Sunday, 29 September 2013

September mushrooms

No recipes in this post, I thought that a list of the edible mushrooms I've found this September may be useful for those of you unsure about what is out there at the moment. This autumn has been incredible for fungi so far, and, if you'll excuse the double negative, you simply can't not find edible fungi!

(Make sure you know exactly what you're eating, of course - if you're unsure, bin it)

Charcoal Burner (Russula cyanoxantha):

Ubiquitous in most woodlands at this time of the year, particularly with beech. Photo taken 09/09/13

Tawny Grisette (Amanita fulva):

John Wright states this mushroom is very common in small groups, however, I have only
ever found one 'troop' of these mushrooms, the rest have been alone in broadleaved
deciduous woodland. Must be cooked. Photo taken 09/09/1

The Prince (Agaricus augustus):

A rare find. Photo taken 09/09/13

Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria amethystina):

Photo taken 09/09/13

Bay Boletes (Boletus badius):

As with many boletus, the flesh bruises blue. Photo taken 14/09/13

Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus):

A glut of oysters. Photo taken 14/09/13

Oysters and I. Photo taken 14/09/13

Beefsteak Fungus (Fistulina hepatica):

Photo taken 14/09/13

Hedgehog Mushroom (Hydnum repandum):

Happy with this find - I have usually found them in later autumn. Photo taken 14/09/13

Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius):

One of the most highly prized wild mushrooms. Photo taken 14/09/13

Field Mushrooms (Agaricus campestris):

Photo taken 27/09/13

The Blusher (Amanita rubescens):

Beware of the deadly lookalike - the Panther Cap. Must be cooked.
Photo taken 27/09/13

False Saffron Milkcaps (Lactarius deterrimus):

False Saffron Milkcaps are just as edible as Saffron Milkcaps. Photo taken 27/09/13

Shaggy Inkcaps (Coprinus comatus):

Perfect young specimens - with age they get very inky and slimy.
Best eaten when like this. Photo taken 27/09/13

Porcini and Brown Birch Boletes (Boletus edulis and Leccinum scabrum):

A great haul. Photo taken 26/09/13

A perfect Porcini. Photo taken 26/09/13 

Parasol Mushrooms (Macrolepiota procera):

A lot of mushroom! Photo taken 29/09/13

And, finally, a group photo. A fantastic afternoon's foraging that was turned into a luxuriously creamy mushroom pasta. In the basket, from left to right, are; Porcini, Brown Birch Boletes, Field Mushrooms (middle), Parasol (top), Shaggy Inkcap (bottom), and, on the far right, some Fairy Ring Champignon (Marasmius oreades).  I had never tried Fairy Ring Champignon before and I have been missing out! They have a lovely nutty flavour and are now definitely up there with my favourite mushrooms - I'll be back for more.

Yum. Photo taken 26/09/13

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Going Wild goes abroad

  So, the weeklong interlude in activity has not been due to apathy, but because I have been sunning myself for a week in the south of France, and very nice it was too.  Although this was a time for relaxing, there was of course still time for a forage here and there. Here’s what I found;

Perennial Wall-Rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia):

Although this plant grows in Britain (it is supposedly fairly abundant), I haven’t yet found it on home soil, so was rather excited when finding it abundance on every road side and crack in the wall whilst in Nice.  The taste is a like a slightly more mustard-y salad rocket, the flowers pack the same punch and also taste great. When found it abundance in can take just a few minutes to pick a bagful, so it would be foolish not to!

The flowers taste delicious - a great way to add some colour to a salad

Living up to its name - Perennial Wall-Rocket

Prickly Pear (Opuntia spp.):

(As there are over 200 species of Prickly Pear in the Opuntia genus, I cannot tell you the exact species I picked.)

Because these cactus fruits don’t grow in Britain, I was unsure what they were upon seeing them at first, though I was fairly certain of their true identity.  However, for me, ‘fairly’ is a gamble with poor odds, so they were admired but ignored for the first few days until we visited a small grocery store that happened to be selling them.  I’m still unsure who would buy them when they are so abundant in the wild, but hey, I’m glad that shop was selling them otherwise I might never have picked some.

Think you’ve heard the name Prickly Pear before? Can't remember where from? Perhaps this will jog your memory;

Prickly Pear with a view! Looking out over Monaco 

Although we had seen Prickly Pears quite literally hanging over the roadside when cycling around, I foolishly decided that I would scale a rather steep hill to pick some, so it would feel like I'd earned them, y'know?

A steep climb for a snack

I should have listened to Baloo and be careful of the aptly named Prickly Pear; after picking, my hands were full of tiny spikes that were a devil to get out.  Thick gloves really are a bare necessity.  

After brushing the spikes off, the fruits were safe to handle


Although the inner flesh may look delicious and slightly like that of a papaya, it was in fact nothing special. A fairly bland, watery taste - like that of an unripe papaya crossed with a tasteless melon of some sort. I'll be willing to try these again, as I know how the taste of fruit can alter depending on the different variety, location, time of year etc, however, my first taste of Prickly Pear was not an especially memorable one. Worth the climb? To try it, yes. For a tasty treat, no.  

Not much flesh - the centre consisted mostly of seeds

Wild mushroom market:

Came across this market stall - an impressive sight! 

Saffron Milkcaps galore 

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Marsh Samphire and Sea Purslane coconut broth

  Marsh Samphire is cool.  No really, it is - seasonal, British, and expensive.  What was once only fodder for the frugal forager, it now frequents Rosette quality cuisine - much the same way Monkfish was once considered peasant food, and yet fetches some of the highest prices at market nowadays.  

Luckily, you needn't empty your wallet to get this on your plate, as it is relatively easy find in intertidal areas such as estuaries and salt marshes.  I picked this lot in Rye, East Sussex - follow the estuary toward the sea starting at the bridge by the fishmongers and you will be sure to find Marsh Samphire and Sea Purslane in great abundance.  I caught the tail end of the season with this lot (mid September), but for the best Samphire head out in June/July.  Although, like Samphire, Purslane is better in Spring/Summer, it can be eaten practically the whole year round - it's like a succulent, salty, crisp - great for chucking in with roast potatoes for a bit of extra crunch. 

Sea Purslane

Samphire forest

You can see the lower ends of the stems have turned woody here - pick only the
upper / side fronds
Scissors or a knife are a must, otherwise you end up pulling the whole plant up 

Samphire in the background, Purslane in the foreground

Samphire (left), Fennel (middle), some sort of lemon-smelling wild thyme? (any ideas?), Purslane (right)

When it's late season, it is sensible to discard the woody stem and eat only the
most succulent end fronds


- Noodles (I used fresh Udon)
- Coconut milk
- Small Shallot
- Field Mushrooms
- Kaffir lime leaves
- Soy Sauce
- Marsh Samphire
- Sea Purslane

Super quick and easy recipe this one.  Sweat off one small shallot in a wok, turn the heat up and add the mushrooms for twenty seconds or so, then add the coconut milk (I used a mini tin as it was just me eating), 4 or 5 kaffir lime leaves, 1 tbsp of soy sauce, and the Marsh Samphire. Let this cook on full heat for a minute or so, then add the fresh noodles (if you are using dry, it would be worth boiling them separately and adding at the end) and cook for another one or two minutes.  You want the Samphire to be tender but still with a bit of crunch.  Plate up and garnish with chopped Sea Purslane leaves, done.  For a five minute easy dinner, this really is a good'n. 

I think the raw Sea Purslane adds a nice, fresh crunch to the dish, but if you'd prefer them cooked then chuck them in at the same time as the noodles.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

ID: Tawny Grisette

  I would not recommend this mushroom to the beginner, as it belongs to the deadliest family of mushrooms found in the UK; the Amanitas.  The Amanita family contains mushrooms such as the Death Cap, Destroying Angel and Panther Cap – now you need not know a lot about mushrooms to know that the consumption of any of the aforementioned funghi will cause you a lot of harm, or even kill you.

Saying this, the Tawny Grisette (Amanita fulva) is relatively easily distinguished from its grizzly cousins, and, for an experienced mushroom hunter with a good knowledge of the poisonous lookalikes, it is safe to pick.

Description from Mushrooms by Roger Phillips;

Cap: 4-9cm across, ovate at first, expanding to almost flat with low umbo, margin distinctly grooved: orange-brown; smooth, dry

Stem: 70-120 x 8-12mm, tapering towards apex, becoming hollow; white tinged with cap colour; encased in large, bag-like, similarly coloured volva; no ring

Flesh: White; taste and smell not distinctive

Habitat: in mixed woods; autumn; very common


Notes from River Cottage Mushroom Handbook by John Wright;

The Tawny Grisette is notably east to distinguish from its lethal brethren because of the deep grooves on the cap edge, its bright colour and lack of ring. They are fragile mushrooms, so do keep them separated from your weightier finds or they will get hopelessly squashed.

Beware of The Grisette (Amanita vaginata) and the Snakeskin Grisette (Amanita ceciliae). The Grisette is actually an edible species and often collected for the table, however, it has not been included here because its grey colouration makes it less easy to identify and because the Tawny Grisette is about ten times more common. The Snakeskin Grisette, however, is simply an inedible species.


Here are some photographs of Tawny Grisettes I have found this September;

The grooved perimeter of the cap is a key identification feature

A young Tawny Grisette

Note the sheath-like volva at the base of the stem - a characteristic which distinguishes
the Amanita family 

A troop of four Tawny Grisettes growing together