First Fungi appear!

Alternating heavy rain and warm sunny days have prodded the first fungi of the season into appearing. We have a pretty ring of nondescript brown mushrooms on the lawn, but I don’t eat nondescript, because of the risk of misidentification. No such risk with the Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus) which has appeared very conveniently on the end of a log I’m using to edge the soft fruit plot. This large bracket fungus with its distinctive beige scaly top and white flesh is very good when young, meaty and substantial. We had it for breakfast; being greedy I didn’t want to waste the stem part but that was a mistake, as it’s far too tough and chewy to bother with. I’m hoping this tree fungus will continue to crop through the summer.

Dryad's Saddle

Dryad's Saddle

 

Another edible tree fungus I found last week was Sulphur Polypore (aka Chicken of the Woods), in Latin Polyporus sulphureus. I found it in the woods at Killiecrankie-oh, when my mind was more on the Jacobite trail of John Graham of Claverhouse, Bonne Dundee, than wild food. It was just starting to grow, was beautiful, and of course, I didn’t remove it. That would NOT have been sustainable foraging! But I clocked its location for future reference…

And this weekend we came upon – and ate – our first chanterelles of the year, near Dunkeld. They were at a very young stage, but plentiful and delicious. I am still using last year’s dried chanterelles and Boletus, so that’s availability 12 months of the year. Just like my spinach beet. If I could live on fungi and spinach, I’d never have to go near another shop! Well, let’s be honest, I probably could, but having gone through the Lent thing, I’m glad I can find and/or grow plenty of other things too! The Lent challenge has left me with distinct squirrel tendencies…. I am worrying myself silly that I’m growing enough beans and peas for drying, have tucked two big bottles of elderflower cordial in the freezer already for winter use, and have potatoes growing everywhere, including the compost heap. It’s a bad year for carrots though, and also we’ve noted it’s an off-year for the ash trees of Perthshire. Normally I’d have made ash-key pickle by now, but there are none…..

The “Humble” Potato and Respite from Spinach

Ian from the church (who has previously cheered my dietary life with a bag of apples) has given me a big bag of potatoes from his farm! Suddenly I don’t have to eke out tatties for the rest of Lent – I have plenty. This is reassuring, and potatoes aren’t known as versatile for nothing. Having an abundance of them and very co-operative hens just now, I made a pile of savoury potato bubble and squeak “pancakes” – mashed potatoes, combined with beaten eggs, herbs, seasoning, onion and assorted greens, and fried. Very tasty – as a meal, accompaniment to breakfast, or a snack. Cottage pies of various¬† types come to mind – had I enough fat left I could even make crisps (but then I’m forgetting I don’t actually like crisps).

Things running out:
All freezer vegetables
home made soft cheese
hazelnuts
Fresh onions and leeks (beetroot and celeriac already gone)
Venison fat

Things still plentiful:
Meat (alive or otherwise)
Frozen soft fruit
Donated apples and potatoes
Herbs, dried and fresh

New foods appearing:
Comfrey, Ground Elder and other weeds for greens
Orpine, wild garlic and other wild plants for salads
MINT!!!!  and other aromatic plants at last for teas Рwhich have suddenly become more palateable

The now rapid growth of spring greens (even seedling brassicas that I’ve sown are coming on now) means that I can have a rest from spinach. There’s still some in the freezer, but not much else veg wise, so I’m ekeing it out. With four weeks to go, I am nearly half way through Lent, and I think my body has now adjusted to the change in diet. My thinking has changed a lot – no longer panicking about what I am going to eat, no longer really thinking about it very much either. Sometimes I manage to make something really enjoyable like the potato pancakes, sometimes I think “oh no not another egg”, but I’m not craving other people’s food all the time now. I just know I can’t have it and so long as I’m not hungry Im not bothered. This is a new experience for me!

I realised I am still eating apples in mid-March from last autumn’s harvest, and enjoying them. OK so they have to be peeled and are a bit wizened and spotty – but perfectly edible. Normally I’d have fed any apples still hanging around by now to the hens. Now I value them and will be looking for varieties to grow that are good keepers.

Confess your sins Margaret. I nearly slipped today – the other half asked me to test his rice to see if it was ready and it got right to my mouth before I realised what I was doing. And then I needed to fry a potato pancake to go with my vegetable stew, and as the venison fat is running low, I decided it was both practical and allowable to fry it in the pan in which HE has just cooked a chop….. well it saved some fat, but the pancake did taste faintly and delightfully of pork…..