Fungal fun in Leighton-Linslade

Have been photographing mycological mysteries whilst legging it about after my son (and preventing him eating said mysteries).   In order to identify a mushroom, these factors can mean the difference between life and death… Some of these are:

  1. Measurements – cap diameter straight across the fullest part, entire height of mushroom.
  2. Smell – fruity or mealy?  iodine? Nutty?  And the nice tasty smelling ones sometimes kill you too!
  3. Spore print – the ‘seeds’ of the mushroom fall out of the cap when left in the dark for several hours on a clean sheet of paper.
  4. Tree cover overhead – each mushroom gets its nutrients from different trees, often specific to either conifer or broadleaf but sometimes even to specific species of tree.

Well heres what I found…

Shaggy Parasol (Macrolepiota rhacodes) , absolutely delicious fried with a dash of olive oil on Melba toast, and some fresh rocket 🙂  In Heath Wood.  Beware of any ‘Parasols’ under 8cm, even if they have a scaly dry cap there is two that may kill you given half a chance.  (Isnt life so much more interesting now its under threat!!)

Brown Wood Mushroom ( Agaricus sylvaticus) at Tiddenfoot Lake.  Another great edible, and smells and looks it. Under conifers, height 5-12cm cap 5-10cm across.  Go for a warming stew or risotto, also good in Mushroom Ketchup.  Ps it wasnt me that pulled up this clump, honest to god! Far better to use a knife and cut the it doesnt damage the mycelium.

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The cute little cupcake number above seems to be (at best guess) a Yellow Cow Pat Toadstool (Bolbitius vitellinus).  Inedible.  In Linslade Wood.  What  a lurvely happy yellow!!

A type of Milk Cap, am not sure which one though.  A true milk cap will ‘bleed’ a milky sap when cut.  Many (but not all) are edible.  Heath Wood.  Beware the Brown Roll Rim, which has a pretty shiny cap and looks very similar except the rim of the cap is rolled tightly under…its toxins build up in the liver an can kill you years later just when you think everything is cool….

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Probably a Beech Russula…..or else the Sickener.  do you see how dicy this is!!  You never know which meal will be your last.  its like playing Russian Roulette.

(NB: I have never played Russian Roulette, and have no plans to do so 🙂 )

Fungal fun in Leighton-Linslade

Cretan Edibles…a semitropical feast!

Having just returned from my, ahem, research trip to Crete, where i sampled many of the local delicacies, which included semi-feral food garnered from the neatly planted beds and borders of the posh resort where we stayed.  Though the resort staff disagreed with my plan to harvest honey from a bees nest in a carob tree next to the bar, they did not catch me liberating the prickly pears, pomegranates, carob pods and mint, so I have these delights to bring you all.

So, Prickly Pear cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica, or Indian Fig) is a spectacular dinosaur-like arid climate species that produces Vitamin c rich edible fruits from its big flat plate like protusions (are they leaves!?)  DO NOT do what i did the first time many years ago and grab the fruit whole heartedly with a bare hand.  If you do this gazillions of tiny blade like hairs will insert themselves into your skin and they are REALLY hard to get out.  If you use the tips of your fingers and watch what you are doing you will miss the hairs!!

Prickly Pear Sorbet with Greek Yogurt

4 prickly pear fruits

1 lemon

4 sprigs of wild peppermint

small tub of Greek yogurt

  1. Cut fruits in half and Scoop out the insides with a spoon, put all of this in a bowl and break up with a fork.
  2. Squeeze in the lemon juice.
  3. Put in the freezer for a few hours or until solid.
  4. Crush it up with a fork again then quickly put the Greek yogurt into two dessert or wine glasses and scoop the prickly pear mixture on top.
  5. Add a sprig of mint.
  6. Serve immediately or place in the freezer.

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Carob (Ceratonia siliqua) grows everywhere in Crete, and is a magnet for bees that also appreciate its mild sweetness, every tree sounds like a bee hive!  Mostly known as a chocolate substitute, it was used during the war as a rich source of calcium (the syrup contains 3 times more than milk!) and fibre as well as minerals.  Nowadays its mostly used to make locust bean gum for use in foods, but ive brought enough back to make some kind of chocolateless drink so will get back with that later….

 

Olives. (Olea europea).this wouldn’t be complete without one of Crete’s biggest exports – fine olive oil. eaten without preparation, olives are disgustingly bitter (believe me, ive tried them in Homebase garden centre before).  But as olive oil thye provide a high energy healthy-ish fat that you can splurge raw to make salad tasty…

Pomegranates are good for the heart and a gateway to the Underworld, just ask Persephone.

Aloes can be used as first aid for cuts, bits, stings and rashes.  Just break a dragon-like leaf off and rub the jelly on the wound.

I also found palm seeds but they are not edible apparently!  The bark sheets can be used to make a roof and matting etc.

The Thorny Burnet plant grows close to the ground, constructed of vicious spines (and an excellent choice for my 20 month old son to sit on).  It was traditionally used to stuff in the roofs of houses to stop mice and rats.  Having touched this plant i will vouch for its efficiacy and its a good one to know if you ever have to make a survival shelter in the Cretan outback.

 

I found a type of Juniperus sps on Crissi Island, the oil can be used to treat inflammation and wind and to clear the lungs.  Also to make gin (yuck)…

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Last but not least, one to avoid and not let your kids eat…Oleander (Nerium oleander) has pretty pink and white flowers and spiky leaves and will cause you a trip to a foreign A&E if you ingest it.  It was made famous by the book ‘White Oleander’.

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Well thats all from the Aegean isles, now for mushroom season in rainy Britain….

Stay tuned folks!

Cretan Edibles…a semitropical feast!

Autumn Tapas & Teas @ Tiddenfoot Lake

  • Sorrel – (lemony flavour) add to a cocktail skewer of hard boiled egg, and olives. Use as you would lemon!
  • Plaintain – add seeds to biscuits, stir fries, bread
  • Reedmace- Dig up the rhizome in autumn –winter, roast, good source of carbs.
  • Ash – seeds, peel then pickle when green
  • Fairy Ring Champignon mushroom – dry them and add to soups and stews
  • Dandelion – (bitter flavour) Cut rounds of boiled corn on the cob sweetcorn and spread with cheese/cheeselike spread, garnish with plenty of dandelion leaves.
  • Hogweed Pannacotta
  • (dessert spice) Use the seed to infuse in milk based desserts.
  1. For a simple dessert for 2, add 3 tblsp lightly crushed dried Hogweed seeds to 260ml soya milk (or other milk),
  2. Simmer for 5 mins.
  3. Strain out the seeds and add 50g sugar.
  4. Mix half a sachet of Vegi Gel in 50ml cold water then add to infused milk.
  5. Pour into moulds, cups or shot glasses.
  6. Leave in a cool room or fridge for at least an hour to set.
  7. Garnish if desired with a little sugar, hot blackberry sauce and water mint leaves J

 

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  • Nettle Falafels
  1. Gather half a carrier bag of fresh nettle tops and add dried nettle seed if you have it, half a cup will do 😉
  2. Boil in just enough water to cover, then pulp til a puree.
  3. Add ground oatmeal until the mixture thickens to a dough like consistency.
  4. Meanwhile fry a large clove of garlic, a large chili if wanted or some onion. Add this to the mixture.
  5. Roll mix into falafel sized balls, coat in flour
  6. Depending on where you are, fry in a pan til golden brown on each side and crispy to the touch, or bake in oven for 30 mins Gas Mark 6 – probably less if your oven is better than mine, which is quite likely!

 

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Horseradish Sauce (Ve)

  1. Dig up a piece of horseradish root. Wash.
  2. Grate 2 -3 tblsp off the root with a fine grater. Leave in 2tblsp hot water to allow the powerful flavor to release.
  3. Meanwhile mix 150ml vegan milk with 1 tblsp corn flour to thicken (do this cold at first), add 1tblsp white wine vinegar, a pinch of caster sugar and a pich of mustard powder plus salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Heat til it thickens, add more cornflour if necessary, but a little goes a long way!
  5. Add the horseradish root. Enjoy!
  6. Keeps for around a week in the fridge.

 

Wild Fruit Leather

  1. 400g hawthorn berries, 500g crab apples, 200g blackberries and/or elderberries, 150g sugar
  2. Chop crab apples, add all the fruit together in a big saucepan with enough water to cover. Boil, then simmer for 20min or until fruit softens and breaks up.
  3. Mash, then push through sieve to remove large pips.
  4. Add sugar, heat and stir til sugar dissolves.
  5. When mixture is like syrup, pour into baking trays lined with baking paper (NOT foil as this will stick!)
  6. Smooth out into a thin layer
  7. Put in oven at very low heat (60c) for around 7 hours. Check halfway through as if it goes too hard it will be burnt. The leather should feel rubbery to the touch.
  8. Allow to cool, then gently cut into strips or squares and peel off baking paper.
  9. Store in a sealed box for up to a year!

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Teas – Pine needle tea, Ground Ivy, Mugwort, and Blackberry & Water Mint

Infuse in boiling water for 5-10 mins.  Pine needle contains 5 times more Vitamin c than citrus fruit!  Enjoy!

Autumn Tapas & Teas @ Tiddenfoot Lake

Autumn Wildfood Cookery Menu @ Linford Lakes Nature Reserve

Hedgewitch Adventures @ Linford Lakes Nature Reserve

Autumn Wildfood Cookery 2016

Menu:

Wild Seed Damper Bread with Nettle Pesto
Comfrey Fritters
Roasted Reedmace Roots

Clay & Leaf Baked Trout with Wild Horseradish, Crabapple and Honey
Clay Baked Hazelnut & Crabapple Stuffed Squash

Hogweed Pannacotta with Wild Berries

Damper Bread:

300g self raising flour
75g butter or vegan sub
1 small cup soya milk
2 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
Himalayan Balsam seeds
Plaintain seeds
Nettle seeds
Flour to add later

1. Put flour in mixing bowl, add salt and sugar.
2. Work in butter and add milk til you form a dough.
3. Chop nettle tops finely and boil in a small amount of water. Drain well.
4. Pick what seeds you want to add and mix in. Mix in nettles.
5. Add more flour if needed.
6. Stretch the mixture into a long snake and wrap around a green wood, non toxic stick such as willow. The stick needs to be about 1cm thick and t least 40cm long.
7. Hold above the hot embers and turn slowly til cooked..it wont take long!
8. Enjoy on its own or with nettle pesto or horseradish sauce.

Nettle Pesto

3 cups nettle tops
olive oil to taste (roughly ½ to 1 cup)
1 cup crushed walnuts
salt, pepper
1 large garlic clove, crushed

1. Boil the nettle tops in just enough water to cover, then drain.
2. Blend or pestle up the nettles then do the same with all the other ingredients (add the oil last)

Comfrey Fritters (serves 2)

100g white self raising flour
250ml soda water
Comfrey leaves (small)
Sunflower oil

1. Chill the ingredients
2. Add oil to a saucepan, heat to 180c
3. Mix flour, cornflour together and pour in soda water til a light batter is formed.
4. Stir it in quickly within a minute, don’t worry about a few lumps.
5. Dip comfrey leaves in..hold 2 or 3 together to make a thicker, juicer fritter.
6. Dry on kitchen towel to absorb excess oil. Nice with soy sauce or other strong sauce.

Clay & Leaf Baked Trout/ stuffed Baked Squash

Whole trout
Clay (a saucepan full)
Comfrey leaves or burdock leaves to cover fish both sides
Crabapples
Horseradish root
Honey

Small squash
Clay
Hazelnuts (a handful)
Couscous ?
Crabapples (a handful)
Garlic
1 onion, chpped
Soy sauce 2 tblsp
Grated horseradish

Trout

1. Get fire ready with a good bed of embers
2. Gut trout.
3. Dress with thinly sliced crab apples, grated horseradish and drizzle with honey.
4. Wrap in comfrey leaves til completely covered, drizzle on a bit of water if needed.
5. Mould a 1cm thick layer of clay smoothly around the whole fish, leaving no gaps.
6. Place on a flat bed of embers and quickly heap more on top. If there isn’t enough embers, turn the fish after 20 min and do the other side.
7. Hopefully it wont fall to pieces and you can hoick it out with flat metal skillet or BBQ tools.
8. Break open…inhale…

Squash

1. Cut squash in two & Hollow out the squash.
2. Fry garlic and onion in saucepan, when golden brown switch off.
3. Crush the hazelnuts in the pestle and mortar and add them.
4. In another pan boil the crabapples for 5 min, add to hazelnut mixture.
5. Add soy sauce and grated horseradish
6. Whack the two squash halves back together
7. Fold in leaves
8. Cover with 1cm thickness of clay, no gaps
9. Stick on a bed of flat embers and cover with more embers.
10. Leave for roughly 20-3omin
11. Crack open and enjoy.

Hogweed Pannacotta with Wild Berry Layer

1/2 sachet Vegi Gel per 2 pannacottas
260ml soya milk
3 tblsp dried hogweed seeds
50g sugar for adding to milk
½ cup sugar for sauce
1 cup Wild berries (elderberry, blackberry, even a few sloes!)
½ a lemon
Water mint to dress

1. Heat the soya milk in a saucepan til it is simmering.
2. Lightly Crush 1 tblsp of hogweed seeds at a time in a pestle and mortar
3. Add the hogweed seeds to the milk and simmer for 5-10 min, tasting and adding more to taste.
4. Sieve the seeds out of the milk.
5. Add the sugar to the milk and dissolve.
6. Make up half a sachet of Vegi Gel in 100ml cold water then add to infused milk.
7. Stir til dissolved, then leave to cool slightly and pour into a china cup.
8. After a few mins put in the fridge for one hour to set.
9. Make up hot sticky berry sauce by crushing berries with potarto masher in just enough water to cover, add sugar slowly to taste and add the lemon at the end.
10. Boil until sauce thickens
11. Tip milk pudding out upside down onto the serving plate and garnish with water mint and berry sauce, sprinkle with a few berries.

ENJOY XX

Hedgewitch Kat

Autumn Wildfood Cookery Menu @ Linford Lakes Nature Reserve

AUGUST:Down on the Muddy Banks of the Ouzel..lurks nuggets of crustacean protein

In the murky fulsomeness of Leighton’s canals and river, armoured, scuttling food lurks.  I dont often go in for animal protein, more due to the fact I am crap at catching stuff rather than having any ethical boundary on this.  However, in a survival situation, (or if you, like me, have overspent this month on stupidly priced gym trainers and passport applications ) the Signal Crayfish forms a lifeline that makes a nice change from baked beans.

Signal crays are an invasive species, carrying a fungus which is killing off our native White Clawed crayfish.  Its easy to  tell the difference – signals have red underneath their claws and are bigger.  Indeed, you are legally obliged NOT to throw them back in if you catch one (though i am not sure what happens if you do…maybe transportation to Australia 😉

However if you plan on catching them to sell to restaurants you need a licence.

So how do you catch them?

If youve got a spare day to sit about and do jack all, hang a baited line in the water, any scraps of meat or smally fish will do.  just pull them up and they will hang on the bait, not being too bright.

If, like me, you have things to be getting on with, your best option is a trap.  Easy option, got o a fishing shop and buy one for £5.  But why do that when you can have fun doing it the hard way?

I made several 7 foot traps from hazel, osier willow and weeping willow.  Also crack willow, which I wish I hadn’t as it lived up to its name.

You need a bait bag held in the centre of the trap and a removeable entrance funnel or door in the side to get the little blighters out afterwards.  The willow also needs soaking beforehand.  bait the trap by shoving some sardines or bacon rinds etc into the bait bag, close it up and weight the trap inside with something, I used a cast iron chimney collar but a brick  or rocks will do.  attach ropes at each end and sling it in for 2 or 3 days.

Pull up, try not to smell the slimy brown gunk that covers the trap or it will seriously put you off your dinner.  wear strong gloves.  Open the trap and grab the crays at the back behind their claws…i got a nasty slash right down the meat of my thumb when i didnt wear gloves once…those critters don’t want to die and I cant blame them.  Chuck them in a bucket of clean water.  People told me to leave them in for a few days, I did, and they always died…til i realised all the lovely fluoride and chlorine bleach in our nice drinking water was making them shuffle off this mortal coil.

So how to end their lives amicably as possible, and how to cook them?  for that you’ll need Part 2, as this has gone on rather a long time!!

AUGUST:Down on the Muddy Banks of the Ouzel..lurks nuggets of crustacean protein

Great Bushcraft Classics:’The Swiss Family Robinson’ by Johann R Wyss

My beautifully illustrated (by Mervyn Peake) copy is gifted to ‘Lynn, from Uncle Gordon, Istanbul, 1955’, with a golden tan cover printed in rich burgundy and dark green palms, ships and huts.  Dogs, guns and ‘savages’ grace the inside cover.

Throughout this swashbuckling family adventure our heroes master the tropical island they become stranded on by, in a nutshell, shooting dead anything that moves and carrying back to treehouse/cave camp anything that doesn’t.  while possibly not the best choice for the sensitive or vegan reader, if you can be prepared to look beyond the white supremacism and hypocritical exploitation of its time, this book delivers some bushcraft gems.  Here they are in all their glory.

  • Myrica cerifera berries for candle wax tallow – boiling the berries in a gourd container then skimming off the wax, then heating wax again, then dipping cotton or similar wick until many layers are built up’Myrica_cerifera_main
  • Cassava/tapioca root preparation – squeezing the poisonous sap out and making bread from the flour
  • Sharkskin armlets and anklets and rope for harvesting coconuts fom palm trees
  • Agave plant as a source of tinder and thread (from leaf filaments) and as a healing wound dressing.
  • Calabash gourds to make crockery and spoons
  • Caoutchouc/india-rubber tree oozes a resinous substance which the Robinsons make waterproof boots out of by painting on layers over a clay foot mould.
  • Sago palm – gives a flour and sago grubs for roasting on  a stick over the fire.
  • Tobacco smoke to harvest honey
  • New Zealand flax (Phormium Tenax) for fibre and rough clothing.  they prepare this by retting it in a pool of stagnant water for 2 weeks then bleaching in the sun, then carding the fibres with combs made of long nails.
  • making a canoe from the cork like bark of a mystery tree in one sheet.
Great Bushcraft Classics:’The Swiss Family Robinson’ by Johann R Wyss

DIY Mugwort Smudge Stick

So around our lovely River Ouse (and in the back yards of various businesses, and on most waysides) stands the tall silvery turquoise spears of mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris).  Mugwort is related to Wormwood -remember Kylie Minogue’s Green Fairy in Moulin Rouge!, hence the distinctive deeply lobed, branched leaves with silvery undersides, and small flowers bunched on spikes.

Rub the flowers between the fingers for a burst of incense, a clarifying, intoxicating scent on a par with lavender in power.

This herb, sacred to Artemis and therefore of all women, encourages menstrual flow and can be used in lucid dreaming and dream divination. (NB: DO NOT USE INTERNALLY IF PREGNANT)  On  a more fundamental note, it also dissuades insects from where it is hung or burnt as a smudge as it contains strong essential oils.

Its easy to make your own smudge, to use in purifying ritual or as mossie repellent, you decide!

Step 1: Cut the top most 20cm off the top stem of each mugwort plant.  Dry them in a rack or dry dark place til they are dry but still flexible.

Step 2: Pack them together all facing one way til you have a bundle 3cm in diameter.

Step 3: pick the leaves of the last few cm to make a handle (otherwise the stick will burn down to your fingers…ouwchie…

Step 4: Take red (or whatever colour really) thread and bind tightly in a spiral from base to top.  then go from top to base again, in a spiral.

Step 5: Tie firmly at the base.

Step 6: Leave to dry completely (when it cracks off at the touch).  if it is properly dried it will light.

To use: Light the far end of the stick then blow it out after a few seconds, move the stick around the room and around people (just not too close or they may singe!)

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DIY Mugwort Smudge Stick