Scarletina bolete

Boletus scarletina.

There’s a brown topped mushroom with red pores, an orange stem, and bright yellow flesh than turns dark blue as soon as you cut it. And yeah, it’s edible!
Looks scary, huh?!
Once you start to cook them, the blue starts to vanish.
In fact they start to go quite yellow again, the longer you cook them. I am frying them in butter.
Here I’ve added cream at the end of the cooking. They keep their texture and have a nice bite to them.
20141116-160101.jpg They are also particularly nice well seasoned - salt, pepper and some ground toasted laver seaweed, and some cubed chorizo.
If you find them, just make sure they have a brown cap, not a whitish-grey one. That’s the Devils bolete Boletus satanus and that is most definitely not edible!

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Foraging Proverbs

Just for amusement, here are some proverbs for foragers. A collection of quotes about wild plants, animals and nature – sayings for foraging.

Before eating, always take time to thank your food.
Arapaho Indian

Love this proverb from Japan.
Tade kū mushi mo suki zuki (蓼食う虫も好き好き) Some insects eat water pepper and like it. [There’s no accounting for taste!]

Look for Persicaria hydropiper beside streams and in damp places.

Üres kalász fenn tartja a fejét. An empty husk holds its head up high.
Hungarian proverb

Happamia, sanoi kettu pihlajanmarjoista kun ei niihin yltänyt. Sour, said the fox, to the rowan berries out of reach. [Sour grapes]
Finnish proverb.

Look for the red berries of Sorbus acuparia to make jellies and sauces.

Kuin kaksi marjaa. Like two berries. [Like two peas in a pod]
Finnish proverb

In Finland there are many edible wild berries in the Vacinnium species.

Not every sweet root gives birth to sweet grass.
Native American

Although its often the other way round!

A tree does not move unless there is wind. An Afghan proverb. In Hungarian it goes: Nem zörög a haraszt, ha nem fúj a szél. Dry leaves don’t rustle if no wind blows. [There’s no smoke without a fire]

Even a white flower casts a black shadow.
Hungarian proverb

Painted flowers have no scent.
Unknown, Holland

Nem esik messze az alma a fájától.
An apple never falls far from the tree.
Hungarian proverb

A dead bee makes no honey.

A man who chases two rabbits catches none.
Roman proverb

Bagoly mondja verébnek, hogy nagyfejű. The owl tells the sparrow that her head is big. [The pot calling the kettle black]
Hungarian proverb

One swallow does not a summer make.

Every path has its puddle.
English proverb

A heart in love with beauty never grows old.
Turkish proverb

We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
Dakota Indian

And a few sayings:

Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books.
George Washington Carver

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.
Frank Lloyd Wright

Nature does not hurry, yet everything gets done.
Taoist proverb

Shall I not have intelligence with the earth? Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mold myself.
Henry David Thoreau

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Wild Manhattan

Here’s a Wild Manhattan recipe that uses a guelder rose syrup liqueur I made from the berries of Viburnum opulus. Delicious twist on a classic dry Manhattan.
2 1/2 shots Old Turkey Bourbon
1 shot Martini Extra Dry
1 shot Guelder Rose Syrup Liqueur
2 dashes Napiers Best British Bitters

Mix onto ice in a cocktail shaker and shake until cold. Strain and serve.

Garnish with a single dog rose hip!

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Wild Mushroom Pâté with Hen of the Woods

In late September it seems as if there’s a hen of the woods around every oak tree. I’ve found 8 in the last 4 days. It has a lovely almost Stilton cheese fragrance. Having so many it’s been a job to get through them so made this delicious pâté.
250g hen of the woods or other wild mushrooms
25g butter
250g pack soft cream cheese
25g walnuts (finely chopped)
Salt and pepper

Finely slice your hen and sauté in the butter for about 10 minutes until just starting to brown. Leave to cool.

For a smooth pâté, Put in your blender and blend with the cream cheese, salt and pepper.

For a coarse pâté, chop the cooked mushrooms finely and blend in the cream cheese with a wooden spoon. You can also substitute the cream cheese for drained cottage cheese if you like more texture.

Mix in the finely chopped walnuts. If the flavour needs punching up (not needed with hen but sometimes with field mushrooms) and a spoon of bolete powder at the seasoning stage.

Leave in the fridge overnight for the flavours to fully develop. Return to room temperature before serving.

Eat with warm French or walnut bread, or on oatcakes.

This recipe was inspired by John Wright’s pâté recipe from his book Mushrooms.

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How to Dry Mushrooms

Porcini powder is the most fabulous, deep, rich flavouring for stocks, soups, casseroles, in fact almost everything!
Birch bolete powder comes a good second and most mushrooms produce an intense umami stock powder. You can use an oven or hang up thin slices to dry, but to produce any significant quantity you really need a dehydrator. This stacking one from UK Juicers is perfect.
Cut the slices the same thickness (about 2 mm) so that they dry evenly.
If you have a large stack rotate the trays every couple of hours. A full load like this will take about 8 hours on 145•
Birch bolete powder below in green topped jar and dark orange birch bolete powder in small jar.

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Wild fungi in August

It’s been a good year for fungi already and the combination of a hot, dry summer with a few days soaking from the post-Hurricane Bertha rainfall, has resulted in a phenomenal mushroom crop!

These were found in a one hour walk to some favourite spots where I know the mycelium is underground. A smattering of chanterelles – they were at their best 5 days ago straight after the rain.

The first of the porcini. Most still not much bigger than exquisitely flavoured buttons nestling in longish damp grass at the side of an old hedge run. However, there were some of meatier size in prime condition like this one.

There was also a mass fruiting of brown birch boletes. This is a really reliable mycelium that fruits prolifically every year without fail!! Look at the size of this one – and it’s still the start of the season.

Lastly, a few days ago I found the first few amethyst deceivers in a patch of damp beech leaves. These are lovely just tossed raw into salads. Eat them quickly as the colour fades from rich velvet purple to a pale grey as they start to dry out.

Wild mushrooms on toast anyone?


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How to Dry Seaweed

I’ve been doing a lot of seaweed collecting this summer. I always end up running out and don’t often get to the coast in the winter. This is important to me for two reasons:

Firstly, I come from a family with a tendency to underactive thyroid. This is kept at bay by – yep you guessed it – seaweed! All of us (I’m one of five siblings) once we get into our forties, show the classic signs; plummeting energy levels, slow metabolism, weight gain, fatigue, dry skin, forgetfulness… but taking seaweed everyday sorts that out. I tend to go for a mix of seaweed I’ve collected for cooking and I use our Napiers Seagreens Organic Kelp Capsules when I run out. Obviously I’m biassed as I work at Napiers. However, the research that we did with the University of Glasgow was not biassed – it is clinically true that after 3 days just one capsule a day will correct iodine insufficiency and restore thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels. It’s just a shame that the 60-70% of the British population who are iodine insufficient – basically suffering from malnutrition! – don’t know how easy it is to correct before its too late.

Secondly, it’s all about taste, taste, taste. Seaweed is the umami of the vegetable world.

How to dry seaweed

Harvest your seaweed where it is growing. Don’t just pick dead or dying seaweed off a beach. Collect it at low tide from the rocks where it grows. Cut it from the stipe (“root”) with a pair of scissors so that it can grow again. This way you’ll have the freshest seaweed possible.

Ideally you should process it on the same day as harvesting, but certainly no later than the next day if you want decent quality.

Rinse it. This is to remove any grit, snails, small crabs, etc. and for seaweeds used in savoury dishes can be done either in salt water or in fresh water.

Don’t soak it overnight unless you want a slimy, gelatinous crop by morning! Also seaweeds like dulse will give up their colour and you’ll be left with a pail of purple water. The best way is to plunge handfuls of seaweed into big pail of water, give them a good swirl around and take then straight out into a colander while you get on with the next batch.

For seaweeds that you’re planning to use in desserts, like carrageen, wash then thoroughly in fresh water.

Then hang up on a line or use a laundry dryer if it’s a sunny day. If it’s raining use a dehydrator on a low setting so that you don’t scorch all the nutrients out of it.

Once thoroughly dry you can store in sealed containers (any contact with the air will make it prone to absorbing moisture and shorten its shelf life) – either whole, or ground in a coffee grinder as a seasoning.


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Wasps Nest

Three rather beautiful wasps nests. It’s late summer so the wasps have nearly vacated them now and the last few are hanging round the raspberry patch eating the last of the raspberries in their attempts to find sugar.

The oak and pine boards of my wooden house have tiny little marks on them. This is where the queen wasps licked the boards in the Spring. They then use these wood shavings, by chewing them and mixing them with their saliva until they have become a cellulose pulp, to make these amazing paper nests.



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Wild Raspberry Jam

This is a really easy recipe for wild raspberry jam. It takes just 12 minutes to cook and it tastes delicious. Also uses half the sugar of many other regular jams.

1 pint of wild raspberries
1/2 pint of sugar
2 jam jars (sterilised)

Put a small saucer into the freezer compartment of your fridge. Measure the raspberries into a measuring jug with the sugar. You should have half the amount of sugar to berries assuming the berries are pressed in tightly.

Put into a heavy bottomed sauce pan, gently mash the berries with a potato masher and leave in a warm place for half an hour. The sugar will have started to dissolve in the juice. Give it a good star to dissolve as much of the sugar as possible.

This ‘cold processing step’ helps the jam to keep as much flavour as possible.

Put onto the stove and heat on a low-medium heat, stirring to dissolve the last of the sugar.

Bring to a gentle boil. As soon as bubbles appear all over the surface, quickly skim off any froth, then boil for 12 minutes. (If you have increased the quantities you will need longer.)

After 12 minutes remove from the heat, and drop a blob onto your cold saucer (from the freezer). As it cools it should be perfect jam consistency. If not, put back on the heat, boil for a further 2 minutes. Remove from heat and test again.

As soon as it’s ready pour or spoon it into sterilised jam jars. Seal with a sterilised lid. The jam is ready to eat as soon as cooled but will keep, unopened in a cupboard, for six month.


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Rose petal vodka

Roses are in full bloom at the moment and are an essential ingredient in wild cocktails. Wild rose vodka infusion can be added to crushed raspberries to make forager John Wright’s Pink Pint, but I love to mix it with the deep, sweet berry gins. Added to sloe gin, it elevates it to an other-worldly level. A hint of wild fennel seed or sweet cicely seed vodka can also be added.

You can use any roses but one abundant wild rosé that gives a great taste and colour is this one, Rosa rugosa.
Very simply, you take any wide necked bottle or jar, insert your rosé petals and cover with vodka. Give it a gentle shake every day or so and leave to infuse for a week or two.
The colour will leave the petals, leaving them a pale grey. Your infusion will start to turn a deep reddish-brown. After 2 weeks strain off the wild rose vodka, discard the petals and keep it in a brown bottle or dark cupboard as over time, light can change the colour and flavour. Enjoy!

A mixture of 75% sloe gin and 25% rose vodka with a capful of wild fennel seed vodka makes a lovely twist on a traditional drink.

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