Monday, 26 October 2009

The Great Autumn Adventure

We set out yesterday with two objectives both involving food. The plan was to set off from the flat around ten, walk through Cockington and the woods to Occombe farm. Have lunch, ether at Cockington Court or Occombe and pick up anything edible on the way. Around about an 8 mile round trip.

First we packed our kit. In our impressive travelling library was Food for Free, RSPB Pocket Guide to British Birds (not that we forage for birds), Seaweed and Eat it and Mushrooms: River Cottage Handbook. We took freezer bags for specimens (again, not of birds), a notebook and pencil, a knife, our trug and (not pictured) a camera.

As we walked up the path from Cockington we spotted a fallen log. One side was full of tiny (and I mean tiny) mushrooms so we where about to turn away when we spotted the other side. Jelly Ears! Something I could safely identify. Yay! They became the first mushroom I ever picked. I held the brambles back with a gardeners glove and picked off the mushrooms with a bag over my hand. Even indirectly they felt yucky, definitely jelly like. I have since touched them bear handed. I must have warmed up to them, I just found it fascinating. They are apparently excellent in stir fries and I'll try it later this week. Although one of my mushroom books advises it's an acquired taste.

A bit more solid this time, from around a hedge row I picked plenty of rose hips. I'm not terribly concerned about my vitamin C but rose hip syrup will be great to have around this winter. It's described as good on pancakes so I'm betting it's a winner.

This particular hedgerow really was a winner. On the other side they had slows! Now let me tell you about gathering these particular sloes. Sloes grow on the blackthorn bush which can grow around six feet tall. Devonian hedgerows are traditionally built on banks which makes it even higher. I had to bend the branches down to pick the fruit but... big but... black thorns are covered with big thorns. So it required my gardening gloves and some death defying climbing to get my tiny harvest.

We saw some mushrooms that where inedible, barely a metre from our front door are false chanterelles. Others I just couldn't identify. Some where so cute I had to take a picture anyway.

These ones seemed to be oysters but I didn't want to hazard a guess. I cut one off to take home for a spore print to see if I can get a positive ID.

The last find was after on our weary walk home (although we did forage for vegan parmesan in the Occombe farm shop) was nettles. Not particularly hard to find. I picked off some of the tops to wash my hair with. I do a conditioning treatment that invloves nettles and apple cider vinegar. As you can imagine I smell wonderful afterwards.

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