Wild Harvest by Dulcima Mansell

Dulcima Mansell went on a wild mushroom day, run by the author of our article in last month’s issue. Here’s how she got on….

It was a crisp Saturday morning when I arrived at Pucks Oak Barn in Compton to join the horde of fellow welly-boot wearing and basket carrying course attendees. The course was the first by mycologist Clifford Davy and ecologist Peter Sibley and they debuted to a strong turnout. Seventeen of us attended the course from all over Surrey and London.

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We were an eclectic bunch, consisting of a nurse, a project manager and a small business owner amongst others. Ages ranged from twenties to sixties and our skills level from complete amateurs to experienced foragers.

 

The morning session comprised two talks which, aside from some comedy provided by a rather temperamental slide projector (no Powerpoint here!), were informative and very interesting. We learnt all about edible wild plants and fungi as well as those best avoided.

 

In equal measure we were salivating at the thought of the edible and had a healthy respect for the dangerous, with one witty attendee pointing out that for every tasty species there seemed to be a sinister twin that would kill you within minutes.

 

After the morning being taught about the wealth of food available in the British countryside we happily tucked in to the feast Peter had prepared, which was a three-course showcase of local wild food. Having sampled the tasty delights we were all even more eager to go hunting for our own specimens and it was time for the foraging to commence!

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Once we were unleashed on the unsuspecting Surrey countryside the rivalry began as we all raced to find the biggest, best or rarest specimen. I was proud to spot the first cep (porcini) of the day, although it was soon superseded by more impressive specimens. By the end of the afternoon we had all successfully gathered a good pile of fungi which had received Clifford’s nod of approval.

 

I had found quite a mound of ceps and boletus (which although unsightly I was assured were incredibly tasty). Peter and Clifford had also kindly already gathered a collection of field mushrooms as a backup in case our excursion proved less than fruitful. We were all happy to leave the day with our baskets full as well as a selection of recipes, course notes and a guidebook on wild food.

 

Attending Wild Harvest’s foraging course gave me greatly increased respect and knowledge about the wealth of wild food available in the local area. I did not leave an expert but I certainly had gained the hunger for more knowledge. I felt inspired to go home to try out a variety of recipes, not only with the produce I had gathered, but also with a renewed passion for local quality food.

 

As a keen cook and lover of the countryside the day was a fantastic experience. I met like-minded people, learned a great deal and would highly recommend this memorable and well priced course.

 

Dulcima Mansell is a freelance food writer based in Surrey. Follow her blog at dulcimaskitchen.blogspot.com

Seasonal Foods

Summer 2016

June was one of the wettest on record. July was cooler than average but quite dry. August is hotter so far but dry. Plants have responded by growing fast but fruit has not matured as quickly as might have been expected. There was an early flush of edible mushrooms in June, Parasols in particular, but not much thereafter. Should the weather turn wet, look out for Boletus edulis, (Ceps or porcini). There is every chance of them appearing soon.

Our Foraging Courses begin soon. The first are two Taster Days on Saturday the 27th of August and Sunday the 28th, these will be in Surrey and are intended to be an introduction to foraging for beginners. We will hold two more Taster sessions later on in Essex on the weekend of the 8th and 9th of October. The cost is £25 per person for each session.

Foraging 2016

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Dates & Venues

Wild Harvest Day Course New Forest

Come join us on one of our courses in the wonderful English countryside for a day of foraging, identifying, cooking and fun...