Summer mushrooms, berries and flowers

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). Fraochán
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.Dryad's saddle

tasty mushrooms

Phesant of the woodsPhesant of the woodstasty mushrooms
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.Dyer's rocket
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.

Jew’s ear fungus

Jelly fungusJew’s Ear fungus Hirneola auricula-judea

found growing on dead Elder branch.This little fungus is very popular in Asia and dries very well,  IMG_0470

Alexanders Smyrnium olusatrum  is beginning to appear, and good to pick now. Use as a green veg or Miles Irving suggests a risotto of blue cheese and Alexanders, worth a try. I collected lots of seed last year and will sow them in my own patch, a lovely plant to have.

Also still some time to dig and scrub those dandelion leaves for drying, just check leaf shape to be sure you are digging Dandelions.

 

January 2014, not so bleak

It’s a mild wet January night and I’ve been out to see what’s happening in the woods and byways.

To my delighted surprise the hedgehog mushrooms (Hydnum repandum) are still putting out fresh growth, we had many a feed of them throughout Nov and Dec and they have continued, a very tasty little morsel served alone or with steak and pink pepper,Yumm.

Also the Wood Blewit (Lepista nuda) though I found just one on Dec 26th.

You may also find some Jew’s ear fungus (Hirneola auricula-Judae) they often grow on dead or dying Elder trees.

For me the plant of the month has to be Dandelion(Taraxacum officinale)or specifically the root of the plant.

now is the time to dig the roots and dry for Dandelion coffee. dandelions are terrific plants with so many health benefits and roots should be harvested during winter months while all the energy here. As the weather is mild and damp it should be easy to dig them just now.

When you have dug them, scrub well,chop and roast in oven at about 150 degrees centigrade till they are coffee colored, store in airtight container when cool and grind to make coffee.

Dandelions are rich in Iron, Magnesium,Calcium,and other minerals, plus Vitamin  A, B1 B2 B3 B5  C and E.

they relieve degenerative joint disorders, are well recognized as liver and kidney boosters and also reduce blood sugars.Not bad for one very common plant, and that’s not all, we can talk about the leaves and flowers later in the year but here is an interesting snippet from herbalist Isabel Shipard, “dandelion plants are said to breathe out ethylene gas….. by growing dandelion under fruit trees the ethylene gas given off can aid in the early ripening of the crop” now that is something to try.

Also appearing on a wall near you, especially if the wall is lime free is Navelworth (umbilicus rupestris) I love the leaves to munch and they are at their best early in the year.

This year the Chickweed (Stellaria media) has continued to grow fresh all winter, I keep a small jar of pesto made from it in the fridge and whizz up a fresh batch every now and then, it’s another amazing herb, particularly good from anyone with bowel disorders.

So it may be winter, but well worth getting out and getting some fresh greens or Dandelion roots, maybe even a mushroom for supper.

 

 

 

 

 

Hazelnut and Blackberry recipies

Blackberry Friands

Ingredients,

  • 1 cup plain flour,
  • 1 and half cups Icing sugar, sieved,
  • 100grms ground almonds,
  • half cup dessicated coconut,
  • 180grms butter, melted and cooled,
  • 200grms fresh Blackberries, rinsed.
  • 5 egg whites,

Method,

Set oven to 200degrees centigrade,

Bake in  friand pan or muffin pan.

Beat egg whites until peaks form,

Mix all dry ingredients together, then carefully fold in egg whites,

Add cooled butter, put two blackberries into each muffin case, add remainder to mixture and stir in being careful not to overmix so the blackberries remain whole and don’t “bleed” into mix, Bake in oven for ten to fifteen mins till skewer comes out clean, Delicious served with spiced Blackberry jelly, a dollop of icecream and hazelnut crackle.

Hazelnut Crackle

Ingredients

  • 200grms shelled Hazelnuts,
  • 200grms sugar 2 tablespoons water,
  • Baking parchment or silicone baking sheet,
  • A few Borage or other edible flowers(optional)

Heat a heavy pan, and add hazelnuts,

Allow to toast shaking the pan frequently,

Tip out the hazelnuts onto a clean tea towel and wrap the nuts and rub them in towel to remove the outer brown skin, this can stain your tea towel so i use a dark colour towel for this part. Discard skins and chop nuts roughly.Spread nuts on parchment or silicone.

Meanwhile using a heavy based sausepan dissolve the sugar in the water without stirring, shake pan now and then,

Continue to heat till the sugar caramelises and turns golden brown, pour the syrup over the nuts, add some flowers or petals or even chopped Rosemary and allow to set, break into shards and use to decorate deserts or ice cream

Blackberry friands with hazelnut crackle, yummm

Blackberry friands with hazelnut crackle, yummm

Eve and Titi picking blackberries

Eve and Titi picking blackberries

Julie's dancing flower fairy

Julie’s dancing flower fairy

June, Summer Flowers

June and it IS summer, lovely word, Summer I’ll give it a capital letter, in fact as we waited so long lets have all capitals, SUMMER, yes that looks good to me (thank goodness this is not an English test )

Flower season and real summer sun to match, any countryside stroll is bound to bring you within range of the heady scent of “May” or White Thorn, and the Gorse and Broom and still blooming on mountain and bog though quickly going to seed.

Elderflowers that we all know and love are just appearing in my area, 3 more days I’d say. The fab Rosa Rugosa or Japanese rose is also appearing and while more an escapee or result of municipal or roadside planting deserves attention where it is abundant and there is no evidence of spraying nearby.

Even the humble and much maligned Dandelion is still about and if I  don’t get to gather flowers or mow , birds love to feed on the seed heads, a pair of Goldfinches or Blackcaps can only gladden all but the most pernickity gardeners heart, or maybe that’s my excuse for the jungle that currently surrounds my house.

Red Clover is also blooming and the bumble bees are busy feeding on it.

Wild fruit trees are also blooming or just finished and fingers crossed that they have had favourable conditions for pollination and the fruit will “set”

So with all this heavenly scented bounty about it’s time to get gathering and go all girly and pretty, try your hand at the Rose Petal Butter Biscuits which you could cut into pretty heart shapes as Tamasin Day-Lewis does in her book Supper for a song. Or a simple delicate flower scented jelly, make in small batches and pot in small pretty pots or I used small glasses and sealed with cling, adding a petal to each glass. These will be used up quickly so not worried about keeping time. Then there are cordials and syrups to make for little folk and maybe a demijon of wine.

Even if you do nothing but sit back and breathe in the scent of the flowers, enjoy, enjoy.

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