I recently saw a fine crop of Shaggy Ink Cap mushrooms, growing underneath a street tree in Mapperley…..
The Shaggy Ink Cap (Coprinus comatus) is a very common mushroom, found growing in a variety of habitats – often forcing their way through pavements, as here. Its shaggy young fruitbodies soon dissolve into a black, inky substance, which contains spores (and can be used to make ink).
When young it makes excellent eating. I picked the young caps and briefly fried them whole in olive oil and garlic. Delicious! They are easy to identify and thus a favourite foraging mushroom. However, don’t confuse them with the related Common Ink Cap (Coprinopsis atramentaria), which gives unpleasant effects if consumed with alcohol; it has a smooth cap with a different shape when young, so is easy to tell from the shaggy species.
Here’s a fine close-up of the flower of Common Mallow (Malva sylvestris) :
It was taken by regular contributor Nic Cairns on St.Ann’s Community Orchard, where it has grown on part of the site which was cleared in July for construction of a new strawbale building. The plant is a good coloniser of disturbed ground, and is doing well on the Orchard site, which will be developed as a new (hopefully biodiverse) garden when the building is finished.
Common Mallow is edible, and foragers may be interested in these recipes. Thanks for Nic for the photo.
The recent warm weather has been excellent for pollinating insects; here’s a superb close-up of a bee visiting a Dandelion flower…..
The Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is generally regarded as a weed, but it’s a shame to dismiss it thus. It’s an important nectar source for a number of insects (particularly Bumblebees), especially early and late in the year when other flowers may be scarce. Its also a food plant for larvae of the White Ermine Moth, and its seeds are eaten by finches. Dandelions are also of interest to foragers and herbalists, and all parts of the plant can be used. It’s also a beautiful flower when examined up close, as in this photo – taken today by Nic Cairns at Ecoworks Community Garden.
I found this interesting report about a foraging walk held last Sunday on the Forest Recreation Ground. The report is from the Building for the Future Blog, a good Nottingham blog, and contains several useful links to information about common foraging plants. A worthwhile read!
I’m focussing on foraging again today. Jack by the Hedge (Alliaria petiolata) is a spring foraging favourite; also known as Garlic Mustard, it is a very common native perennial in the cabbage family. The distinctive cross-like flowers which characterise the cabbage family can be clearly seen in this photo by Nic Cairns, taken on St. Anns Allotments:
All parts of Jack by the Hedge are edible. The plant has a pleasant garlic taste, which becomes more pungent as the plant gets older. The young tender leaves are excellent at this time of year in salads, steamed like spinach, or as a wayside snack! This can be a useful fresh green contribution to the diet at a time when not many local green vegetable crops are available. Older plants have long fleshy taproots which can be used like horseradish.
It’s also an important food plant for many insects, including the Orange-Tip Butterfly. However, it is less beneficial in North America, where it was introduced as a culinary plant and has become a troublesome invasive, to the detriment of wildlife there – an illustration of the dangers of invasive species. Here in Nottingham though, it’s a welcome find for foragers and for wildlife.
Recently I noticed a vigorous growth of Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) growing on “The Island” wasteland site near the city centre…..
Alexanders is a tall, glossy plant in the carrot family, with yellow flowers arranged in umbels….
The species was introduced by the Romans as a food plant; now it grows mostly in coastal areas, although it is sometimes found inland on wasteground. The inland island where I found it is a former industrial site between Sneinton and the city centre. Despite various schemes to develop the site, it survives, to the benefit of wildlife and informal recreation. It’s also the Nottingham focus of the Wasteland Twinning project.
Alexanders is a useful plant for the forager – see here and here for some ideas on how to enjoy it. However, it should only be used if you are 100% certain you have identified it correctly – it has some very poisonous relatives…..
Yet another great close-up from Nic Cairns, this time a young shoot of Cleavers from Ecoworks Community Garden…….
Cleavers (Galium aparine) is a very common plant, also known as Stickyweed or Goosegrass, and is known for its stickiness, caused by its numerous hooked hairs – which are visible in Nick’s photo.
The plant is also of interest to foragers; all parts are edible, and it is perhaps best cooked like spinach, when it is young and tender in the early spring. It also has a long tradition of medicinal use for treating a variety of ailments, and it is used today by medical herbalists; see here for a recipe for Cleavers Tea, which is a cleansing tonic for the lymphatic system.
If you’d like to forage for cleavers, you’ll find it in all sorts of places – hedges, fields, and wastelands – and the best time to start looking for it is now, when the young, green growth is starting….
Today I went foraging for fungi at Bestwood Country Park. The recent wet and mild weather has been good for fruiting fungi, and we found a good variety of species. Here are a few….
The expedition was led by Jesper Launder, a medical herbalist and expert wild food forager, and ended with a feast of all the edible species that we found……
The Foraged Book Project is an interesting collaboration which aims to produce a unique foraging guide, itself entirely made from foraged materials.
As part of this project, there will be a number of events held at the Primary studios, just off Alfreton Road, in October :
Saturday 12th October 10am-4pm:
Paper Making – £10
Tuesday 15th October 6-8pm:
Organic Ink Making – £5
Wednesday 16th October 6-8pm:
Organic Paint Making – £5
In addition, there will be a Fungi Walk in Bestwood Country Park on Sunday 20th October.
There will be a wild food foraging session at Stonebridge City Farm once a month for the next four months. The first one is on Wednesday:
These sessions are highly recommended as a way of brushing up on your wild plant identification knowledge, and discovering interesting ways to use them; foraging is a *really* good activity for increasing your contact with nature, and entirely sustainable if sensible guidelines (such as these) are followed.
Keep an eye on Field Kitchen’s website for other upcoming foraging events in Nottingham, which currently include:
Saturday 18th May, 10-4pm: The Field Kitchen will be at the West Bridgford Summer Gathering, offering tasters of locally foraged teas and plants.
Saturday 25th May, 12-4pm: Fermentation workshop with Rebecca Beinart at Stonebridge City Farm: Try your hand at making Sourdough bread, Sauerkraut and Ginger beer.
Sunday 2nd June, 2-5pm: Field Kitchen bicycle-based foraging trip along the River Trent, where you will learn to identify wild food plants and cook up a foraged feast. Costs: £10 per person.