I’m Still Alive!
Over the last few months since my last wild food walk, I have received a huge number of emails from people, asking me if I was still running the wild food walks. The answer is a resounding Yes! This confusion is hardly unsurprising given that I’ve practically fallen off the face of the planet. But I have an excellent excuse for why! Well…….I actually have three. My first excuse, is that on the 22nd of October, my husband and I moved into our first real home together. We found a lovely house in a great neighbourhood witha nice big kitchen to do all our presrving in and a big enough garden to grow our own veg and have excuse number 2.The only problem was that the boiler, which was intelligently placed in a bedroom, sounded like the tractor we used to ride on my dad’s farm that every so often would give a huge shudder before gently pottering on. This boiler was clearly a dual purpose machine because with it in the house, there was never a need for an alarm clock. Guests who turned on the hot water tap at night were promptly hung drawn and quartered and every day we prayed that the central heating system, wouldn’t judder one last time before going off to that scrap heap in the sky. We were also blessed with walls that, had they been in a cafe in Amsterdam, would have provided endless hours of psychedelic entertainment with their spirals and squiggles of artex splendour. So the building work began and by the 22nd of December, we had had the walls plastered, the central heating system replaced and the electrics (mostly) redone. I say mostly because our sparky had the misfortune to have a serious heart condition and didn’t finish the job before being admitted to hospital to have surgery. We still live in a house with no floor coverings upstairs and bare plaster on the walls.
In the middle of this, we decided to get excuse number 2. The chickens!! 8 of them to be precise.Called Attila, Marmaduke, Becky, Duck, Cartoon, Kuku, Hilda and Zaan. We’ve always wanted chickens and with our shiny new garden, there was no longer anything stopping us.They are the funniest creatures and all have their own unique personalities. Zaan is the shy one who won’t let you near her, Hilda is the one who has the scary eyes and will occasionally peck you, Marmaduke and Becky are huge and use their wings to propel themselves along the ground so they look like turbo charged fluffy old women with huge bottoms….and then there’s Attila…the Demon Spawn.
All shenanigans involving chickens, seem to be her idea. From breaking into the house when I’m asleep (wind blew the back door open by about 5 inches and she was the only bird who thought this was an ideal opportunity to go play in the kitchen and poo on my living room carpet), to bullying the two new chickens I got this weekend – Troy (named by hubby after an American football player called Troy “Pollo Malo” who apparently has hair as crazy as the chicken whose dad is a breed called aPoland) and a sweet araucana who is as yet unnamed but when she starts laying, will give us blue eggs. My sister thinks we should call her Nasdaq. I obviously said no.
And excuse 3 is the never-ending one…my PhD. I’m in my final year now and it has well and truly taken over my life!
My life dramas aside, the walks will resume as soon as the spring shoots begin. At this point, it looks like the first walk will be on the weekend of the 5th/6th of March. But even though the walks haven’t started, There’s no reason why you can’t still be foraging. People often ask me if it’s even possible to go foraging in the winter, and the answer is yes. Plants like chickweed, black mustard and goosegrass all keep going through the winter. There are still loads of berries like hawthorn and sloes clinging on to the branches of trees. And then of course there are the glorious Velvet Shank mushrooms (Flammulina velutipes). You can buy a variant of these at any good supermarket as Enokitaki. Those long, thin, white mushrooms that taste so amazing in stir fries and soups. By growing them underground in tubes, the mushrooms don’t become the lovely orangey brown they are in the wild and are instead bleached white.
These mushrooms like to grow out of tree stumps and you can find them in the oddest of places. My old haunt used to be a stump 5 inches high and 4 inches wide that was next to a set of steps on my way in to uni. So keep your eyes peeled and enjoy these lovely mushrooms before winter ends and they all go away. They make wonderful risottos and stir fries and really great soups. They have a slightly slippery texture when cooked so don’t try to use them to stuff a rolled joint of beef like I did a few years ago. They will simply slide back out again!
Quick and easy oriental style Velvet Shank noodle soup
Half a cup of Velvet shank mushrooms, sliced
4 cups of good chicken or vegetable stock
40g Mung bean thread noodles
a little shredded ginger and soy sauce to taste
1 egg, beaten
Soak the noodles in hot water for about 10 minutes until soft and transluscent. Put the mushrooms, ginger, soy sauce and stock into a pot and bring to a gentle simmer. after about 5 minutes, stir the soup and while stirring, pour in the beaten egg with a jug in a long stream. Once you’ve poured in your egg, it will cook almost instantly. Add your noodles to the mixture and enjoy your soup. A healthy and nutritious meal in under 10 minutes!