of all animals, they eat, breath, sh*t and f**k all through the same hole. If it could only talk out it’s butt, the sea cucumber would be a natural in Congress!
National Geographic VoicesResearchers, conservationists, and others around the world share stories and commentary on the National Geographic Society's conversation platform Voices. Society Field Inspection 2016: Gulf of CaliforniaDescribed by Jacques Cousteau as the "aquarium of the world," the Gulf of California in Mexico is threatened by coastal development, climate change, and other human activities. Support National GeographicWe've supported more than 11,000 grants to scientists and others in the field.Learn more about our work. Two years after being discovered deep in a South African cave, the 1,500 fossils excavated during the Rising Star Expedition have been identified as belonging to a previously unknown early human relative that National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Lee Berger and team have named Homo naledi. With at least 15 individuals of all ages and both sexes represented, the find adds an unprecedented amount of information to our understanding of early human evolution in Africa. In addition, the absence of any other animal remains or large debris in the fossil chamber strongly suggests that these non-human beings intentionally deposited their dead within this cave. Cultures around the world have centuries-old food traditions, as seen in these dishes from several different populations. It’s suppertime in the Amazon of lowland Bolivia, and Ana Cuata Maito is stirring a porridge of plantains and sweet manioc over a fire smoldering on the dirt floor of her thatched hut, listening for the voice of her husband as he returns from the forest with his scrawny hunting dog.
With an infant girl nursing at her breast and a seven-year-old boy tugging at her sleeve, she looks spent when she tells me that she hopes her husband, Deonicio Nate, will bring home meat tonight.
Nate left before dawn on this day in January with his rifle and machete to get an early start on the two-hour trek to the old-growth forest. The story is similar for each of the families I visit in Anachere, a community of about 90 members of the ancient Tsimane Indian tribe.
Rosinger introduces me to a villager named José Mayer Cunay, 78, who, with his son Felipe Mayer Lero, 39, has planted a lush garden by the river over the past 30 years.
The Tsimane of Bolivia get most of their food from the river, the forest, or fields and gardens carved out of the forest. As we look to 2050, when we’ll need to feed two billion more people, the question of which diet is best has taken on new urgency. Until agriculture was developed around 10,000 years ago, all humans got their food by hunting, gathering, and fishing. That’s why scientists are intensifying efforts to learn what they can about an ancient diet and way of life before they disappear. So far studies of foragers like the Tsimane, Arctic Inuit, and Hadza have found that these peoples traditionally didn’t develop high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, or cardiovascular disease. Eating meat is thought by some scientists to have been crucial to the evolution of our ancestors’ larger brains about two million years ago. Fast-forward a couple of million years to when the human diet took another major turn with the invention of agriculture. Over the past decade anthropologists have struggled to answer key questions about this transition. When biological anthropologist Clark Spencer Larsen of Ohio State University describes the dawn of agriculture, it’s a grim picture. Despite boosting population numbers, the lifestyle and diet of farmers were clearly not as healthy as the lifestyle and diet of hunter-gatherers.
The Inuit of Greenland survived for generations eating almost nothing but meat in a landscape too harsh for most plants. Year-round observations confirm that hunter-gatherers often have dismal success as hunters. Humans also vary in their ability to extract sugars from starchy foods as they chew them, depending on how many copies of a certain gene they inherit. Studies suggest that indigenous groups get into trouble when they abandon their traditional diets and active lifestyles for Western living.
The latest clue as to why our modern diet may be making us sick comes from Harvard primatologist Richard Wrangham, who argues that the biggest revolution in the human diet came not when we started to eat meat but when we learned to cook.
If Wrangham is right, cooking not only gave early humans the energy they needed to build bigger brains but also helped them get more calories from food so that they could gain weight. The Kyrgyz of the Pamir Mountains in northern Afghanistan live at a high altitude where no crops grow. Nate’s wives are cleaning two armadillos as well, preparing to cook them in a stew with shredded plantains. As family members enjoy the feast, I watch their little boy, Alfonso, who had been sick all week. The people of Crete, the largest of the Greek islands, eat a rich variety of foods drawn from their groves and farms and the sea. Ireland and Northern Ireland have long had the raw ingredients for a world-class cuisine—icy northern waters yielding fresh fish and shellfish, lush green grass for dairy herds, hillside wild herbs for free-ranging lambs, and traditional skills such as butchering, bread making, and whiskey distilling.A widespread gourmet food movement got under way in the last two decades as top Irish chefs landed cooking shows and Michelin stars, revealing the culinary potential and generating enthusiasm. People eat more eggs and poultry than ever, but the world’s reliance on a few high-yielding breeds is edging out hundreds of others: Nearly a third of chicken breeds are at risk of extinction.
Education has helped small farmers become more efficient, but wheat yields are still a third below the world’s average. Thailand currently exports more agricultural products than all sub-Saharan countries combined, and the specter of climate change threatens to hammer Africa’s yields. Yet veterans of agricultural development say the massive infusion of private cash, infrastructure, and technology that such deals may bring to poor rural areas could be a catalyst for desperately needed development—if big projects and small farmers can work together. In 2013 the nation was the third poorest on the planet, with almost half its children under five stunted by malnutrition.
A return to civil unrest is the only thing that could upset the river of cash flowing into Mozambique. Getting a massive corporate farm up and running and turning a profit in the midst of often hostile neighbors is something else entirely. At right, also in Rwanda, 60-year-old farmer Joseph Nindekwet shells beans from this season’s harvest. In 2009 the government signed an agreement with Brazil and Japan to develop an agricultural megaproject dubbed ProSavana, which would make almost 35 million acres of northern Mozambique available for industrial-scale soybean production, possibly the largest such land deal ever reported.
After displacing villagers and cutting down native forests, the company is deeply in debt and struggling to avoid bankruptcy.
Armando Afonso Catxava began growing vegetables in his spare time on a small plot of land and over the years has cobbled together about 64 acres. Farmers each get seven visits a season from the company’s extension agents, who teach them the basics of conservation agriculture and the use of inexpensive seed treatments, instead of expensive fertilizer, to boost yields. Dries Gouws, a former surgeon in Zambia, planted 30 acres of banana trees on a bankrupt citrus farm outside of Maputo 14 years ago.

A recent conference for agricultural investors in New York drew some 800 financial leaders from around the globe who manage nearly three trillion dollars in investments.
In the three years after Saudi Arabia ended its ban on Somali livestock, imports grew fivefold, to three million animals in 2012.
Given their ragged clothing, their swollen bellies, their sod houses, their obvious poverty, the question seems almost unfair.
Small farmers can produce as much per acre as large farms if seeds and fertilizer are affordable. The iron and radioactivity proved an easy way to trace the food as it traveled through the sea cucumber’s body. The only way that those blood vessels could have such a high concentration of radioactivity is if the animal was transferring food from the respiratory trees to the gut via the rete mirabile. Posters and commenters are required to observe National Geographic's community rules and other terms of service. To learn firsthand what's going on in and around this marine treasure of global importance, the National Geographic Society sent its top scientists and officials to the region in January 2016. There he silently scanned the canopy for brown capuchin monkeys and raccoonlike coatis, while his dog sniffed the ground for the scent of piglike peccaries or reddish brown capybaras. José leads us down a trail past trees laden with golden papayas and mangoes, clusters of green plantains, and orbs of grapefruit that dangle from branches like earrings. When I ask if the food in the garden can tide them over when there’s little meat, Felipe shakes his head.
The foods we choose to eat in the coming decades will have dramatic ramifications for the planet. As farming emerged, nomadic hunter-gatherers gradually were pushed off prime farmland, and eventually they became limited to the forests of the Amazon, the arid grasslands of Africa, the remote islands of Southeast Asia, and the tundra of the Arctic. They live on what they find: game, honey, and plants, including tubers, berries, and baobab fruit. Raymond Dart, who in 1924 discovered the first fossil of a human ancestor in Africa, popularized the image of our early ancestors hunting meat to survive on the African savanna.
By starting to eat calorie-dense meat and marrow instead of the low-quality plant diet of apes, our direct ancestor, Homo erectus, took in enough extra energy at each meal to help fuel a bigger brain. As the earliest farmers became dependent on crops, their diets became far less nutritionally diverse than hunter-gatherers’ diets.
It’s true that hunter-gatherers around the world crave meat more than any other food and usually get around 30 percent of their annual calories from animals. The Hadza and Kung bushmen of Africa, for example, fail to get meat more than half the time when they venture forth with bows and arrows.
Our teeth, jaws, and faces have gotten smaller, and our DNA has changed since the invention of agriculture. All humans digest mother’s milk as infants, but until cattle began being domesticated 10,000 years ago, weaned children no longer needed to digest milk. Populations that traditionally ate more starchy foods, such as the Hadza, have more copies of the gene than the Yakut meat-eaters of Siberia, and their saliva helps break down starches before the food reaches their stomachs. There is tremendous variation in what foods humans can thrive on, depending on genetic inheritance. Diabetes was virtually unknown, for instance, among the Maya of Central America until the 1950s.
Our human ancestors who began cooking sometime between 1.8 million and 400,000 years ago probably had more children who thrived, Wrangham says.
When I visited Wrangham’s lab at Harvard, his then graduate student, Rachel Carmody, opened the door of a small refrigerator to show me plastic bags filled with meat and sweet potatoes, some raw and some cooked. In the modern context the flip side of his hypothesis is that we may be victims of our own success. If most of the world ate more local fruits and vegetables, a little meat, fish, and some whole grains (as in the highly touted Mediterranean diet), and exercised an hour a day, that would be good news for our health—and for the planet. We follow her to the cooking hut and smell the animals before we see them—three raccoonlike coatis have been laid across the fire, fur and all. That’s alarming because many varieties have traits, like heat or pathogen resistance, that could be invaluable in the future.
With more than a third of Ethiopians malnourished, the government is courting industrial farms to help close the gap. Since 2007 the near-record prices of corn, soybeans, wheat, and rice have set off a global land rush by corporate investors eager to lease or buy land in countries where acreage is cheap, governments are amenable, and property rights often ignored. Recent discoveries of world-class coal and natural gas deposits in the north as well as other mining and forestry concessions are slowly changing its fortunes. After riots over food prices broke out in Maputo in 2010, President Guebuza fired his agriculture minister and replaced him with Interior Minister José Pacheco, an agronomist, who has continued courting investors at conferences around the world.
Only about 40 men got low-paying jobs as watchmen on the farm, while hundreds were displaced.
The key to corporate farms winning over local communities, he says, is simple: Keep your word.
These included giant pension funds, life insurance companies, hedge funds, private equity funds, and sovereign-wealth funds, which currently have about 5 percent of their combined assets allocated to investments in agriculture.
Both are crucial for the continent to be able to feed its own growing population—much less the rest of the world. Workers herd livestock aboard a ship (right) in Berbera, Somaliland, that is headed to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. They are simply trying to feed their family on two and a half acres of corn, and selling bamboo poles for thatched roofs on the side. Simply giving women the same access to loans, land, seeds, and fertilizers as men could increase food production by as much as 30 percent. For instance, areas of the body with the highest concentrations of radioactivity would provide clues about which orifices the animal was using to eat. They toured the desert islands off the southeastern coast of the Baja Peninsula and they listened to presentations by more than a dozen experts, including several whose Baja California research is funded by the Society. If he was lucky, Nate would spot one of the biggest packets of meat in the forest—tapirs, with long, prehensile snouts that rummage for buds and shoots among the damp ferns.
More than 15,000 Tsimane live in about a hundred villages along two rivers in the Amazon Basin near the main market town of San Borja, 225 miles from La Paz.
The notion that we’re trapped in Stone Age bodies in a fast-food world is driving the current craze for Paleolithic diets. Paleo-diet advocates like Cordain say that if we stick to the foods our hunter-gatherer ancestors once ate, we can avoid the diseases of civilization, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, even acne. Both paleontologists studying the fossils of our ancestors and anthropologists documenting the diets of indigenous people today say the picture is a bit more complicated. Digesting a higher quality diet and less bulky plant fiber would have allowed these humans to have much smaller guts. Or in leaving behind our hunter-gatherer ways to grow crops and raise livestock, did we give up a healthier diet and stronger bodies in exchange for food security? Eating the same domesticated grain every day gave early farmers cavities and periodontal disease rarely found in hunter-gatherers, says Larsen.
As a result, they stopped making the enzyme lactase, which breaks down the lactose into simple sugars. As they’ve switched to a Western diet high in sugars, the rate of diabetes has skyrocketed. Mice raised on cooked foods gained 15 to 40 percent more weight than mice raised only on raw food.
We have gotten so good at processing foods that for the first time in human evolution, many humans are getting more calories than they burn in a day.
Don’t be surprised to see the provenance of menu items listed: Skeaghanore duck, Clonakilty blackpudding, Castlemine Farm dry-aged beef.
Those who managed to get jobs on the giant farm are working seven days a week with no overtime pay. Most land deals have occurred in Africa, one of the few regions on the planet that still have millions of acres of fallow land and plentiful water available for irrigation. National debts are declining, and peaceful elections are being held with increasing frequency.
Will it be poor farmers like Chirime working one-acre plots, who make up roughly 70 percent of the continent’s labor force? The rush to tap these hydrocarbons has ignited Mozambique’s economy, which grew by an estimated 7 percent in 2013. Only about 2.2 million acres are currently unutilized, and those are the worst lands for farming.
Though food production by small farmers has improved over the past few years, 37 percent of the population is undernourished, and the country’s southern region is plagued by droughts and floods. In return he sells his soybeans to the company at an agreed-on price, minus the cost of the services provided. Now Mozambique’s farmers are starting to raise soybeans for feed to supply the booming chicken industry. To help build their nation’s economy, Liberian officials asked the Malaysian company Sime Darby to replant a portion of a nearly 544,000-acre lease with palm and rubber trees, as well as another 109,000 acres that will be managed by small farmers. But Anachere is a two-day trip from San Borja by motorized dugout canoe, so the Tsimane living there still get most of their food from the forest, the river, or their gardens.
What anthropologists are learning about the diets of indigenous peoples like the Tsimane could inform what the rest of us should eat. The popular embrace of a Paleo diet, Ungar and others point out, is based on a stew of misconceptions. The energy freed up as a result of smaller guts could be used by the greedy brain, according to Leslie Aiello, who first proposed the idea with paleoanthropologist Peter Wheeler. When farmers began domesticating animals, those cattle, sheep, and goats became sources of milk and meat but also of parasites and new infectious diseases. New studies suggest that more than a reliance on meat in ancient human diets fueled the brain’s expansion. After humans began herding cattle, it became tremendously advantageous to digest milk, and lactose tolerance evolved independently among cattle herders in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Siberian nomads such as the Evenk reindeer herders and the Yakut ate diets heavy in meat, yet they had almost no heart disease until after the fall of the Soviet Union, when many settled in towns and began eating market foods.
Then his dog spotted a pack of coatis and chased them, killing two as the rest darted up a tree. This made-in-Ireland approach extends to drinks too, with loyalties leaning toward local microbrews and gins produced with Irish botanicals.Farmhouse CheeseCheese making dates back to the days of the monasteries here but nearly died out. Within a few, dusty minutes the one-acre plot near Xai-Xai, Mozambique, which had fed Flora Chirime and her five children for years, was consumed by a Chinese corporation building a 50,000-acre farm, a green-and-brown checkerboard of fields covering a broad stretch of the Limpopo River Delta.
A spokesman for Wanbao denied such allegations and stressed that it’s training local farmers to grow rice.

More than one in three sub-Saharan Africans now own cell phones and use them for mobile banking, to run small businesses, or send money to relatives in rural areas. Or will it be giant corporations like Wanbao, operating industrial farms modeled on those of the American Midwest?
Massive infrastructure projects are springing up, many financed largely by loans from nations eager to curry favor with political leaders and get in on the action. In 2009 Mozambican officials leased the nearly 25,000 acres of an abandoned state farm to a Portuguese company with ties to the government.
But when a group of Brazilian farmers toured the region in 2013, they had a rude awakening.
During that time Gouws’s farm helped turn Mozambique from a banana importer into a banana exporter. Such a massive infusion of private cash, technology, and infrastructure is exactly what global agriculture needs, according to FAO experts, who estimate we’ll need to invest $83 billion a year in agriculture in developing countries to feed two billion more people by 2050.
The eldest, a shy girl named Esvalta, is pounding corn with a wooden pestle as tall as she is, just as her mother and grandmother and great-grandmother did before her. Farmers suffered from iron deficiency and developmental delays, and they shrank in stature. No one eats meat all that often, except in the Arctic, where Inuit and other groups traditionally got as much as 99 percent of their calories from seals, narwhals, and fish. The Kung traditionally rely on tubers and mongongo nuts, the Aka and Baka Pygmies of the Congo River Basin on yams, the Tsimane and Yanomami Indians of the Amazon on plantains and manioc, the Australian Aboriginals on nut grass and water chestnuts.
Groups not dependent on cattle, such as the Chinese and Thai, the Pima Indians of the American Southwest, and the Bantu of West Africa, remain lactose intolerant.
Today about half the Yakut living in villages are overweight, and almost a third have hypertension, says Leonard. It helped get the artisanal food movement going when it was reestablished in the mid-1970s by the makers of Milleens and Coolea cheese. After 25 years of virtually no investment in African agriculture, the World Bank and donor countries have stepped up.
I meet the 52-year-old farmer at a threshing party just outside the Hoyo Hoyo boundary, where two dozen men from the local Roman Catholic church are beating piles of soybeans with wooden clubs.
As the farm grew, Gouws paved roads, built a school and a clinic, dug wells, and ran 34 miles of electrical lines that not only power his irrigation but also supply the surrounding villages where his employees live. My guide, who has worked in agricultural development for 20 years, says the children and parents appear to be stunted from malnutrition. And Tsimane people who eat market foods are more prone to diabetes than those who still rely on hunting and gathering. Sheridans Cheesemongers, with shops in Dublin, Galway, and Kells, features over 50 Irish cheeses in a variety of styles from more than 30 artisan producers in the north and south. The continent is emerging as a laboratory for testing new approaches to boosting food production.
When the Portuguese managers came in, they met with village leaders and promised them double the amount of land to farm elsewhere as well as a school, a clinic, and new wells.
His lowest paid workers make 10 percent more than minimum wage; his tractor drivers and plantation managers make more than double that.
Sample before buying or head to the wine bar above the Galway shop for tasting platters to share.Dromoland Castle in Newmarket-on-Fergus offers an Irish cheeseboard at breakfast, and doubles the size to wind up dinner in its Earl of Thomond Restaurant. China has already built a new airport, the parliament building, the national soccer stadium, and even the new presidential palace overlooking the broad bay in the capital, Maputo. The seven-acre plot, for the moment still controlled by the church, is next to Hoyo Hoyo’s wide-open fields, which stretch toward the green mountains in the distance. For an interesting cheesy creation, head to Gallagher’s Boxty House in Temple Bar, Dublin, for traditional boxty potato dumplings with lick-your-plate Cashel blue cheese sauce.
In 2013 President Armando Guebuza spent a week visiting the new Chinese president with a ten-billion-dollar wish list of new construction projects in hand.
Derry Clarke of Michelin-starred l’Ecrivain in Dublin presents Bellingham blue cheese mousse with black grape confit and pickled walnuts on his ten-course tasting menu.SeafoodThe bounty of the sea is celebrated in festivals and on menus across the island. One of the biggest festivals is the Galway Oyster and Seafood Festival at the end of September. Alternatively, sample Irish bivalves at renowned oyster bars in the Saddle Room at the Shelbourne Dublin and at Mourne Seafood’s Dublin and Belfast locations, serving oysters from County Donegal and County Down, Northern Ireland.
Learn the secrets of the Mourne Seafood chefs in classes at the Belfast Cookery School.Award-winning seafood restaurants include The West in Westport, Mayo, the All-Ireland Chowder Champions for 2012 and 2013. Eithna’s by the Sea in Mullaghmore, Sligo, was named best seafood restaurant for 2014 by Georgina Campbell Guides. Chef Eithna O’Sullivan incorporates local seaweed into entrees, bread, and pesto sauce; her signature dish is lobster, most popularly served as Goan lobster curry. Salmon has been eaten in Ireland since prehistoric times and ties into Celtic mythology—the Salmon of Knowledge was considered the wisest of creatures. Smokehouses around the island smoke salmon with oak, beech, or turf, and restaurants typically serve it as an appetizer with brown bread. Oysters Restaurant in Strabane, Northern Ireland, presents a creative twist with pistachio-crusted, peat-smoked Irish salmon with martini and chive veloute.Ummera Smoked Products in Timoleague, Cork, offers certified organic smoked salmon produced with eco-friendly practices. It’s cured with pure Portuguese sea salt and Costa Rican cane sugar, then smoked over smoldering oak from sustainable forests. Connemara Smokehouse in Ballyconneely, also certified organic, employs a slow process to ensure flavor and texture, fanning beech wood smoke around the fish in the kiln for up to ten hours and storing it in a cool room for another 24 hours.
Take their Wednesday smokehouse tour in the summer to see filleting, salting, smoking, and slicing firsthand.LambThe Irish take pride in lamb from specific regions—Connemara Hill lamb even has geographical protection from the European Union. Mary Gleeson of Gleeson’s Townhouse & Restaraunt, Roscommon, says it’s the sweet, grass-reared Roscommon lamb that makes her stew so tasty and admired.
She cooks it in fresh thyme and rosemary-flavored broth with onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes. The Roscommon Lamb Festival in May offers a chance to taste local lamb cooked a variety of ways.Enjoy Wicklow lamb shanks cooked in red wine and rosemary along with musical merriment and Irish dancers at the Merry Ploughboy Pub in Rathfarnham.
Castle Murray House in Dunkineely, Donegal, has a creative take on Donegal lamb, presenting roast loin and braised breast with confit aubergine and rosemary puree, morel jus, and smoked garlic foam. Air-dried lamb made by McGeough’s Artisan Butcher in Oughterard, Galway, is a flavorful, unique product.
It’s marinated in herbs and spices, air-dried for at least eight months, smoked with beech chippings, and sliced thin like prosciutto.Traditional BreadsSoul-sustaining bread is a staple for the Irish, notably soda bread with a cross cut into the top.
The soda bread master is Peter Ward of Country Choice in Nenagh—heaps of his crusty round loaves are gone before day’s end.
The northern specialty is oatcakes, with artisan baker Robert Ditty setting the standard at Ditty’s Home Bakery & Coffee Shop in Castledawson and Magherafelt, Northern Ireland. The Waterford blaa, a soft white roll dating to the 17th century, now has EU protected status. If you want to learn to make bread yourself, take the ferry from Cunnamore Pier, West Cork, to Heir Island and roll up your sleeves for a one-day course at Firehouse Bakery Bread School with baker Patrick Ryan.TeatimeIreland drinks more tea per capita than any other place in the world except for Turkey.
There are charming tearooms all over Ireland and Northern Ireland, as well as luxury hotels offering elegant high tea.
Miss Courtney’s Tearooms in Killarney, County Kerry, has been family run since 1909 and features antique china tea sets, old-fashioned tablecloths, chandeliers, vintage party photos, and lovely treats. Miss Katie’s Tea Rooms near Blarney Castle specializes in imaginative cupcakes, while the Queen of Tarts in Dublin serves up signature Baileys cheesecake tart—made with Irish cream cheese and Baileys Irish cream—and so much more.For formal high tea with three-tiered presentation, Lough Erne Resort in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, can’t be beat with a table by the log fire, views over the lough, and celebrity chef Noel McMeel’s edible creations. If you’re a chocoholic, go for the Chocolate Afternoon Tea with a Death by Chocolate cocktail. Another impressive-yet-alternative option is the Art Afternoon Tea taken in the Georgian drawing rooms at The Merrion Hotel, Dublin. It features pastries that echo some of the hotel’s famous works of art.Craft Apple Juice and Hard CiderGourmet drinks made with apples—alcoholic and nonalcoholic—are popular in Ireland. These small batch offerings are dry and crisp, not supersweet; some are infused with berries and other flavors. The Apple Farm in Cahir has a farm shop where you can buy apples, as well as sparkling apple juice, hard cider, and apple juice mixed with strawberry, raspberry, or blackcurrant juice. Kilmegan Cider in Dundrum, Northern Ireland, offers hard cider infused with wild elderflowers for a subtle floral finish.Longueville House in Mallow, Cork, is an apple lover’s destination, as the Georgian mansion hotel has apple orchards on the estate. Owner William O’Callaghan makes hard cider and apple brandy that is double-distilled in copper pot stills then aged four years in oak barrels. Try the home-reared pork loin with cider sauce followed by apple tart with apple brandy ice cream and caramel sauce in the restaurant.New Irish GinThere are three newcomers to the gin scene that are made in Ireland with unique botanicals, infusing the spirit with the flavors of the countryside.
Shortcross Gin, made by Rademon Estate Distillery in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, launched in April, incorporating apples, elderberries, and wild clover with classic botanicals such as juniper. It’s completely handcrafted, all the way to signing labels with batch and bottle number.The Exiles Irish Gin launched in May and is the only gin in the world to include shamrocks. It’s also infused with honeysuckle flowers, red clover flowers, rowan berries and bog myrtle, and has floral and citrus notes.
Dingle Original Gin made by Dingle Distillery incorporates fuchsia, heather, bog myrtle, hawthorn, and rowan berries, sourced locally where possible, in its lineup of 16 botanicals to give it the essence of the Kerry landscape.
In its first year, it won a gold medal in the 2013 Irish Food Awards.MicrobrewsAlthough Guinness is pervasive in Irish pubs, there’s a microbrewery boom across Ireland and Northern Ireland, now counting about 40. You’ll be spoiled for choice with more than 200 craft libations at the Irish Craft Beer & Cider Festival in Dublin in September. Mulligan Grocer in Dublin, which pairs each menu offering with a recommended craft beer or (for desserts) whiskey from their list of over 200 craft beers and 300 whiskies.
But the best way to get exclusive access to breweries not normally open to the public with tastings by the brewmaster—if you're lucky—is on a five-day package trip taking in eight to ten breweries with Brewery Hops based in Dublin. Day trips are also occasionally offered.Irish WhiskeyIrish whiskey is one of the fastest growing spirits in the world. There are nearly 200 whiskey expressions, including iconic brands such as Jameson and Bushmills, plus start-ups like Teeling Whiskey. Dublin’s Celtic Whiskey Shop stocks everything available, plus many rare bottlings, and you can sample some of them before buying. Visitor Center in Tullamore, Kilbeggan Distillery founded in 1757 in Kilbeggan, or Old Jameson Distillery in Dublin.
They offer tastings and often carry limited-edition bottlings available only at the distillery. For a more in-depth education, take the two-day whiskey school presented at least five times a year at Dingle Distillery.

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