If you’re like me then you will love cooking but you will hate spending, this new series is all about how to find, yes find food for free. People spend a lot of money on herbs, mushrooms etc in the supermarkets but why spend that money when you can go out get some exercise and find the food for free.
This month there’s not much you can forage, it’s still winter, everything is dead and only some life is starting to come back, but there are some little hidden gems you can find.
Gardeners hate it, the word ‘weed’ is almost always regarded as a pointless plant, but why not make use of it instead of throwing it into the compost pile. If you don’t have a garden, Chickweed can be found commonly on the edge of fields throughout the year including during these frosty cold days, only forage this plant and any other plant if it is safe to do so, by this I mean generally safe i.e. not standing on a busy road and also that it has not been contaminated by pesticides and other chemicals.
Chickweed can be harvested anytime of the year except when there has been thick heavy frost, you want to pick the pale soft green leaves of the plant and it’s at its best late autumn / January time. Chickweed is rather tender and has a taste similar to a mild lettuce. The leaves are far too small to pick individual (unless you have huge amount time) so strip bunches of the whole plant (Don’t take everything from the plant we must always take some from a few plants to help it grow and maintain).
Uses of Chickweed:
Chickweed can be used in salads, just wash the chickweed and use the young shoots with other plants such dandelion leaves (yes another pain in the bum weed that just gets thrown away). You can also cook chickweed but don’t over cook as it will loose taste and texture.
yster Mushrooms can be found in many supermarkets and can also be grown in your back yard with well prepared logs. Before I go on I want to say that I personally only ever pick mushrooms if I’m 110% that I’m picking what I’m meant to pick, there’s loads of species of mushroom and a lot are dangerous. Please don’t only just use this blog as a way to identify mushrooms do your research thoroughly.
The Oyster Mushroom is a fan-shaped bracket fungus, they can be found growing in tree-trunks. The are grey or slate blue in colour, flesh is white, soft and rubbery.
Harvesting Oyster Mushrooms:
Found on dead and/or dying branches of ash or beech, rather common throughout the year although mainly during late Autumn / W9inter. It is usually easy to gather large quantities of this mushroom as it grows in clusters.
Uses of Oyster Mushrooms:
Make sure you check the mushroom carefully for maggots and also choose younger mushrooms as the older ones do tend to be rather tough, the flavour of Oyster Mushrooms are relatively mild, this therefore allows them to be served with rich sauces. They can also be dried, added to stews and even to casseroles (try them with a sausage casserole).
Could also be known as Velvet Foot this fungi is one of a few that can survive the thick frosts, during the winters months it is easier to forage as the risks of confusing Velvet Shank for another species is lowered due to the lack of other mushrooms able to survive the cold frosts.
Common in clusters on stumps and trunks, they have tufts of orange / yellow caps, with stems yellow darkening to dark brown.
Harvesting Velvet Shank:
They can be picked even when they frost have hit and they’re frozen unlike the Oyster Mushroom.
Uses of Velvet Shank:
Get rid of the stems and wipe the horrid stickiness from the cap before using the fungi, add them towards the end of stews.
I hope you enjoyed the first edition of Food For Free, throughout the year I will share these blogs and hope they will not only be a good read but educational and useful to those who find interest in foraging.