Jelly Ear Hunting

Sometimes it is handy to get a look at a foragable item “in motion”. Pictures do not often do it justice when thinking about location and 3D appearance.

For this reason I have produced a short clip of my jelly hunt this year in a well known mushrooming spot in Birmingham.

View the video here.

 

These jelly ears were found in a man made wood consisting of Pine, Fir/Spruce and Elder. Jelly ears are commonly found on dead elder trees and here was no exception. For help identifying Jelly Ears for yourself you can also check out of Jelly Ear Identification post.

 

For comparison here is a picture of some of the jelly ears I found yesterday both fresh and old.

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Yarrow

Name: Yarrow

Location: Grassy areas, short grass or long

Months: All Year Round

Edible Parts: Leaves, flowers

 

11233555_10153264774586774_8925260634467739934_nWhile this is a picture of Yarrow on my allotment, I can assure you this plant grows everywhere and you are as likely to come across it as you are to find docks or dandelions. Often hidden in short grass the plant Yarrow can appear to be horizontal for most of the year only revealing itself by a few well trodden on curls of leaves in parks and pathway grass. However, at this time of year it also starts to grow upwards as it attempts to throw out some flowers and it can get very tall in the right location.

The leaves and flowers of Yarrow are used in salads and yarrow oil is also used in shampoo. Some people chew on yarrow to relieve toothache. In the garden it makes an excellent compost activator. Medicinal uses include easing the symptoms of fever, colds, gastrointestinal issues including IBS symptoms and to induce sweating.

 

WARNING: Do not consume excessive amounts, may contain thujone, cause drowsiness and increase urination. For some people, it can also cause a skin irritation.

Borage

Name: Borage

Location: Grassy areas, plots, gardens, forest floors

Months: All Year Round

Edible Parts: Flowers, Leaves

WARNING: Not to be confused with Foxglove and Comfrey.
Foxglove – feel the leaves, are they soft and fur like? If so then you probably found foxglove before it flowered which is poisonous.
Comfrey – Flowers are purple instead of blue. Comfrey is the perrenial version of borage which is annual.

 

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Borage works much like Comfrey in the compost bin as a brilliant plant stimulant for leafy growth. However, it is also considered an edible herb with tasty crisp leaves (if a bit furry). Some report they taste liek cucumber but I am less convinced. The flowers are also edible and as such make a brilliant garnish and addition to salad mixes.

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Collected leaves and flowers from the borage plants on my allotment. Many garden shops now sell borage seeds to grow yourself and they excellent plants for attracting bees.

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Borage leaves and flowers used to boost the contents and appearance of Elderflower cordial. I found that in this mixture the leaves slowly turn neon pink from the tips inward creating a pleasing and pretty drink garnish.

Hawthorn Berries – Haws

Hawthorn Berries

Name: Hawthorn Berries

Location: Found on Hawthorn trees, identify the tree first and make sure you have the right one before venturing this one.

Months: August, September, October, November

Edible Parts: Berries

Non-Edible Parts: The pips/stones inside are poisonous, never consume these.

 

Hawthorn berries are very common across the UK and last well into the deep winter so they are quite important as a food stuff. These haws pictured are quite a large variety but they are normally a bit thinner than this.

They make a great savoury flavour to accompany meat particularly game so I make them into a Haw Sauce (like ketchup but with much more flavour). I have found a lot of large ones this year that are lovely and soft so I will be exploring some alternatives.

Haws

How to Produce your Own Salt

salt

Salt is one of our most important minerals for the human body but in the wild, it’s pretty hard to find in every day foraging. The coastal region is a massive resource for fresh salt whether it’s from the various food stuffs found from the coast or from harvesting the sea itself. Best of all, creating your own salt from the sea can be done all year round!

Salt isn’t as complicated and scary as you might first think. The way I will teach you how to produce your own salt from the sea today is pretty much exactly how large companies do it, there is no special secret you don’t know about.

Ingredients

 

  • Sea Water – Try to find a certified clean water area for the best and cleanest results!

Method

Collect around 5 Litres of sea water if possible. I used a large water bottle for this to get as much as I could.

Sift the Sea Water through several layers of Muslin. Repeat several times.

Allow the water to stand for a week and you may see a bit of excess dirt form on the bottom still. Siphon off the clean water from the top (as much as possible without disturbing the dirt at the bottom) using plastic tube (see homebrewing for help). Sieve through several layers of muslin again.

Boil off as much water as possible so that you are left with around 1 litre of water left at the most. Now your water beyond this point will begin to make salt so to avoid the salt burning on the bottom of the pan you should set up a gentle cooking system like this:

salt

This is a large pan with around 30-50% water in it on the lowest heat setting on the hob. A metal bowl has placed on the top with the sea water in it. As you can see, after a few hours your water will disappear and you will be left with super strong salt! You may find your salt colour can vary from white to brown, it all depends on where you got the sea water from and the water quality. This salt has been produced from Morecambe and produced finer salt than I expected!

 

 

salt

 

Next, loosen the salt form the edge of the bowl and leave it to air dry in a warm dry location like a windowsill. This will take a very long time but it prevents burning and allows the salt to dry properly for safe storage.

 

Sweet Red Apples

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Name: Apples

Location: Apple Trees!

Months: October, November

Edible Parts: All except maybe the stalk

Non-Edible Parts: Stalk? The Tree?

 

While cycling through one of the many scenic cycle routes in Birmingham I came across a wonderful array of sweet red apple trees. I almost passed it by completely in my speed but the rate they were dropping had quickly created a red blanket in the corner and more were dropping as I looked. After a quick taste test I found these were not the lesser valued crab apples but sweet dessert apples of a most gloriously syrup like nature. I have never tasted a sweeter, crunchier apple in my life. Not a single ounce of powdery taste or bitterness.

There are so many apples there I could not fit them all into my backpack, so return journey’s are on the cards! I always find it truly amazing how many people just walk past these little golden finds and surely a red apple is as obvious a food source as it gets?1426419_10151980407711774_174364279_n 1465299_10151978165191774_591760497_n

Oh well more for us! After picking up as many as I could possibly hold before the last of the daylight condemned me to utter darkness, I took them home and began the therapeutic task of washing and scrubbing the apples clean and sorting them into piles of bruised and undamaged. The undamaged ones are going to be used for eating and the bruised ones will be for cider with any luck.

 

Jelly Ears

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Name: Jelly Ears, Jews Ears and more.

Location: On Dead Trees particularly Elder

Months: All Year Round

Edible Parts: All of the Mushroom

Non-Edible Parts: None

 

As you can see on this particular foraging trip we also found a variety of other goodies (a big field mushroom and around 2kg of sweet chestnuts). However, I’ll discuss those treats separately, for now I chose this picture but it shows very clearly what jelly ears can look like when very big! However, they look quite different when young:

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Identification

  • Cup shaped when young resembling an ear
  • Rubbery/gelatinous texture
  • red brown colouring
  • Inner surface smooth and shiny, scurfy outer surface matte

Beware Of

Some of the cup fungi are inedible, distinguished by their brittle flesh (as opposed to gelatinous) and they grow on soil. If it’s not a tree, leave it be! (Please DO NOT apply this rhyme to all mushrooms… just the jelly ears).

Sweet Chestnut Soup

sweet Chestnut Soup

Ingredients

A knob of butter
• 2 onions, chopped
• 1 garlic clove, finely sliced
• 1 large potato, diced
• 400g sweet chestnuts
• 1–1.2 litres vegetable stock
• 1 bay leaf
• 150–200ml single cream

Method

  •  Gently fry the garlic, onions and butter in a saucepan until golden brown.
  • Then add the chestnuts, potato, stock and bay.
  • When the potato is soft remove the bay and blitz.
  • Stir in ream and adjust seasoning to your taste.

sweet Chestnut Soup

sweet Chestnut Soup

Rosehips

Last Sunday we went foraging in Birmingham for Rosehips. I’ll warn you now, wear gloves or suffer a thorny death!

rosehip

 

Name: Rosehip (Dogrose)

Location: Everywhere

Months: September, October, November

Edible Parts: Bletched Fruit

Non-Edible Parts: Everything else

 

The rosehip pictured also includes japanese rosehip (the big rounder looking ones). They should only be picked when plump and juicy, if they are not squishing when you pick them, they are not ready to be picked. I will be making Rosehip Syrup and Rosehip wine with these little wonders this year so that means a lot of foraging and a lot of thorns in my fingers.

If the rosehip recipe proves successful it will be posted in approximately 8 weeks time so stay tuned. The syrup recipe will be updated later on this week.