The plants displayed in the UCD History of the Irish Diet in Plants garden visually illustrate changes in the Irish diet over the past 8000 years.

The garden is divided into five distinct sections: Early Settlers; First Farmers; Medieval Traders; Industrial Society and Modern Day, with each section representing a time period that led to dramatic changes in our diet and reflects archaeological and modern agricultural evidence for changing food preferences.

Each section within the garden is divided by a metal rill and displays key food plants related to the time period. The chosen plants reflect evidence from archaeological excavations and historical records, which highlight changing food choices in Ireland over several millennia.

Each of the five sections has one featured plant along with a number of the plants listed below:

Featured Plants

Each of the five sections has one featured plant which are highlighted below. A more extensive list of plants which feature in each section is listed under the images.

Early Settlers

Year: 8000 years ago
Name: Yellow Water-lily
Description: Seeds of Nuphar lutea (L.) Sm. (yellow water-lily) have been recorded at archaeological excavations of Mesolithic sites in Ireland. The seeds are preserved because they were buried in wet conditions (waterlogged) or burnt (charred), which enables fragile plant material to survive for thousands
of years. Read More…

First Farmers

Year: 5700 years ago
Name: Emmer Wheat
Description: Grains and chaff of Triticum dicoccon Schrank (emmer wheat) have been recorded at many archaeological excavations of Neolithic sites in Ireland. Read More…

Medieval Traders

Year: 700 years ago
Name: Fat-hen
Description: While cultivated foods were important, wild foods remained
a key element of people’s diets in medieval Ireland. Seeds of Chenopodium album L. (fat-hen) are often found at archaeological excavations of medieval sites. Read More…


Year: 200 years ago
Name: Potato
Description: Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum L.) were a key food for many people in early-19th century Ireland. Much land was given over to the growing of different varieties of potatoes to support a rapidly expanding population, with smallholders playing an important role in production. Read More…

Modern Day

Year: 21st century
Name: Chilli
Description: Chilli peppers belong to the Capsicum (pepper) genus, and they reflect our shift towards a more globalised diet. While chilli peppers can be grown indoors in Ireland, most are imported. Read More…

Plant List

Listed below are a selection of six plants from each period including their uses. All of these plants appear in the garden.

To download a full list of all plants used in the garden – click here