It’s been a while since I have written a blog post in fact, I’ll be honest, my summer writing holiday has slipped into a rather embarrassing 6 month sabbatical! It’s not that I’ve lost enthusiasm, it’s just that life seems to have got in the way – but it’s time to make amends.
Earlier in the year, a friend and I went on a hedgerow foraging course run by the the Globe and Rainbow pub in Kilndown. It was a fantastic day despite the freezing temperatures, the informative 2hr walk was followed by an utterly amazing forager’s banquet. When I heard that the pub was running a Autumn mushroom course I was keen to make a return visit with some friends and, once again, we weren’t disappointed.
I’m a very late convert to the humble mushroom. Having hated them throughout childhood, I was very slow to start trying them again as an adult. Although they are now regularly part of my shopping basket I, more often than not, use them as a ‘filler’ to bulk out a dish rather than as the star of the show. Neil, the head chef at the pub, is passionate about cooking with local, seasonal and wild ingredients. His ‘forager’s feast’ earlier in the year was superb so I was keen to grab some mushroom cooking tips – as well a stuff myself with more of his lovely grub of course!
Before all that though… the mushroom walk itself. Our guide for the morning was local mycologist Bryan Bullen who is also a warden for the Kent Wildlife Trust. His interest in mushrooms goes back years and, despite been extremely modest about his knowledge, he provided a really interesting talk on fungi, explaining some of the different families and how to recognise/identify them using a combination of sight, smell and taste*. And if you think all mushrooms smell like, well mushrooms… think again!
* Ok, so tasting unidentified mushrooms isn’t exactly a great idea and Bryan was very hesitant to suggest otherwise. However, apparently taking a tiny nibble and then spitting it out afterwards (never ingest) can provide vital clues about what a specimen is. But please don’t try this without any idea of what you might be eating!
Below are a some pictures from our walk. I have captioned a few but I’m afraid it was all a bit much for me to remember. What did really surprise me was how many varieties we saw in such a short distance. With a keen eye (and nose), and the decent weather conditions that we have had this year, it really was a fungi-forager’s delight. Seriously, if you want to get a beginners guide to mushrooming (and also butterflies, dragonflies, birds, reptiles & flowers), Bryan is your man!
Bryan had brought some samples along of what we might hope to see (poisonous and edible)
just in case we didn’t find anything but the mushrooms were plentiful. A beautiful walk too.
We found mushrooms from small to big, with some fascinating smells too. Who’d have
thought we’d smell coconut, raw potato, leather, flour & aniseed? Not me for sure!
The majority of mushrooms have ‘gills’ underneath but some have tiny tubes to disperse their spores
and the yellow one is identified by its tiny spikes. We saw mushroom ‘brackets’ and the image
on the bottom right is the inside of a ‘Stinkhorn’ which is filled with jelly. It was surprisingly heavy!
This is called ‘hen of the wood’ and was spotted right at the end of the walk. It was incredible.
Back at the pub it was on to the food. As one would expect from a foraging walk, there were plenty of mushrooms on the menu. However as I mentioned above Neil, the head chef is passionate about using local wild food and his menu was certainly testament to this. The variety of his food was impressive, and he wasn’t shy about sharing cooking tips either – which was a nice added extra. I certainly feel I could attempt some of the recipes at home, without too much difficulty, although it is much nicer when someone else does the cooking – and washing up – afterwards!
If you are interested in foraging, or just want a day out with a difference, I urge you to book one of the Globe and Rainbow’s courses next year. The price is £30 per head and is superb value for money in my opinion. The food alone is worth more than that price, and in my opinion is streets ahead of a certain Michelin-starred restaurant not too far from here. For more information on the pub’s upcoming events visit www.globeandrainbow.co.uk. They have plenty of other special events throughout the year, so go along and support them!
Wild mushoom paté with toast. The flavour in this was amazing
Smoked rabbit with parsnip & ginger puree and micro salad
Mushroom and garlic bruchetta (vegetarian option)
Tempura battered ‘puffball’ with garlic & herb mayonnaise
Pan-fried pigeon with blackberry and apple salad
Wild mushroom risotto (vegetarian option)
Filled mushroom ravioli with sage and chestnut butter
Blackberry, apple & elderberry sponge pudding with custard