Eating what’s in season celebrates the best of what’s fresh as well as benefits your health and the environment. What is seasonal eating? One of our Luxury Gold hosts who’s happy to answer that question and who lives, breathes—and cooks—this philosophy is Tracey of Tracey’s Farmhouse. We’d like to introduce you to Tracey and the warm, home-hosted meal and MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience you can expect in her cottage on our Ultimate Ireland tour. As we celebrated World Food Day on October 16th, a chat with Tracey highlights why eating what’s in season is so important.
In Northern Ireland’s Strangford Lough just a half hour from Belfast, you can find Tracey stepping out of her 17th Century thatched cottage on the water’s edge to greet arriving guests. With an easy smile and the aim to “make the guests feel as much at home as I can,” Tracey extends a heartfelt welcome. Once inside Tracey’s cozy home, guests sit down to coffee, tea and Soda Bannock freshly baked.
After settling in, Tracey offers a 15–20-minute demonstration of how to make traditional Irish soda bread. With just two ingredients—buttermilk and flour—that aren’t weighed or measured, Tracey’s recipe is a testament to how a few fresh, local ingredients are all you need for a delicious dish. One or two guests lend a hand as Tracey cooks the bread on the griddle. Guests can also get involved in making lunch before the meal is shared. The fresh-off-the griddle bread is topped with butter “from a little farm down the road” that was even used for Harry and Megan’s wedding. Paired with the best of what’s in season, a meal at Tracey’s Farmhouse is a congenial feast celebrating the best of what’s good right here, right now.
What guests love about it
Beyond the fresh baked bread, local butter and hearty meal, Tracey comments that guests say, “we feel we’ve shared your home with you.” The family atmosphere is what makes the experience and what Tracey deliberately weaves into the visit. She takes guests down to her garden and gives them the opportunity to pick eggs and help with the hens. “They love the interaction with the animals,” she notes. A visit to Tracey’s Farmhouse is the type of authentic travel experience guests seek out but can be hard to find. Tracey provides this experience—while supporting seasonal eating.
Why Tracey cooks and eats seasonally
Why is eating what’s in season important? “The taste alone,” Tracey explains. “When you eat broccoli and cauliflower that hasn’t been flown in, the ingredients sing for themselves. They don’t need a sauce or a sprinkling of herbs.” From garden vegetables to that delicious butter from down the road, Tracey says, “I try to work with what I have and … base my menu around what’s available.” Eating what’s in season also supports the local producers, shops and the environment. “Because it’s seasonal then those foods are locally obtained” and “you’re cutting out travel.”
Why eating seasonally is better for your health
Those locally obtained foods do a lot for our health, too. Foods that require travel to get to their destination often need additives or processing. When you’re eating seasonally, “you don’t have all the preservatives or additives,” Tracey points out. Tracey’s two-ingredient Irish soda bread is a perfect example. Because of the fresh, local ingredients and absence of preservatives, it may only be good for two days. But those two days of enhanced fresh flavors are worth her while. In fact, from tarts and cakes to soups and salads, Tracey’s always cooking up something for herself and her guests.
What Tracey’s eating now
So, of course we had to ask Tracey what’s in season now. At the time of this conversation, an abundance of blackberries and black currents are keeping Tracey busy whipping up pies, tarts, crumbles and cakes of all kinds. For lunch and dinner fare, a bowl of homemade soup using vegetables from the garden accompanied by homemade bread is just right. Our mouths watering, we asked Tracey what’s good the rest of the year.
As we move into cooler weather, you may be wondering what to eat in autumn. Tracey expects a good crop of Kohlrabi, cabbage and apples she’ll use in a crumble. Rhubarb is especially good in late summer and early fall as Tracey comments, “Your guests seem to love the idea of rhubarb.”
Winter in Northern Ireland brings chestnuts, Brussel sprouts and root vegetables that will make their way into savory tarts and soups. Deciding what to eat in winter can be as simple as digging a bit in the dirt to find that brightly colored carrot, beet or parsnip.
What to eat in spring is easily answered with a hearty crop of spring greens perfect for salads. The rhubarb that Luxury Gold guests have come to love also makes its first appearance in spring.
Tracey tackles what to eat in summer by cooking lighter fare from simple salads to tarts using vegetables from the garden. Some of her favorites are spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, beetroot leaves, nasturtium flower, radishes and red onion.
The mighty spud
It may come as no surprise that in Northern Ireland potatoes are a favorite local staple all year long. Tracey has a particular spring favorite, the Comber Earlies. These small potatoes are so tasty on their own. All Tracey says you need to do is “wipe the soil off and steam with a little bit of salt with scallion or spring onions.” Sounds delicious to me, Tracey. We hope to see you at Tracey’s Farmhouse soon.
Where will your Britain and Ireland travels take you?