We head across the top of the slope and down into fine soft grasses, where bright green forks of Sheep Sorrel peep out. These can be used just like common Sorrel; in soups with onions and cream, or in potato, egg and fish dishes…not to mention, mushrooms!
We now enter Baker’s Wood, an ancient site wreathed in emerald star moss. First up is the crumpled chromatography of a Stereum bracket fungus, residing in a fallen birch.Inedible, but pretty….
Next, at the base of a standing Oak we find a young Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa). The tufts are thick with many frilly layers in grey, beige and white. This is a tasty edible that grows in tufts that are 20-30cm across. The stems are lateral and welded together at the base. I take a little to eat later lightly fried with salt and pepper. Yum! ( My kid is not impressed and resorts to frankfurters).
Many Earthballs (Schleroderma citrinum) abound in the leaf litter and poke out of decaying stumps.
Phil points out a Tough/Spindle Shank (Colybia fusipes), a rubbery brick reddish mushroom with a clumping habit. It isn’t exactly poisonous, but you wouldn’t be that tempted to eat it either. Though the texture does remind one of Jelly Babies..
The prize for the most weird definitely goes to the Earth Stars ( Giastrum sps) that we discover after giving up on finding them on the way back to the car. These mushrooms have fruiting bodies that look like octopuses, with coiling leathery tendrils below a cephalic ‘head’. You can’t eat them, but you can watch and wonder at their wonderful weirdness….. they even raise themselves off the ground like little UFOs,and react to dry weather by curling their ‘tentacles’ (Phil knows the proper scientific term, not me) over their delicate spores. In damp weather they unravel and become Octopuses. Sort of.
Last but not least, I spot some Wood Sorrel (Oxalis) which has the same lemony tang as Common Sorrel but is nothing like a relation. This great little clover like plant grows at the base of trees in acid soils, such as here at the Greensand Way. It has a red stem. Myself and an ex boyfriend once lived off handfuls of Wood Sorrel, half a jar of fish paste and a crate of cider for 2 days whilst waiting for a hitch hike out of a remote Scottish Loch. Very tasty it was, too. Full of Vitamin C, it was historically used to prevent scurvy.
Though that didn’t stop our nice middle aged Scot rescuers driving us to a restaurant in their Range Rover!!