Harvest festival

By guest blogger JUDITH JONES. Photographs by FINN TOPSON

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On Sunday 26 October, suitably relaxed after an extra hour in bed thanks to the end of British Summer Time, our group set off to forage in Fletcher Moss Gardens in Didsbury. Described as a ‘horticultural gem’, the gardens include a rockery and a bulb planting area, which was our first stop to search for fungi. Foraging expert Jesper Launder explained that the dry weather in September had not been ideal for mushroom growing but that recent rain meant we might be in luck. While there were a few types of mushroom growing under the trees, the meadow further into the gardens beyond the woodland walk was to prove much more fruitful (or should I say mushroom-ful). With a few cows watching curiously from a distance, we quickly found a wide variety of different mushrooms to pick. While we steered clear of the Common Ink Cap or Tippler’s Bane (which apparently can induce poisoning if you’ve got even the slightest drop of alcohol in your system, even a sherry trifle) and the Psathyrella or Brittlestem mushroom (which, as its name suggests, is not really worth cooking), it quickly became apparent that we’d stumbled on a gold mine in mushroom hunting terms.

Fried Chicken Mushrooms (no, they don’t taste like fried chicken), Field Blewit (beautifully aromatic with a distinctive pinkish stem) and Brown Birch Boletus were among the 11 different kinds of edible mushroom that we eagerly gathered. We headed back to the entrance of the gardens where the wall became a display shelf and attracted plenty of admiring and inquisitive glances from passers-by, particularly once we started cooking them. Jesper had explained that while mushrooms in their raw state act as an anti-nutrient and can be hard to digest, once cooked they are very nutritious and sometimes medicinal. Perhaps he should have added that they’re also delicious, particularly if you’ve foraged for them yourself!

We have more wild food forages you can sign up for, including this Saturday (8 November) and Saturday 30 November. Click here for details and how to book.

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