The garden is divided into 5 sections based on key changes that led to our modern Irish diet, reflecting archaeological and modern agricultural evidence for changing food preferences over time:
Section 1 ‘Early Settlers’ → Section 2 ‘First Farmers’ shows how the introduction of farming changed the original landscape with woods and lakes but no fields to a landscape where land was cleared for the first fields, pushing woodland to the field edges. Gathered foods were not abandoned, however, when farming was introduced to Ireland and they continued to play an important role in the diet.
Section 2 → Section 3 ‘Medieval Traders’ illustrates more prevalence of imported foods, adding baskets and containers filled with produce that was not grown in Ireland e.g. figs and grapes, as well as changing crop and other food preferences.
Section 3 → Section 4 ‘Industrial scoiety’ – shows the introduction of mechanisation, transport and refrigeration, with very formal, organised fields in the landscape. This period introduced the possibility of widespread transportation of food and food storage by refrigeration.
Section 4 → Section 5 ‘Modern Day’ – illustrates globalisation in trade resulting from improved communication and transportation which has resulted in Ireland having unrestricted access to globally grown foods.
Each of the 5 sections will contain a selection of key food plants related to the time period. Foods in the first section will be grown amongst a variety of other wild plants, reflecting the lack of fields and landscapes from which food was procured. In the final section, food crops will be strictly segregated into crop types in a highly organised field system and will also include imported foods. Moving from section 1 to section 5 will illustrate the transition in the Irish diet.
Each section will be divided at ground level by a rill to show the critical importance of water, both in the human diet for hydration, and for plant growth. A small pond in the first section will show our early reliance on fish and will depict some unusual early foods e.g. the seeds of white and yellow water-lilies. After this time, the Irish shifted towards a more terrestrial-based diet, and marine and lacustrine resources remain a relatively small component of our diet today.
The 5 sections will also be divided on the rear wall. Each section will contain words explaining the time period e.g. Medieval Traders, along with high-quality images relating to that time. The images include reconstructions of archaeological sites excavated in advance of road construction projects by Transport Infrastructure Ireland.