August 2008

August – Weeks 1, 2 and 3.

More chanterelles, more wild cherries. We think it’s odd that the several fairly old cherries in a hedge line from which we gather the fruits all seem to produce fruits of varying sweetness and colour when ripe. One is almost black, another, barely red. All delicious, though. Any theories, anyone?

One long walk on 10th produced in addition to a sack of chanterelles, Plums -and-Custard mushrooms (Tricholomopsis), Birch Boletes and larch Boletes, and tawny grisettes. The chanterelles from this trip we dried, by threading them onto cotton and hanging them as garlands in our warm shed. When they are nearly dry I will de-thread them and spread them on trays over the boiler to finish before putting them in tightly sealed jars for the winter.

On the 11th, I macro-foraged! In that I went sea angling from Arbroath with friends, and caught 7 big mackerel. I hadn’t been before and must admit the sea was choppy and a tad nauseous, but I got over it and would definately like to go again. As my friends were going on holiday the day after, I managed to “forage” (borrow? steal?) 5 of their fishies too to make a round dozen which I have cleaned, filleted and frozen, or eaten. The same day, Andrew brought home a bag of field mushrooms he’d found at work, which I turned into a delicious soup.

Then we went on a week’s holiday to Norfolk, and got to try out some wild foods on Andrew’s unsuspecting (or suspecting?) family. At Holkham Beach we gathered samphire, oh how I love samphire and it especially nice after being exiled from this East Anglian delicacy for a couple of decades. Steamed for 15 minutes and tossed in butter, this unprepossessing-looking product of mudflats with its fleshy, salty stems is incomparable. We didn’t gather any more, no-one seemed that enthused except us, but perhaps we shouldn’t have inflicted the seaweed Sea Lettuce on them in the same meal. Filamentous pale green sheets you’d think wouldn’t take much to cook, but in fact it was a bit chewy. Next time I would make more of a meal of it, with some flavouring, longer cooking, combined with mushrooms perhaps…. not really a side vegetable with roast pork. The apple sauce, though, was made with a combination of wilding apples from the hedgerow, “scrumped” eaters from an abandoned garden, and wild water mint, and it went very nicely. Likewise, we all enjoyed (I think that’s the word) the mind-banditing sharpness of Sea Buckthorn berries growing on the dunes near Old Hunstanton, and Andrew brought the pips home in a hankie…..

We kept a supply of fungi going through the week – puffballs, horse mushrooms, grisettes etc. – some of which were appreciated, the rest we just ate ourselves.

Horse Mushroom

Horse Mushroom

I was specially excited by the Roman mushrooms – found while exploring the site of a Roman fort at Brancaster. Resisted some big Parasol Mushrooms (Lepiota procera) at Wretham Heath – after all it was a nature reserve – look forward to finding some more before the summer’s out.

Parasol Mushroom

Parasol Mushroom

Back home, we realised the fridge was empty so went out after more chanterelles and found, in addition, an absolute HORDE of Boletus edulis, the Cep or King Bolete. However, most of them were coated in white and contorted or deformed in a most sinister looking way. We think – but please educate us if you know better – these specimens had been affected by the torrential rain which had obviously been plaguing Perthshire in our absence and fallen foul of some predatory fungus themselves. Luckily there were some good specimens, as well as a variety of other boletes and the first Slippery Jacks. We have cleaned, sliced and set these to dry for winter, but the Ceps are for tea tonight. While out we snacked on some lovely little wild gooseberries, and checked the progress of rowan berries in general.

July – Third Week

July – Third Week
Rowan and I were camping on Mull this week, at Fionnphort in the far south west of the island, right by the beach. We stopped at a wood on the way over to Oban for a picnic, and had a walk. “Bet I can find something to eat” I said, and lo, there were hordes of delicious blaeberries (bilberries) just asking to be picked. A German couple were already tucking in so we wasted no time in collecting a bag each to serve as snacks for our camping trip. We finished them the first night though – Rowan turned purple. “You can never have too much fruit Mum,” she frowned as I suggested she might want to slow down. Later in the week she repeated it as she foraged a hedge in Salen for wild raspberries. Also in the little wood I found some Orange Peel Fungus on the path – a flavourless but attractive ascomycete we saved for breakfast.

ENTEROMORPHA INTESTINALIS
Being by the beach, seaweed had to be on the menu. Enteromorpha is bright green, roughly cylindrical and looks like a pile of translucent, irridescent guts where it grows in profusion in rock pools and shallow sea. But don’t be put off – we had it stir-fried in butter with a single field mushroom we found in the hills and it was delicious.

Enteromorpha - an edible seaweed

Enteromorpha - an edible seaweed

I threw in some Serrated Wrack (Fucus ?) as well, but the meths ran out in the trangia and I think it could have done with longer cooking.

On Iona, we found some wonderful flowers on the machair, but the only wild food was Crowberry, with black berries, and I couldn’t remember if they were edible so we didn’t. Apparently, they are – this month I seem to be getting to grips with all these odd “something-berry” plants.

July 2008 – Week 2

Andrew brought down from the Cairngorms some fruits of Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus), which we hadn’t seen before let alone tasted. They grow up in the boggy bits of mountains. They tasted a bit watery, but perhaps they weren’t really ripe.

Another month or two, they would have been soft and apparently juicy – at this stage they can be used in jams, puddings and crumbles. Maybe another time!

Cloudberry

July 2008 – Week 1

Discovered the first Tawny Grisettes (Amanita fulva) in a local wood – rather dry and battered but fingers crossed for rain and more. It dropped spores on the kitchen counter overnight but didn’t get et. Andrew reports Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) now a bit tough, but still lemony-sharp. Elderflowers have been picked and processed into wine, cordial and fritters so far. Gooseberry and elderflower jam in process of being made. Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus)¬†growing high up on the Birnam Oak – the last of the trees of Birnam Wood that DIDN’T make it to Dunsinane. Jack-by-the-Hedge leaves still good in salads (Alliara petiolaris). Wild strawberries mixed with garden raspberries and blended with home-made blackcurrant cordial make the most astounding smoothies. Tried some Brooklime (Veronica beccabunga) in salad – alright I suppose if you like a bitter taste. Gathered firewood from fallen branches.
Tawny Grisette

Tawny Grisette