Doug and I went for a long walk yesterday evening in the woods behind Outwood Common Road in Billericay and stretching up towards Crays Hill. I wanted to see the pigs and hens which the farm near us keeps – the footpath goes through their farm and their Rhode Island Red hybrids are such characters – and it’s a lovely walk anyway. Just in case, Doug, who loves to go foraging for mushrooms, brought a bag with him. In the past we have found some parasol mushrooms in one stretch in the woods about this time of year, although perhaps closer to October. But we didn’t hold out much hope of finding anything this year as we thought, despite all the rain we’ve had lately, that it might be a bit early.
However, we were wrong to be so pessimistic because we did in fact stumble across quite a number of big parasol mushrooms which were largely untouched, although somebody (maybe a rabbit?) had taken a small bite out of one of them. Doug collected four large specimens, carefully arranged them in a tupperware box which was bursting at the seams by the time we left and took them home to eat. Parasol mushrooms, which are edible, are relatively easy to identify because they have a large parasol-like head and tiger stripes on the stems. There are so many species of mushroom and a number which are poisonous so we always find it best to stick to the ones we know and, if in doubt, leave other ones alone. Some mushrooms will just give you a nasty stomach upset while others can kill you and there’s not always an antidote so it’s not worth taking chances with these things.
On our travels we also saw an abundance of sloes, hawthorn berries and some rosehips too. We’ve never tried making sloe gin before but I think we’ll be returning to the scene of the crime soon to collect some and make a stash of sloe gin for Christmas. Many of the sloes looked ripe but when we checked the internet last night it said that it was best to pick them in late October after the first frosts, so I guess we’ll be doing that. Do get in touch if anybody has any good recipes for this or rosehip/hawthorn berry jelly as I’d like to try making that.
Reading through an old copy of the Telegraph from last Tuesday, I was surprised to see none other than Prince Charles out foraging for mushrooms around the Balmoral estate. It must be trendy now!
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