November brings shorter days and cooler temperatures.But the light and colours of November are special, getting out to the woods and wild can be very rewarding with our visiting birds and surprise finds in hedgerows.
Now is the time to go searching for Rose hips which shine from the hedges. Sloes are ready for picking also and there may be some Spanish or sweet Chestnuts still around.
Fields, lawn and verges can yield Sorrel and even some Vetch or wild Marjoram.It’s also a good time to dig up roots of Dandelion, chop and dry for dandelion coffee, I picked up a pack in a shop today, 100grams for 3.19 euro, that’s 31.90 euro per kilo! it was made in Germany and packed in England, why not make your own.
Veg and flower gardens, especially my untidy one, have Corn salad, Chickweed and Hairy bitter cress.
Walls and stony places can yield Navelworth and House Leek.
Watercress is a good November forage if you have a clean source.
Woods are full of beautiful and varied fungi, admire them all and maybe you will encounter some Hedgehog, Blewits, Puffballs , Chanterelles or Cloudy agarics.Be sensible when collecting new species and identifying, when in any doubt ask a knowledgeable person and with some, such as Blewits and Cloudy agaric try just a little first time as some people suffer gastric upset.
Grab you coat hat and gloves, Kids of all ages enjoy, kick up the leaves while you’re out and make the most of the daylight.
For a different kind of forage, with two or three adults a word on “fashion” try wearing earthy colours, browns and greens, forget the deodorant, aftershave or perfume, go quietly.Why? well if you go quietly and blend in to your surrounding you have a much better chance of spotting wild life, a kingfisher on a river, a flock of tiny coal tits feeding, a deer .Just sit quietly for even ten mins sipping that warming drink and watching.
On a recent foray while standing at the edge of a puddle a mouse popped out of the grass at our feet and plunged into the water, swam across the puddle, hauled itself up the bank and sat at a safe distance watching us.A memorable encounter for me and maybe for the mouse too.
In September we came across two male goats engaged in battle,smashing and crashing their headgear together, exhausting themselves in an effort to impress the ladies.
Hannah and Lucy discovering wild foods at Roundwood house,
November first, you might think it too late in year to go foraging.
Not so, on Saturday a group of guests and I gathered for a wild food talk, forage and dinner.
The talk focused mainly on mushroom hunting, how to forage safely and sustainably and how to include and inform children, also the benefits of mushrooms, not just in our diet.
The walk, in grassland, garden and under magnificent trees yielded 5 different edible mushrooms and plenty not for the pot, but beautiful in themselves.
We also collected fresh greens and some berries then headed back to the warmth of the fire to enjoy a sip of my Damson Vodka and relax before dinner.
Dinner was sublime, one delicious course followed another, with our wild finds combined with best of local produce.
The mood was relaxed, old friends and new sharing a special meal.Our two chefs, Paddy and Ted joined us for a well deserved desert. A nightcap sip of my Beech Leaf Liqueur rounded off the evening beautifully.
Thank you to Mama nature for her beauty and bounty.
Thank you to everyone for a great day and to Hannah,Paddy, Amilee and Lucy for the welcome at Roundwood.
Now we are enjoying misty mornings and sunny days, perfect for Autumn’s harvest.This year that harvest is bountiful with really good crops of Damsons, Sloes, Crab apples and plenty of lovely mushrooms in the woods. A stroll on Saturday yielded Princes (Agaricus agustus) Hedgehogs (Hydnum repandum) and Amethysts (Laccaria amethystea) not to mention several different Boletes.
Saturday, Sept 20 th there is a canal bank at Clonony, if you are interested in joining please contact me or Carol Bergin ; email@example.com
I have been busy in the kitchen, bottled the dandelion and Raspberry wine and started a batch of Elderberry which I may use by itself or use to blend with some of the sweeter fruit wines, Elderberries have lots of tannins and so are good for imparting “vinosity” to homemade wines.
Sunday night and it’s been a busy weekend.Saturday we took a short walk in woods to collect Chanterelles and came home with Parasol mushrooms Chanterelles, Blackberries, St.John’s wort and Eye-bright.
Then a Sunday stroll on Boora bog yielded more Blackberries and some Horsetail, followed by visit to Mum in Derrinlough and 3 baskets full of field mushrooms not to mention the abundance of veggies and apples in the garden.
Now tis after ten at night, Mushrooms are drying on racks in living room. Blackberries soaking for a batch of wine and our Icelandic visitor is brewing a herbal tea.
The weather has been so good and the Fraochán plentiful that it is well worth a trip to gather though we usually combine with a nice hike.Often we surprise a whole family of grouse feeding on the berries and they move just a little way off grumbling until we pass.
Gathering the berries is a slow job and what wild food is all about.They have a strong colour and my fingers are stained purple all through their season. These little beauties are so tasty and nutritious.
The berries are an excellent remedy for all manner of eye problems and the leaves in a tea are good to regulate blood sugar and to fight urinary tract infections, all this and tasty too!
I’m lucky enough to own this handy devise which I use only when berries are in plentiful supply,keeping to wild food craft good practice of harvesting no more than one third.
fraocháns or Bilberries (vaccinium myrtillus)are a member of the heather family and grow on acid soil.
It is a muggy damp July evening,the garden is full of new spuds, courgettes, carrots, beans, peas and bucket loads of berries all needing some attention be it weeding or picking, and in the hedges there are the last few Elderflowers, on the mountains a very healthy crop of Fraughans or wild Bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus).
These tasty little berries are packed full of vitamin C along with large amounts of anthocyanins, blue pigments which are powerful antioxidants.
Today on the way home we spied some Dryad’s saddle polyporus squamus mushrooms growing on a neighbors tree stump, they made a tasty dish for dinner, I have tried these before but had picked slightly older ones and it was like chewing an old boot.So it was good to finally enjoy them as young tasty polypores, they are easy to identify, growing on dead wood and reaching up to 50cms in diameter, they have brown scales and a depression in the cap close to the stem. They are a bracket fungus growing with pores on the underside, sometimes called pheasant of the woods due to their scales which look like a hen phesant’s back.
On July 6th we collected and enjoyed our first Chanterelles of the season, so delicious.
Recently a lady visited who is interested in quilting and has begun to dye her own fabrics, this has caught my interest and helped me notice certain wild plants in a new way. I have been seeing Dyer’s rocket also know as Weld (Reseda luteola) for years and vaguely wondering what that tall hand some plant is, to forget all about it in search of familiar forages, now it has a whole new significance for me, not that one needs to be useful as well as handsome but it helps!I hope to find a half hour to cut some and dry it for use in Glady’s craft.
getting to know this plant led me to wonder which other plants can be used to dye fabrics and the list is long, including nettle roots, flag iris flowers and roots, Bilberries to mention but a few.
In other news my recipe for rose cake has been well received by many of you, thank you all for kind comments.
We have bottled the Elderflower “Champagne” and will check the pressure in the bottles over the next few weeks as the champagne is for a family get together in August,also made vegan ice-cream and buckets of cordial, no matter how many blossoms I collect and use there is always a slight feeling of not having gathered enough,at the same time it gladdens my heart to see the berries setting and swelling with a promise of rich harvest to come.
Hazelnuts looking good too as are the Damsons…. so much to look forward to, but just now time to sit still and watch the sky darken and the bats come out on this moonlit night.