Mushrooms, can't leave the house without the food paparazzi
It's great when food trends take hold of a social demographic and that trend now is foraging. Autumn has to be the most exciting time of the year for any nature lover as the trees change colour and shed their leaves and remind us that, while the wheels of urbanisation keep on churning, they, and nature hold the keys to our health, happiness and indeed our future security.
Mary Bulfin is a woman of so much knowledge and enthusiasm, her passion for all things from nature can be felt in her blog Wild Food Mary . Mary gave a talk last weekend to a group of food journalists in Cavan on the grounds of the stunning Farnham Estate, which could arguably have some of the best views from a hotel room in the whole of Ireland.
Puffballs – edible, I think…
The time to go foraging is now. If you are afraid of food that grows wild then just grab a book and look, many people freak at the sight of mushrooms and think they might kill them and with names like Destroying Angel, Jelly Tongues, Bleeding Mycena and Stinkhorns, it's easy to see why. However, edible ones like puffballs, shaggy inkcaps, chanterelles and hedgehogs are easy to find and delicious. If in doubt of anything, go with an expert or take along the invaluable guide River Cottage Mushroom Guide.
Mary guided us through the woodlands of Farnham, all 140 acres of them, on the sunniest Autumn morning, with sun streaming through the trees, there is simply no better place to be. She talked of tales of old, showed us medicinal and edible salads from the woodland floor, many of which can be found in your own nearby woodlands and parks. The trusty nettle always pops up and can be eaten, just to remind you, all year round, they make excellent tea which is great for your blood and will contribute to good heart health. Now is the time to make wine and jam from berries, cordials from rosehips to ward off colds and dandelion root coffee from, yes, dandelion roots. Chickweed should be growing in abundance in your own garden now so why now harvest some and dress and enjoy it before your meal for a nutrient packed free salad? Throw in some sorrel and hairy bittercress (nicer than it sounds) and you have a "superfood" plate fit for an expensive raw food restaurant in LA.
Having a look in my beloved park with some of the remaining trees in the city, there are plenty of funghi growing, also too are plenty of dogs walking and using public spaces in the way that dogs naturally do, but it can be a handy place to start with your wild food identifying exercises. The country is blessed with lots of natural woodland, riverbanks and parks so get your warm boots and woolies on for free outdoor fun and food findings.
The Val's Kitchen team (me and a photographer who left her camera in the car) enjoyed the hospitality of the Radisson at Farnham Estate.
All images by Valerie O'Connor