Foraging by Bingo1 (part 1)

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 4th February 2011

This blog is bought to you by Bingo1, who was first attracted to foraging when Ceps were costing Twenty five pounds a kilo.

Of course foraging plants and fungi and selling it for profit is illegal from public land so I don't condone that kind of thing, but if you are going to do this my advice would be...just don't get caught! Like most foragers I started with mushrooms, I was taken out by a forager I used to buy from and shown the basics...  "This will kill you, this won't", that was the extent of that lesson.  From that I got myself Roger Phillips Mushroom book (Mushroom Bible) and taught myself over a number of years. It's never something you can learn quickly but once you have a confident and safe knowledge you're away.  It's free food for the taking and works wonders for your GP. Obviously, safety is paramount and I can't state seriously enough that, unless you are 100% sure a mushroom or plant is safe to eat DON'T! Death cap is the worst, one tiny piece and its goodnight. No antidote, no second chances. Within 24 hours of eating this you have the symptoms of food poisoning, so serious though you will be admitted to hospital.  Here they will tell you,  you have eaten the death cap and have a matter of days to live.  After this, for some strange reason, you will get better for a short time and feel fine but don't worry your internal organs are breaking down and within hours you're in the morgue. It's not all squirts, vomit and death though, Ceps for me are the tastiest mushroom and prize find but I also really like finding Chanterelles, Pied de Muttons,  Trompette de mort, Boletes, oysters, Chicken of the woods, Beefsteak, Blewitts, St George's, Winter Chanterelles, Cauliflower mushroom, Dryads saddle  and other rare but tasty mushrooms I don't have names for. The good thing about picking shrooms is that they (should) grow back in the same place every year, this doesn't always happen, but more often than not does, weather permitting. Only share your spots with people you trust though, you wouldn't want to be taking Julian Assange with you! Foraging has become fashionable among chefs over the last few years and I welcome this, there is plenty out there for everybody it's just a matter of getting time to go out and having the knowledge...I'm still working on the time part and the knowledge, well it's like cooking, you can never stop learning.  Forging's not something that just has to happen in the forest either, beaches are particularly good with Sea beat, Purslane , Horseradish, Alexanders, Sea Holly, Buckthorn, Sea holly, Sea Kale...you can eat any seaweed (that's not covered in oil), the list goes on, not to mention shell fish and rock pool foraging.  I think it was Birmingham based chef Glyn Purnell who was once quoted for saying: "There's no point foraging round here(Birmingham city centre), all you'd come back with is dog dirt and crisp packets". Not true, very funny though. I see all sorts of food as I walk around towns, Elderflowers, Chickweed, pears, quince, Bitter cress, Apples, Horseradish, Plums, Mirabelle's, Chestnuts, Hazelnuts, Mushrooms, even seen oyster mushrooms growing in a park and Jews ears , also, St Georges mushrooms growing out of a crack in the pavement round by the Co-Op last spring, and loads of herbs, I never pay for rosemary. I think it's such a shame to see Apples rotting in a park or by a road because people just don't think you can eat them because it's somehow not right, well it is right and you can make Cider from them. To make a start in foraging you will need a knife, a basket, some sensible footwear (no flip flops) and some good books. As I said, Roger Phillips - mushrooms, Richard Maybe - Food for Free and  Roger Phillips - Wild Food are just a few good ones to start. Spring is good for Morels, St George's and wild garlic so will be looking forward to things heating up a little, after this Chanterelles start appearing around June/July particularly if we have a wet summer which is great for the forager bad for the tan. Chicken of the woods also comes around this time, look out for this on trees.  I have also seen this one in parks around towns.  It's not until September when things really get going on the mushroom front, that mixture of damp, moist but slightly warm dark areas, a combo I find very appealing. During the winter things slow down a bit, Blewits come late, normally around the time of the first frosts. This is when most of the other mushrooms die out apart from Winter Chanterelles, Oysters and Velvet shanks.  So what's stopping you, get a book. Have a look around and get picking. Any questions PM me. or join the Foraging debate Bingo
The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 4th February 2011

Foraging by Bingo1 (part 1)