Will's Wild Food Diary

 Wild food diary

Fresh, organic and free! Of all things bushcrafty, nothing gets me more excited than a foraging adventure.

From time to time, I update this page with a different wild food that is in season –  gradually building up a seasonal diary of some of the foraging delights available to us.

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Disclaimer: there's lots of good wild stuff to eat, and much of it is fairly easy to identify. Unfortunately, there are also some plants and fungi that can make you seriously ill or worse. This diary is a brief overview intended to inspire and not a substitute for an in-depth field guide and/or skilled teacher. I will endeavour to point out any obvious poisionous look alikes, but ultimately foraging is the individual's responsibility. Unless you are 100 per cent confident you know what something is, leave it alone! Also, please be aware that, as with any food, different people can have different reactions. It is wise to try just a small amount first.

Mid-winter mushrooms

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The winter frosts creep in and the excited mushroom forays of autumn become another sweet leaf-rustling memory.

Blewit sunrise

Thankfully though, The hardy wood blewit (Lepista nuda) is quite happy with a bit of cold and should keep going for another month or so.

One of the keys to succesful foraging is building a mental map of where to go for certain foods in certain seasons. When it comes to wood blewits – which seem to like old grassland almost as much as woodland – my location of choice is a nearby urban cemetry nestled amongst old pine trees. It's a fascinating place with lots of forgotten wild corners.

Another key seems to be serendipity, and this year I added extra shading to the mental map, when I stumbled across a lovely patch of wood blewits nestled on some nearby sea cliffs. The sun was just rising, and it was one of those magical foraging moments to savour.

Blewit frying panBrunch a few hours later was equally memorable – I chose to simply fry them in olive oil and garlic, sprinkle them with Purbeck marjoram, and then serve on toast. Blewits have a substantial meaty texture and a classic earthy mushroom taste. Their solidity also means they dry well – just slice thinly and pop near a radiator or in an airing cupboard.

Some foraging considerations.

The relative scarcity of other fungi at this time of year can be a helpful starting point when learning to identify the wood blewit. From above, it tends to be a rather understated beige with just a hint of lillac. Take a peak underneath though, and the lillacy blue stem and gills should really stand out. Blewits in grass

Other key aspects include a perfumed slightly-sweet smell when fresh, a rolled over rim and tightly packed gills. As I mention in every post, do your own research to gain confidence in identification. I have chosen to cover this fungi as I feel it is fairly common and can be identified fairly easily, but it does need practice. There are a couple of webcap fungi that are considered poisonous, and that bear a passing resemblance – the rare and garish violet webcap (Cortinarius violaceus) and the more common bruising webcap (Cortinarius purpurascens).

I should mention that the colour of the wood blewit also fades with age, so to be on the safe side, it is best to only go for the young specimens where the colour is distinctive. As with many mushrooms, a spore print can also be really useful when it comes to identification. I simply place the mushroom, gills down, on a white piece of paper or card, pop a glass over the top and leave overnight. Both the blewits have pale pink spores – the webcaps mentioned above have rusty coloured spores.

Finally, it's worth just mentioning that the wood blewit has a brother, the equally tasty field blewit, but I'll save that for another post.

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