Food for free 2

Blackberries in a landscape, ready to be eaten.
Blackberries in a landscape, ready to be picked and eaten.

I’m not a fashionable forager.  You won’t find me back in the kitchen preparing to fry hogweed, or blitzing ground-ivy into my mayo.  I’m a bit conventional, and I stick with what I know.  A month or two back it was elderflowers for cordial.  Just now the blackberry season is in full swing, and cob nuts are there if you know where to look.  Friends with big gardens invite me to forage beneath their apple and pear trees for windfalls, and as soon as the first frosts strike, I’ll be looking for sloes to make a batch of sloe gin, and maybe I’ll make some rosehip syrup too..

I like to look for mushrooms too, though I’m only confident to identify two or three kinds of fungi at most.  There are field mushrooms for the taking at the bottom of the garden.

Refugees from the sports pitch? Or puffballs?
Refugees from the sports pitch? Or puffballs?

But last Thursday I was out walking with a friend when we saw something that put any existing evening meal plans on hold.  Over there in the corner of that meadow – look!  A white football, miles from any football pitch or recreation ground, with a tennis ball alongside, and a couple of golf balls next to them too.  Except we knew they weren’t lost property accidentally abandoned by sportspeople .  They were puffballs, those extraordinary giant white mushrooms which have no open cap with spore-bearing gills.  And they are barely attached to the ground, with no apparent stem.  My friend didn’t want them: she’s married to an amateur mycologist and sees quite enough of mushrooms without eating the wretched things, thank you.  But I did.  I reorganised my rucksack to accommodate the football and the tennis ball , and left the golf balls to grow up to be footballs in their turn.

My pack seemed unexpectedly heavier for the last mile or two of our walk.  It was hardly surprising.  My football weighed in at 827 grams – well over 1 1/2 lb.  It made a wonderful supper, fried in thick slices in butter with lardons and parley and lemon zest, with just a hint of garlic.  I gave a big chunk to friends who had us round to forage for apples and plums the next day, and the rest made a vast vat of soup.  Who said there was no such thing as a free lunch?

Here's our bigger puffball, on the scales and weighing in at 827 grams.
Here’s our bigger puffball, on the scales and weighing in at 827 grams.
  • ‘Food for Free 2’ to distinguish it from a post I wrote in April 2011, when I did indeed join in foraging for some rather odd items of wild food

19 thoughts on “Food for free 2”

  1. Wonderful! Is it true that in France you can go into a Pharmacy with foraged mushrooms and they can tell you if they are edible or not?
    I recall you made a pasta dish with wild garlic a while back.

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    1. It’s supposed to be true. But these days, fears of H&S and all, they’re pretty non-committal in case they make a fatal mistake. Yes, there’s so much wild garlic round here, why not? It makes a great sort-of-pesto too.

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  2. You are quite the adventuress! And it sounds like a delicious meal. A pound and a half mushroom sounds to good to be true. And wild blackberries! What a wonderful world. Have a great week.

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  3. Well, the fact that you lived to write this post means the mushroom didn’t kill you! I have a friend who nearly died from eating foraged mushrooms . . . And I need to know–is rosehip syrup worth the trouble? I have lots of rosehips but don’t know what to do with them.

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    1. Actually, rosehip syrup’s not that much trouble. Don’t de-pip them as the recipes urge, just strain the lot later. And do freeze the fruit after preparing it but before using it. Frost apparently improves the flavour, as with sloes. But it’s a pretty mild syrup – a nice one to have with vanilla ice cream? But nothing world-shattering. And as to eating foraged mushrooms, I’m very VERY careful.

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      1. Thanks for the input on this–I’d love to use these beautiful things but I always seem to have too many things on my list already–will I follow through with the rosehips? I wonder when I ever had time to hold a job and go to work?!

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  4. You are adventurous! We had some giant puffballs that grew every year at the bottom of our old garden but only the rabbits seemed to take little bites out of them – if only I’d known.

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  5. Wonderful! It also reminded me of my late father in law who had this enormous fungus growing in his field. Not sure what it was he contacted a local expert who suggested he take a video of it and send that to him for identification. “Video?” says Roger “but it doesn’t move!”

    It was a puffball.

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