A couple of years ago I had my first local sighting of a muntjac as a strange, hunched, chestnut-coloured creature about the size of a small collie bounded across the lane in front of the car. Elsewhere in lowland Britain this glimpse would excite very little interest, but until recently they were almost completely absent […]
Although most people associate mushrooms with autumn, in fact there are plenty to be found if you look in the right places. The trumpet chanterelle (Cantherellus tubaeformis / infundibuliformis) is a case in point. This is a spectacularly well-camouflaged mushroom which means that although it is fairly abundant – if patchily distributed – it is […]
This bracket fungus grows at the base of deciduous trees (usually oak). It looks very unprepossessing and is well camouflaged, but appearances are deceptive . . . Its relative, chicken of the woods is better known and more visible, but as its name suggests it has a milder taste than the hen. Just as mutton […]
Samphire is a strange-looking primitive plant which thrives in the brackish water and mud of a saltmarsh . . . Despite this it is one of the very few wild plants to be widely available in Britain. Upmarket fishmongers sell it at inflated prices while expensive restaurants use it to decorate choice dishes, but it […]
Hops were first cultivated by the Romans not for the fragrant bitter female cones which we now use to flavour beer, but for the delicate tendrils that thread through hedges each spring. These have a wonderful aromatic flavour which is a wonderful early season alternative to asparagus. Ever since the days of Ancient Egypt they have been valued for their medicinal qualities and used to treat liver complaints and indigestion. Recent research suggests they can also reduce the effects of the menopause.
This is one of our most extraordinary mushrooms. Most people take one look at its sulphurous appearance (which is reflected in its scientific name, Laetiporus sulphureus) and assume it is toxic, but in fact it is an ideal species for the nervous beginner. This is because it is not only impossible to mistake, but it […]
Britain has several versions of wild garlic. Garlic mustard, hedge garlic or Jack-by-the-hedge is less well-known than ramsoms (see elsewhere on this site) . . . This member of the cabbage family, is abundant and easily recognised. Its soft nettle-shaped leaves start to become really edible in early autumn and it remains very edible throughout […]
I make no apologies for getting the inspiration for this recipe from gourmet forager Robin Harford (see Eatweeds for more info). His enthusiasm for this very common spring ‘weed’ is echoed by Roger Phillips – so that alone should inspire you to have a try . . . 250g Young hogweed shoots (unfurled or only […]
Ramsoms grow in profusion in damp woods, along overgrown footpaths and on waste ground. The large, glossy, dark green leaves and star-shaped white flowers mean it should be easily recognisable, but beware of possible confusion with superficially similar members of the poisonous lily family. Fortunately even complete novices can easily spot the difference by rubbing the leaves between finger and thumb. At this point the edible plant gives off a powerful scent which betrays its alternative epithet of wild garlic.
This tree’s sobriquet ‘silver’ is a comparatively recent invention – often credited to a Tennison poem. In reality the second part of its scientific name (Betula alba) seems more apt (it means ‘white’). This is particularly so in late winter when the bleached bark stands out in damp woods. Foresters usually regard it as a weed, but more charitable voices describe it as a ‘pioneer’, for this is usually first to appear on waste ground, thanks to its downy seeds which can be carried long distances by the wind.