A combination of bad weather and a bad back kept me from foraging for most of last week, but by Friday afternoon both had improved sufficiently that I was able to go out for a walk. My destination was the bilberry field that we discovered a couple of years ago. I'm less daunted by the steep hill these days, and more prepared to set aside a few hours for this task.
I did harvest bilberries, but like last week's post, that's not what I'm going to tell you about today. Most of the bilberries are drying for use as
currants, though of course I ate a few fresh (including all the ones that exploded when I tried to pick them). Hopefully the dried ones won't go mouldy and I'll be able to tell you about them in some future post. No, this week's post is about something much more exciting - mushrooms!
Like seaweed, mushrooms are a class of wild food that I've been keen to learn more about. These are particularly daunting for a novice, as it's possible to kill yourself by eating the wrong ones. On the other hand, that's true of plants, too, and I'm happy enough learning to identify which of those are safe. For some reason, we seem generally more scared of mushrooms. Those who do eat fresh, wild mushrooms rave about how delicious they are, so I'm determined to learn more about them. I think that taking this one mushroom at a time is the way to go, so as not to get mixed up. I already know the field mushroom (pink-brown gills distinguish it from the death cap, and lack of colour on bruising distinguishes it from the yellow stainer), so what can I find next?
Pausing on my walk to look at some hazel trees (lots of nuts coming - I wonder whether I'll get any before the squirrels have them all?), I glanced down and noticed a brown mushroom in the grass.
Is that a penny bun? I wondered. It certainly had the look of a small bread roll, perhaps one that's been sitting around a bit too long. At this point, I was not a good forager. Instead of leaving it well alone, as it was the only one there, I flipped the cap off its stalk.
In spite of the slightly chewed appearance, this looked promising. Those little holes in the surface - as distinct from gills - rang a bell. I took it home for further investigation.
According to my Readers Digest guide, the cep - also known as penny bun or porcini - is the
most sought-after of all edible fungi. Ooh, that's good! I hope that's what I've got, then. Consulting various other guides (including Galloway wild foods), I found that I'd been right about the pores. Foolishly, I hadn't paid attention to the stem, but other features were right, including the colour:
... becoming yellow and eventually olive green in past-their-best specimens. This one was clearly past its best, but being confident that I had the sought-after cep, I decided to try in anyway.
Thinly sliced and fried, it cooked incredibly quickly. Although the texture was - shall we say -
slippery, the flavour was sublime. Even this past-its-best specimen was well worth cooking and eating. I am pleased to say that I have added one variety of mushroom to those I can identify, and one that's well worth being able to spot.
Also harvesting this week
Courgettes (not mine)
Runner beans (not mine)
Rhubarb (not mine)
Broad beans (mine)
French beans (mine)
Field mushrooms (in the fridge, to be eaten very soon)
Pine cones of an as-yet-unidentified variety. They're huge! I'm not quite sure what to do with them yet, if anything.
Crab apple and rosemary jelly
Foraged food challenge summary page here.