September and October Catch-up

September passed in a bit of a blur, to begin with – as always the start of this month dominated by the Dundee Flower Show and its pre-math and aftermath, coupled with the start of a new term at the college, which was more complicated than usual!

So what follows is by way of a summary for a month that is actually a good one for foragers usually – just needed a bit more time in our case.

On 10th, I foraged along Crieff Road in Perth for fruits and nuts for purely educational reasons, but noted some excellent elderberries on campus, and some tedious municipal planting yielded a nice bag of Japonica quinces (Chaenomeles japonica). These fragrant fruits (they are pomes to be exact) make a lovely addition to fruit pies and puddings. Blackberries ripe trailing over our back wall from the neighbours – started to harvest and freeze them.

angels20wings20web

 

On 14th, we went fungi-foraging and netted some Slippery Jacks, one Cep, Bay Boletes and several Angel’s Wings. Angel’s Wings are Pleurotellus porrigens, related to Oyster Mushroom but subject to some doubt in internet circles as a couple of folk in Japan once were ill on them. We’ve eaten them regularly for quite a while, and so have many others, so I am suspicious about the identification in the case in question. Worth bearing in mind, though that people can react differently to individual species, hence the confusion when one book says “edible” and another says “best avoided” or similar ambiguous verbage. The other find on the 14th comes into this category – Plums and Custard (Tricholomopsis rutilans). It’s easy to identify because Plums and Custard perfectly describes the colouring, so is good to eat on that score. Can be slightly bitter, but we eat it anyway. Braised it with shoulder of lamb and cranberries from our garden.

 

On 19th, it was rowan berries day. Collected a big heap of them and made rowan jelly – delicious. That week, the boletus and chanterelles I dried in July and August were put into jars for winter use, and noted the rose hips were looking good. Shaggy Ink Caps were spotted at the college, but turned to ink before I could pick them. On 26th, we raided one of our usual haunts and found, apart from the usual fungal suspects which we rounded up, a new one – Hydnum (or Sarcodon) imbricatum – a type of Hedgehog Fungus. They were tea-plate sized, scaley fruiting bodies by the edge of the path, quite spectacular. As we had never seen it before we only took one for identification, and I’m glad because they are apparently quite rare, pinewoods in Scotland being the preferred habitat. Edible though – and delicious!

Puffballs were taken with roast beef on 28th, and a dessert of blaeberries, brambles and cranberries completed Sunday Dinner.

October

Now I look at it, October is also at an end!

On 4th, we harvested a large crop of wild hazelnuts from the plantation, and so did our friends. There were plenty left for the two wild food workshops we held this month, but I seriously think it is time to coppice the hazels – the nuts are getting too high to reach! We gathered rosehips too and made syrup, and brambles continued to provide sustenance and desserts.

Removed a large Sweet Cicely that had seeded itself in the wrong place in the garden, and turned the large fat roots into soup, along with other vegetables. The aniseedy flavour when cooked is mild and enticing, blending well with other tastes.

The two workshops found plenty overall to forage, but fungi were not so thick on the ground as we might have hoped – a cold dry snap had temporarily put a halt to fruiting. Nevertheless, one high point was a massive fruiting body of Grifola frondosa which our neighbour Geoff served as a starter on the evening of the first workshop. Andrew and I squabbled over identification, I thought it was Cauliflower Fungus (Sparassis crispa) to start with, but we all realised it was just too “chunky”. Next week we found Cauliflower Fungus as well and were able to compare them side by side. Geoff found a very young Beefsteak fungus (Fistulina hepatica) – this is significant because it didn’t have any maggots in and we all got a small mouthful. Yum. A range of other edible fungi have been eaten – some good – no excellent – crops of Honey Fungus in the Forest Enterprise wood, plenty of Lycoperdon perlatum puffballs and when all else fails, Common Yellow Russula. (All else did fail, for a brief spell last week and I bought some chestnut mushrooms, reduced. Then honey fungus appeared on the lawn). We normally get a reliable crop of Shaggy Ink Caps in the hen run, but not this year, I suspect the ducks of eating them.

 

Nut front – Bankfoot chestnuts produced niggardly little nuts, no use to man nor beast, but James next door brought back some fat Surrey ones from Bisley, which we are roasting on the stove merrily, with the hazelnuts. Andrew went on a cider making course and has been scrumping furiously the apple crop of our other neighbours (with permission!), along with any others he can find. I went to Northumberland and found a great apple tree right in the middle of the sand-dunes at Bamburgh. We have got out our old cheese press and are also producing fresh apple juice, which is astonishingly good. Pete, who came on the second workshop sent us a tiny, but perfectly formed, pear to identify that he had found while scrumping. We were stumped, but Andy my colleague at college identified it as the Plymouth Pear, Pyrus cordata.plums20and20custard20web

On 19th, I gathered elderberries and made a gallon of wine, and froze two boxes of them. Fished some out last week and made Elderberry Muffins. More Plums and Custard found on 26th.

Wild weather has seen off the rest of October – firstly howling gales and cascades of rain, then snow, followed by a big freeze. Time to stay by the stove and roast chestnuts!

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 – last weeks

July – Week Four
Ah, now we’re talking. This weekend, Andrew and I, having spotted some growing by the A9, went cycling after Red Elderberries. These are the fruit of Sambucus racemosa, a non-native but commonly naturalised sister of the familiar Elder (Sambucus nigra). They ripen earlier than the native berries and don’t taste quite as good, but can be used for the same things. Being in the midst of a glut of soft fruit, we wanted to pick some to mix 50-50 with blackcurrants for a red wine. After picking them we thought, it having rained copiously last week (especially on Mull of course), that we should just check for fungi….. and YES!! the first Chanterelles, and a couple of Brown Birch Boletus, and a few fairly chewed Russula lutea. These all went into a delicious pie for dinner. Pointed out we still have last years dried chanterelles to use up. On the way back we picked wild cherries and wild raspberries (inexplicable as the garden ones are coming out of our ears at home but we couldn’t resist….. we ate them as a TV snack to accompany Midsomer Murders (well, you need something..)

Today I sampled the pickled ash keys I prepared in March – and they were good! I seem to have perfected the timing and recipe (well it was John Evelyn’s recipe to the letter actually).

July – Week Five
We’ve both had a week more or less off work this week – though spent much time in the garden.

We decided it was time to see what was happening in a local Forestry Commission wood which gets a good range of autumn fungi normally…. I wanted Tawny Grisettes especially, and there were quite a few. This is an un-nerving fungus for the beginner, being in the same family as Death Cap and Destroying Angel (Amanita). But once you know it, you can’t mistake it for anything else, even from a distance. It stands on a tall stem, no ring around it unlike the death cap, and the reddish-brown cap, conical at first but soon flat, is edged with little striations. Slugs love them (regrettably) and so do I. We also found a single Bay Boletus (Boletus badius), and a relative we hadn’t tried before – Suillus variegatus. This was nice, though not over-tasty. There were quite a few edible Russula atropurpurea, but the slugs had largely had them already! But there were MOUNTAINS of chanterelles….. kept us going for days…..

Dimly aware the English school holidays were starting, we also gathered several pounds of blaeberries (bilberries) by the River Braan. The connection here is that the English hols is when we are most likely to meet up with Tim and Gill and their daughters. Tim is a compulsive and exhausting forager even by our standards, and we have fond, gooey memories of Tim’s blaeberry muffins! Anyway, as usual we spent ages filling a bag with small, sparse and hard to find berries on ankle-high plants, only to get round the corner and find big juicy ones a dozen to a stem on nice tall bushes, which took no time at all to pick. The moral is never start picking till you’ve found worthwhile quantities! The blaeberry is good wayside snacking; they have kept us going all week on walks and cycle rides, here and up at Braemar where we went camping.

Cep (Boletus edulis)

Cep (Boletus edulis)

On Monday, Andrew spotted a perfect, un-maggoty, classic Cep (Boletus edulis). They’re called King Boletes on the continent, and they taste magnificent. This one did both of us for breakfast. To finish the week, I’ve just come back from a bike ride. I had no intention of foraging so didn’t take a bag. Instead I ate all the big juicy wild cherries there and then (pig). But when I saw the chanterelles in the wood…. well, did you know you can stuff the sleeves of a cardigan full of fungi, tie it round your waist and get them home in perfect condition? Good timing, I was seriously thinking of buying some mushrooms.

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 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