Autumn is certainly upon us, and what better seasonal display to signal the end of summer than through the earthy, some what magical appearance of mushrooms. After a spell of damp weather, hoards of mushrooms have been spotted throughout the gardens on the marshy lawns and peeking through the already accumulating auburn carpet of fallen leaves.
After an impromptu woodland hunt for fallen pine cones, we came across this fantastic tree, laden with fungi. The cascade of mushrooms spanned the entire length of the tree trunk, which had split down the centre, causing half of it to begin to decay. I had never seen so many mushrooms in one place before and their beautiful delicate gills and smooth firm concave lids inspired a bit of research - most importantly, 'were they edible!?'
We began by trawling a variety of useful websites, including the very informative Mushroom Diary and Wild Food UK, which is a fantastic website full of foraging tips, delicious recipes and identification charts. After triple checking our mushrooms against a variety of guides and knowledgeable locals, as well as researching similar types of tree living fungi in the UK, we came to the confident conclusion that we had in fact stumbled upon a generous crop of oyster mushrooms. (thankfully in the UK there are not any look a like mushrooms that aren't edible!) Oyster mushrooms are identifiable by their decurrent gills - gills which run directly down the stem. They are also known for their oyster/fan like shapes, often growing in clusters on decaying trees, and have a mild anise aroma which we could certainly smell the closer we got!
With stepladder, wellington boots and baskets in tow we ventured back into the woodland area, re-tracing our steps through the undergrowth and fir trees to the secluded, shaded spot we first saw the tree in. We were careful not to damage the stem when removing the mushrooms from the tree. We used a sharp knife and took our time, we had read that this is important to encourage re-growth next season. After a precarious climb on a stepladder which was balancing over a large slippery felled log, we managed to reach high enough to harvest the majority of the available mushrooms. Two baskets full later, the crop was hauled in to the kitchen (they are heavier than they look!) to be rinsed/ brushed and prepared.
We couldn't resist frying some up in butter with fresh garlic and a dollop of clotted cream and sampling them on hot toast immediately! - and what a treat, a lovely earthy dense texture and taste heightened by the strong sweet garlic. The rest we will hanging in the kitchen to dry, or use over the course of the next few days in a variety of mushroom related recipes!
It was such a pleasure to stumble upon such a find, and enjoy unexpected fruits of nature from the garden. With our walled garden being transformed by our wonderful new part-time Gardener Geoff over the coming months, we are looking forward to growing our own produce and cut flowers, just as the house use to when it was built in the 1920's!