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Funghi on Hamstead Heath

November 19, 2010

Last Saturday morning I ventured to London for a Funghi foraging course.

After an introduction to funghi, what they actually are and how they grow, we went on a forage, wicker baskets in hand, and getting interested looks by passers-by. It took us a while to find any mushrooms but once we found one, it seemed that they were everywhere! The forest floor at one point was littered with edible blewits and we had to watch where we were standing. We found about 20 species on the walk, but our guide, Andy Overall, said that in 15 years of recording Hamstead Heath he has found about 500 species!

After a warming cup of tea and lunch we learnt some mushroom identifying techniques and were shown some of the deadliest and most delicious species to be found. I left the course with muddy boots and a bag full of blewits. Very nice on toast with parsley and cream.

Incidentally, mushrooms weren’t the only interesting things we found on Hamstead Heath. We saw a flock of parakeets and lots of abandoned shoes (don’t want to think too much about the latter…)


Collecting Seeds

October 18, 2010

Today I collected seeds from my runner beans which have been drying on my windowsill for a few weeks. I love the vibrant pinks and purples of the seeds. They always make me smile and remind of the children’s TV series Greenclaws which I used to love. Every week Greenclaws would open a box of exotic seeds which resembled jewels. They would grow into the most beautiful plants. To see what I mean, or for a trip down memory lane, click on the video above.

Wwoofing Scotland

October 11, 2010

A few weeks ago I went Wwoofing in Argyll. A friend and I were worked on an organic farm which grows vegetables for the local restaurants, businesses and also has a veg box scheme. This time we really felt that we were a help to our hosts. We were allowed to get stuck in with the work. Very satisfying. In fact, it seems they supplied every restaurant or cafe we happened to go to in the area! The thought that we and the people around us were eating some the produce we picked was wonderful.

We picked lots of produce including kilos and kilos of tomatoes. We also planted out some of the crops that will be ready in the spring including kale and spring cabbages. The colours were spectacular! We picked and packed produce for the restaurants and veg box scheme. It was great to meet the people who ordered veg boxes. A great week. We were so lucky with the weather! And when it did rain we were protected by the  polytunnels. Argyll is a stunningly beautiful area of Scotland. I recommend visiting.


October 8, 2010

I haven’t posted much recently as I have been very busy taking advantage of the free fruits that are growing around me and Wwoofing again (more on that soon).

Within a quarter of a mile of my house I have found blackberries, raspberries, sloes, elderberries, damsons, sloes, rosehips and cooking apples. It seems that everytime I go out I find something new. So far I have made sloe gin and vodka, a wild fruit jam consisting of damsons, elderberries and blackberries and spiced apple chutney.  I’m looking forward to making rosehip syrup and more interesting jams and chutneys. Yum!

Green Tomato Chutney

August 27, 2010

I found that one of my tomato plants was diseased. The stems were deteriorating and the leaves discolouring. The persistent rain hasn’t helped matters either. So, I decided to rescue the fruit and make chutney, something I have been wanting to do for a long time. I found a green tomato recipe in my gardening idol, Alys Fowler’s book The Edible Garden. It smelt lovely whilst it was cooking and hope it is equally lovely when I eat it!

Luckily my other two tomato plants seem healthy enough. I was frightened that they had blight. I know that Alys has a lot of problems where she lives. Luckily not many people ‘grow their own’ in my area. Fingers crossed that’s the end of my tomato problems!

Incredible Edible Todmorden

August 17, 2010

A few weeks ago I visited Todmorden, a small town in West Yorkshire, half an hour by train from Manchester. A town which is making waves. About three years ago a few residents started Incredible Edible Todmorden, a project to get people to grow their own produce and bring the residents together. The aim is for the town to be self-sufficient in food by 2018. Apparently they are on course to meet that target. The local school is involved with growing as part of their studies, local businesses promote and buy the produce, even the NHS Health Centre has fruit trees growing in its grounds instead of the usual thorny bushes. Read more…

Foraging finds

August 16, 2010

Today I decided to go blackberry picking. I found much more varied fruit than I was expecting: raspberries, elderberries, damsons and sloes all well within a mile of my house! I have found a recipe for wild fruit jam which consists of blackberries, elderberries as well as damsons. I can’t wait until the elderberries are ready! As traditional, after the first frost, I will hunt again for sloes for sloe gin.

On Wednesday night I will continue my exploration of the wilds when I go to a Forage and Cook evening organised by Loaf which I am very much looking forward to.