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Nature’s Harvest

Amanita Muscaria

Amanita Muscaria

I love this time of year.* The summery weather has not entirely run its course (at least it hadn’t when I started writing this post a few weeks ago), the trees are still mostly in full, green leaf and there are still plenty of daylight hours in which to enjoy the mild and (hopefully) sunny weather, but it is also cooler than high summer. Why is this a good thing, you may ask. Well, it means that you can start doing all the things that it’s too hot for, like having the oven on for Sunday roasts, walking without wilting, and knitting**, not to mention to exciting prospect of the wide variety of forage and harvests in evidence.

*in truth, I love every time of year, just for different reasons.
** of course you can knit all year round but having a lump of warm woolly stuff in your lap when it’s 30C is not at all comfortable.  (That Oxford comma is quite deliberate btw.)

Other bonuses are that the school holidays and, therefore, the hectic schedule of, very enjoyable but utterly exhausting, fairs is over and I can chill out and have a bit of a breather. That said, with the potential for forage, it’s possibly an even busier time. This year has been disappointing for damsons – the trees were absolutely dripping with yellow, red and purple ones last year, but it has been rather too dry this year. Conversely, the late frost did for the apples and pears last year, but this year my trees are laden and the lawn littered with fruit. I’ve been desperately trying to use up as much of it as I can before it goes off and Nigella’s Chocolate Pear Pudding cake (with my own spicy twist, naturally) served warm with single cream has proved a big hit. Somewhere I have a recipe for Apple and Rosemary curd that I must make a jar or two of before it’s too late and thanks to a friend donating me a bag of quinces, I have been looking up things to do with quince (other than jelly, which I know we won’t eat). The best candidate so far is Membrillo (Quince Paste) which is intended to be eaten with cheese, specifically Manchego, for which I have developed rather a taste. Nom!

Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention the bagful of cobnuts (hazelnuts) that DD and I picked up on the way back from walking the dog at the weekend. They are destined for Homemade Nutella, though the skins on the nuts are proving a total pain to remove :/

I did not have very high hopes for a good mushroom harvest a few weeks ago – the pickings seemed sparse thanks to the long dry summer, but this week I have been almost wetting myself with excitement at the abundance of Ceps (Boletus edulis)and other tasty fungi. I’ve even tried some I’ve never found before, namely Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus Sulphureus) and Beefsteak Fungus (Fistunlina Hepatica). But, just look what I found this morning…

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Wild mushroom aficionados will note the pristine nature of the Ceps – not a slug nibble or wormhole to be seen. Most of the Bay Boletes (Boletus badius) have had a bit of a nibble here and there but are worm free. When I saw the Ceps, I threw out half a bagful of earlier and rather less perfect specimens to make room for them, though I couldn’t throw out this slightly past its best Cauliflower fungus (Sparassis crispa) 

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It’s been the best part of a decade, if not longer, since I found one of these and although their shape makes it a complete pain in the bum to clean out the grit and debris, they are rather tasty fried in a little butter 🙂

Today’s haul is the third or fourth, so in addition to creamy wild mushroom linguine for dinner, I also have a pot of mushroom soup (great for using up the stalks and good offcuts of the more slugged and wormy specimens) and a large bag of sliced mushrooms in the freezer to see me through the winter and into next year. I think this batch will be divided between garlic mushrooms on toast and the freezer 🙂

I love to see all the different varieties of fungi popping up, even the poisonous ones are rather interesting. I’m always happy to see the red and white spotted Fly Agarics (Amanita Muscaria), the classic fairytale toadstool, not just because they are pretty to look at but also because they tend to share habitats with rather tastier pickings 😉

Of course, now that I have a dog again, I have more of an excuse to wander about in the woods, not just foraging, but enjoying the outdoors. I’ve never really gone in for walking for the sake of it – I feel one needs a destination or some other purpose and a dog provides just that. Our present  arrangement is that he rootles around in the undergrowth for his purposes and I do like wise for mine, until we exhaust the possibilities and roam onwards. Sometimes, I stop to chat with other dog walkers while he chases around with their dog(s) and sometimes we wander and play together uninterrupted. It works for us.

The season just gets better as it winds down towards winter with marvellous autumnal colours painting the trees in red, brown and gold. Walking out on misty mornings, the bushes glistening with silvery spider web hammocks and the crisp air holding the promise of bonfires and warming stews to follow. The shorter daylight hours are an excuse to draw the curtains on the cold, batten down the hatches and light the fire. What’s not to like? 🙂

I hope you have enjoyed my rambles and ramblings, but before you are inspired to go out foraging, please read the…

poison.jpgDire Warning: Do not attempt to pick wild mushrooms unless you really do know what you are doing or are with someone who does and NEVER EVER pick any white mushrooms because they look like the ones in the supermarket. These are the most easily confused with several deadly species like the Destroying Angel and Death Cap. Eating just half a cap of one of these is enough to kill you and there is no antidote to the amatoxins they contain. While I’m happy to give what advice I can if asked, it can be difficult to identify species with certainty on the basis of a snapshot.

 

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4 October 2013

5 Comments to “Nature’s Harvest”

  1. As you know, I thought I’d found some chanterelles, but they were the fake ones. I saw lots of mushies today wilst out with Nero, I must take my phone with me the next time and send you pix so that you can say ‘yes!’ or ‘nooooooooooo!’

    Looking forwar dto recipe with apples and rosemary – I have tuns of both!!!

    Ali x

  2. You’d be quite a handy person to have round after the zombie apocalypse 😀 but I would literally have to be starving to death to eat fungi 😀

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