For the Irish, rather than a chicken soup, it’s a tasty, creamy mushroom soup that warms the heart and quiets the soul. Yes, the Irish are also avid mushroom lovers. In fact, they have almost a hundred all original Irish, mushroom recipes. Think meals with healthy, wild mushrooms, and a nice, cold, Irish beer on the side.
Enter Killegar. About four years ago, members of the Northern Ireland Fungus Group and the Irish Mycologists’ Society stumbled upon many species of mushrooms not yet documented, thriving at the Killegar Estate. Much of the wild mushrooms were edible and the fungus lovers were excited to have discovered this great, largely unspoiled mushroom land. They then decided to hold the annual International Mushroom Festival in Killegar to create awareness about the commonly misunderstood wild mushroom. Organizers say the festival will help educate people on how mushrooms can be beneficial to humans by simply knowing which species are edible and safe to eat.
Killegar is of course the best venue for the festival, not only because of its rare mushrooms, but because it has this unique significance to Ireland’s history. Built in the 19th century, the Killegar house is one of the oldest ancestral homes in Country Leitrim. It sits on a large estate beside Lough Kilnemar, a small lake that has witnessed centuries of the rich history of this small town that used to be called Craigstown. The Killegar house by itself is a splendid, architectural marvel. But unfortunately, time and age, as well as poor maintenance, have faded its old glory.
To help in repairing and refurbishing Killegar, the Northern Ireland Fungus Group has decided to make the International Mushroom Festival not only an educational endeavor but a fund-raising activity as well. That means everyone who will register as participants in the festival will enjoy the excitement of foraging for rare wild mushrooms, and at the same time help preserve the Killegar home by contributing to the ‘Save Killegar’ campaign.
The festival promises to be a one-of-a-kind experience for outdoor enthusiasts. Members of the Mycologists Society will guide participants to forage through the estate and educate them on how to spot edible mushrooms. And Killegar, as well as the rest of North West Ireland, is a picturesque rural location that’s great for souvenir photos.
But what’s really enticing is that the festival also features some of Ireland’s finest chefs who will cook the newly harvested mushrooms right before your eyes. The dishes will then be served at an outdoor picnic where everyone gets a taste of the delicious dishes and learn about the recipe from the chefs themselves.