Back in early September when I was clearing and replanting the woodland part of the garden, I got ruthless with some of the leggy Japanese Anemones and cut them right back. Most had finished flowering anyway and even these toughies were struggling in the low light conditions before I pruned back the lower branches of the trees and shrubs. All the new planting has settled in nicely and to my great surprise some of the anemones have sent up new leaves and flower stems that are about a third of their usual height. Could this be a technique for getting later and lower flowers? I’m going to try it again next year and see.
Coinciding nicely with my foraging ventures in the garden, the publishers, Green Books, invited me to a fungay foray in deepest Kent to launch their latest book – Edible Mushrooms by Geoff Dann (a licensed forager). We soon adjusted our ideas of setting off home at the end of the day with baskets laden with cepes and chanterelles when Geoff told us he had scouted the foraging area and there was hardly anything to be found – apparently it is a very late year.
The foraging took place in ancient woodland where Jack Raven Bushcraft have a camp and teach all manner of outdoor skills. Given the expected dearth of mushrooms, Geoff had put together a collection of fungi he had collected from various locations for us to examine. These ranged from delicious, to edible, to edible if cooked correctly, to inedible, mildly poisonous and downright deadly. Duly cautious, we set off with Geoff, accompanied by Gary from Jack Raven, both of whom proved to be human truffle hounds (although sadly there were no truffles.) Other than a group of parasol mushrooms that had conveniently and visibly colonised the roof of a twig and leaf shelter, practically everything else needed eyes that were attuned to picking them out amongst the leaf litter. The Hen of the Woods would certainly have remained undetected by me.
When we returned from our walk, Geoff cooked up our finds, together with some of his earlier foraging, in the camp kitchen and the variety of flavours was extraordinary. But given that one particular variety required 15 minutes cooking to make it edible and his warning that many are generally edible but cause a mild allergic reaction in a percentage of the population, I left more cautious than I arrived, which is probably a good thing for me and the environment. The day ended with a slice of a very tasty leek and wild mushroom tart made by Cathy, Geoff’s wife.
I did absorb some fascinating and useful facts. Apparently true chanterelles (delicious and exceedingly edible) smell of apricots while the false chanterelle (poisonous) does not.
The yellow stainer looks like a field mushroom, but exudes yellow when wiped or cut and is the most common cause of poisoning by mushrooms in the UK – the good news is that it won’t kill you.
I don’t remember the name of this inedible fungi – but Geoff showed us how its skin can be used as a plaster. Bit of a case of ‘first find your mushroom’ though.
Puffballs are nearly all edible, including one weighing 2 stone that was found recently by a Scottish Woodland Ranger. But should you discover that it has a black interior when you cut it open I doubt you would be tempted to eat it, which is a good thing because it’s actually a common earthball. It has a strong unpleasant smell and is poisonous – even smelling it can cause an allergic reaction.
For braver souls than myself, Geoff’s book is an excellent and comprehensive guide to all the edible fungi of Britain and Europe and it is available from www.greenbooks.co.uk for £19.99.
Should you fancy learning some bushcraft skills check out www.jackravenbushcraft.co.uk
Finding Scampston Hall Gardens couldn’t be any easier, thanks in part to the straight Roman roads. Doing a little homework by visiting their informative website will ensure you’re well briefed on the history, concept and location of Scampston. There’s good car parking facilities close to the walled garden and a well staffed and stocked restaurant. The concept of going from room to room within the garden might draw comparison to trip around Ikea. Fortunately there were no signs of arguing parents, the loudest noise came from the drifts of molinia, by the thousand, catching the breeze. And no, meatballs weren’t on the menu. It’s hard to believe that it has been 17 years since the walled garden was conceived, the planting now seems as up to date as any of the gardens at this years Chelsea Flower Show. Today the plants are firmly rooted within the old walls, mature and well established.
Here’s 3 good reasons that you should visit Scampston :
- 1. To admire the Planting by Piet Oudolf
- 2. For Inspiration
- 3. To enjoy the Landscaping by Capability Brown
With views straight out of a period drama you should not leave Scampston without taking a leisurely stroll around the grounds, landscaped by Capability Brown. It’s very easy to work up an appetite for a hearty lunch at the Garden Restaurant, a perfect end to a lovely visit.
Despite the blight, I’m still picking tomatoes from the survivors, as well as from the greenhouse crop which remains in good shape. There are only so many tomato salads and sandwiches we can manage to eat, so every few days I am slow roasting the surplus in olive oil with herbs, garlic and seasoning, to freeze for winter eating. They are spread in a single layer on a baking sheet, put into a moderate oven and roasted until they start to char and caramelise. Then they are left to cool in a bowl before putting them through a mouli mill to remove the skins, seeds and stalks. At this stage I check the flavour and if it is not quite intense enough I will reduce it down a bit before freezing it. Today’s glut is winter’s delight.