I’ve moved in with my father. It’s temporary, and it really isn’t that bad, I promise! He has just had back surgery, so having me and a three-year old around, is helping him to get better. That’s the story I’m sticking to, anyway. In the mean time, I’m living out of boxes.
The other day, in an effort to discover the local play parks, I wrapped Matilda and myself up, and set off down the road. I just about made it out of dad’s driveway, when I spotted a mushroom. Not an old, maggoty, falling apart mushroom like I usually see, but a really good-looking one which I definitely recognised. See, I’ve wanted to learn about mushrooms for years now. I have three books on them which I’ve read in bits, and I’ve tried to memorize easy ones and dangerous ones, but all my books are packed away. For some reason, life has gotten in the way, and I haven’t yet managed to rope someone into taking me out on a practical mushroom foraging lesson. I’m the kind of person who needs to get my hands dirty in order to learn, so just reading about mushrooms in books, had left me in a situation where I thought I recognised a mushroom, but I couldn’t remember why.
My dad’s neighbour walked out of her house. “Oh, Hi!” I said. “I’m Antony’s daughter. I just moved in. Do you know if this mushroom is edible?”She didn’t look like she would, but I was being open-minded. It was, after all, growing right outside her house. “No” she said, but I managed to wangle a (clean) dog poo bag from her, so that I could pick the mushroom safely. I knew enough to leave the root in the ground, and not to touch it with my bare hands, until I knew what it was.
Matilda and I scooted along to the play-park, and as we got there, I checked back on my phone. My wonderful friend, Lilly, had given me all the information that I needed on my mushroom. It was a Shaggy Ink Cap, commonly found on wasteland (like outside my dad’s house), and very edible. A couple more friends had backed her up. I was on to a winner. Woo Hoo! But Oh….. “It will disintegrate into a black goo, if you don’t cook it up within 2 hours.” It had already been half an hour, and God knows how long it would take to coax Matilda home again.
Luckily, it was a damp morning. The damp morning meant that the play park was wet, and was probably also the reason for my having a beautiful mushroom in a poo bag. So I explained the incredible importance of getting home quickly to my darling little girl. Mummy just could not turn down the opportunity to eat her first wild mushroom, that she had found all by herself…Matilda understood.
We raced off home, and Matilda ran into the house yelling “Grandpa, Grandpa, mummy found a mushroom that she can eat!!!” Poor dad came hobbling into the kitchen to find my jacket on the floor, my poo bag ripped open, and me, desperately trying to saute this single mushroom before it disintegrated. I ate it, and it was good.
This was a wonderful moment for me. I love foraging for food – mainly the obvious stuff, but I also eat tons of nettles and dandelions, cleavers, wild garlic, chestnuts, etc. It is important to note that while I love gardening, I’m a beginner. There is a lot I still need to learn. I’m also a beginner forager, but the ratio of energy input to yield for foraging, has always come up tops. Foraging to me, is a perfect example of the Permaculture principle, of putting in the minimum effort to gain the maximum effect. Wild food grows where it wants to, not where a farmer wants it to. It grows on the soil that suits it best, in a spot that gives it the perfect amount of light. This mushroom liked it on the grassy verge outside my dad’s house, underneath the bushes. Wikipedia said it liked wasteland, and there it was, growing on wasteland. A food that grows in its ideal microclimate is a happy healthy and nutritious food.
Here is a link to my favourite foraging cook book, “Seaweed and Eat It” by Xa Milne and Fiona Houston. It is one of the most inspiring books that I own, and I have used more recipes from it then any other cook book.
Dad knew exactly where I had found my shaggy mushroom. Apparently they pop up there all the time!