24 September 2014

Drying porcini

Most mushrooming expeditions yield enough fungi for a meal or two. Occasionally, one finds a huge number of mushrooms. This poses a dilemma - most wild mushrooms do not keep well, even in the fridge, so what to do with them? Preserving is the answer. (Although, if you know you are not going to have enough time to preserve them, stop picking and leave them to someone else, or to the wildlife.) The main preserving options are drying or pickling. You could also make a big batch of mushroom soup and freeze it.

20 September 2014

Cauliflower fungi

Cauliflower fungus  (sparassis crispa)

One of the most unusual looking of edible mushrooms is the cauliflower fungus (sparassis crispa). When you see one, you understand how apt the name is (at least in terms of appearance, not taste!) Cauliflower fungi are usually found at the base of mature pine trees, and tend to grow in the same place year after year (although in some years they do not appear). I have never found one in the same place twice in the same season, so I assume they only fruit once a year.

9 September 2014

Hedgerow crumble

For the forager, autumn is the season when nature gives the most. Out for a walk at the weekend, we picked some lovely blackberries, which seem to grow more or less everywhere. We also found a hedgerow full of bullaces, which, like damsons and sloes, are a variety of wild plum. Bullaces are slightly smaller than damsons, and usually ripen a few weeks later. They are pretty sharp raw, so best cooked. I decided to make a crumble, to which I also added in a couple of apples. Apples and blackberries are a great combination. There are some fine English apples available at this time of year. I used Discoveries, one of the earliest English apples, which have a lovely floral flavour.

2 September 2014


Piccalilli is one of those curious British foods which, similar to chutney, is an anglicized version of traditional Indian pickles. Like chutney, piccalilli uses vinegar to preserve vegetables. Unlike chutney, the vegetables are not cooked with the vinegar, but rather pickled in a thickened, spiced vinegar solution. The acidity of the vinegar prevents bacterial development, thus preserving the vegetables, which would otherwise start to deteriorate rapidly after picking. Even more so in the old days in British India when no-one had fridges.