Foraging Course Dorset – wild mushroom hunting
Foraging encompasses many wild foods but perhaps the most exciting to hunt for are wild mushrooms. There are literally thousands of species of edible wild mushrooms growing in Dorset and Hampshire, and this course will provide you with some basic knowledge to set you on your way to becoming a successful and safe forager. On the day we will not only be looking at numerous varieties of edible mushrooms but also learning to recognise and avoid poisonous species, touching, rubbing, sniffing and collecting as we make our way through beautiful Dorset countryside. After we’ve completed our foraging exercise we’ll be heading back to our outdoor kitchen, complete with wood fired pizza oven. This is where it all comes together and we assemble, cook and eat a scrumptious wild mushroom pizza with some of our foraged finds.
Foraging in and around Moignes Court
I am very excited about this event which we will be running at the beautiful and idyllic Moignes Court, a classic Dorset country house surrounded by woodland, meadows, ancient hedgerows and streams. More info about the location here.
And here’s a story about mushroom foraging in Dorset taken
from my book, The Edible City.
6th October. A secret location on the border of Dorset and Hampshire.
I’m always excited when I cross that imaginary divide that separates the
city from the countryside, and today, driving south to run another two
mushroom forays, I had no one to keep me in check. The three-hour
journey became punctuated with numerous stoppages, woodland car
parks and random detours, finally arriving six hours after departing.
Sometimes Ellie suggests we go for a walk, then she’ll look me in the
eye and explain that this activity involves walking, not just remaining
in roughly one spot collecting wild plants or mushrooms. I try to keep
moving, I really do, but it’s just so hard, especially when my inner child
is finally let loose in the seasonal sweetshop of an autumnal woodland.
En route, a friend rang, a fellow forager and mushroom obsessive, who’s
lucky enough to live in an area of gorgeous mature woodland. ‘I’m just off
to check my secret trompette patch, do you want to join me?’ This may
not sound that exciting to the uninitiated but for me it would be right up
there with offers like ‘Would you like to visit my secret diamond mine?’
or ‘The sheikh would like to invite you to spend some time in his harem.’
Needless to say, I accepted and half an hour later we were both
standing outside a relatively famous, very large country pub, me
expecting to be blindfolded and driven to this most prized of hidden
places. Instead, I followed my friend as we crossed the road, taking
literally two steps into the woods before he pointed, not off into the
distance but just down at our feet. Trompette de la mort, otherwise
known as horn of plenty, one of the most prized gourmet wild foods,
with a heady truffle smell and shaped, as you’d expect from their
common name, like very dark trumpets. I knelt down to pick the small
group of perfectly formed, 4-inch-high horns at my feet and only then,
once at ground level, did I really see what he had brought me here for
. . . oh my god . . . double take, wipes eyes . . . looks again. Here, in
full view of the pub, the road and the pavement, was an endless sea of
black, the forest floor gently sloping away for at least a quarter of a mile
and everywhere I looked, delicious, extremely sought-after, free food.
I’m not a commercial forager and other than for personal use, collecting
wild mushrooms in this part of the country is not permitted, certainly
not in bulk. Regardless of this I did the maths and realized I was looking
at thousands of pounds worth of fungi, at least 200 kilos, and that was
what I could see without walking any further. For once, I may have just
slightly exceeded the recommended daily picking limit of 1.5kg per
person, aware that a week or two later, although easily discoverable by
anyone who wanted to pick them, every single mushroom here would
have collapsed and rotted back into the soil. What a waste.
Spicy wild mushroom ketchup
I’d already made a trompette omelette, a trompette soup and had
trompette on toast with, or for, every meal for the last two days. Oh,
and I’d also soaked a couple of handfuls in a good-quality vodka
with some red chilli, producing the most wonderful base for a
Bloody Mary. Under normal circumstances, I would make this recipe
with a less sought-after fungi, but when faced with a glut of these
amazing black horns I couldn’t help myself.
1kg wild mushrooms, 4 bay leaves, 5 or 6 cloves, 1. tbsp salt, 1 tbsp dried
porcini powder or a few dried porcini, . tsp ground ginger, . tsp grated
nutmeg, . tsp allspice, 1 star anise, . onion, 1 garlic clove, 375ml white
wine vinegar, 1 small glass of sweet sherry (optional), black pepper
Mushroom ketchup is a traditional recipe and a great way of using and
preserving your favourite fungi. Although the more acceptably produced
version is very thin, more similar to a Worcestershire sauce, my creation
was much thicker, very spicy and like a dark grey tomato ketchup.
First take the mushrooms, shop-bought if you have no choice, rinse
if needed (not usually advised but sometimes necessary with trompette),