If you follow my Instagram you will know that i am an avid forager, as too are both the boys. This has been something that started when i was little, learning different traits of flora and fauna with my dad, the special moments of finding wild garlic and the first ripe damson of the year.
I really enjoy getting out in the fresh air and finding things that are all around us just waiting to be discovered.
My boys are just the same and have already learnt so much from coming with me and hearing about things I have done.
Recently i have broached out more into edible mushrooms and herbs and they have both taken to this like a dream. I will say, I only ensure that I am certain of what we are picking, and they are always supervised. there are a few species that are easy to ID initially and they are the ones that we started with.
We don’t have any special kit, only recently I have got myself a mushroom knife (legal specs met) but this isn’t essential. We use an Aldi fruit and Veg net bag to carry our goods and it’s also doubles well as something to dry them in. Wellies or a shoe with a good grip is a must and any other outer wear you need that keeps you snug.
We head to our local woodland to find our goodies but really if you keep your eyes peeled there are always things to be found. We never have items from hedgerows close too roads due to pollutants.
I’ll show you some of our favourites and easy to identify species.
Jelly ear or wood ear mushroom are so called be cause they are just like an ear, a BFG ear at that! they are usually a brown colour and found on dead or dying elder, usually in clusters along the trunk. The absorb moisture so after the rain they get quite plump and soft, but on drier days they crisp up and shrink. This was the first mushroom that we found and we used in a Chinese inspired broth. The don’t tend to have much flavour, so its best to dry them out (we just do this on the radiator) and then rehydrate them in a flavour that you prefer, so for the Asian broth I made a simple stock of soy, ginger and garlic, but you could also use orange juice and dip them in chocolate for a Jaffa cake inspired filling. They even absorb sloe gin deliciously!
We tend to find these in abundance and they are very pretty to look at, the name is a tell tail again for their identification, they look just like a turkeys tail feathers.
We identify these by looking for a white ring on the outer edge and white/light cream underside with lots of small spores. I dry these and use them to make a lovely mushroom tea or brother that packs a strong flavour and is excellent as a base for risotto. These mushrooms are highly prized in Asia for their anti cancer and medicinal benefits, with lots of medicinal studies looking into this too!
Now, this mushroom isn’t one that is as easily identified. The velvet shank an be confused to several similar species that are also poisonous, deadly poisonous so be aware and be sure that you have got the correct ones if you are hunting for them. We identify these by looking for a cluster on a tree, with a cap that can be sicky or gooey after rain.
The stems (stipe) has no ring around and the older ones are a gorgeous brown with a velvet feel. We also do a spore print for any we find and this should be white. If you are confident you have velvet shank, they can be enjoyed in many ways as they are an Enoki mushroom. They can be dried, used in stir fry’s, soups, with a steak – you name it!
These are a great little set of mushies to get you started, in my next blog I will show some woodland foraged greens that are delicious and easy to find, perfect for littles to get out there. Please remember with any edibles that you are certain of the Id and you are happy and certain to be eating it