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.

Fuchsia Berries and Flowers for Foraging and Permaculture

Name: Fuchsia (that’s ch-s not s-ch)

Location: Mostly gardens or public garden spaces

Months: Flowers and berries in summer/Autumn

Edible Parts: Flowers and Berries

Non-Edible Parts: Leaves, Stalks

 

Fuchsia is a great flowering plant to have in your garden or allotment. For one thing the BEES love it! So if you are adding it to any area, bear this in mind and place it away from seating areas and preferably in the middle of crop plants to encourage the bees.

There are lots of different varieties of fuchsia – some have large flowers, and large berries and others are light pink or purple or fuchsia coloured! However, none of them are poisonous. Each different variety has it’s own flavour and sweetness so try them out and taste for yourself what kind of berry they produce before you buy to make sure you get a strain that suits you. Some are super sweet and some are a bit bitter and have an after taste.

Fuchsia

I purchased this plant here for my new permaculture allotment because of the following key reasons:

  1. You can eat the berries fresh or make them into jams etc
  2. You can eat the flowers or use them as food decorations
  3. They attract bees to your plot
  4. They look pretty and add an extra edible dimension to a standard plot

 

Chicken of the Woods – Mushroom

 

Name: Chicken of the Woods

Location: Oak Trees

Identifiers: Semi circular brackets, velvety upper surface, zoned bands of bright orange/yellow.

Months: Usually spring to autumn

Edible Parts: All flesh

Non-Edible Parts: The hardest part where it was attached to the wood

As with all mushrooms you gather do not pick unless you are absolutely sure.┬áThe chicken of the woods also does not agree with everyone and can cause tummy upset if not properly cooked through. Always try a little first to see if your digestive system likes it or not. The great thing about Chicken of the Woods is that it is quite meaty – like chicken – in texture. Chicken of the Woods is not hairy, so if you see a yellow lookalike that is hairy leave it alone.

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

Darwin’s Barberry

Darwin’s Barberry is a plant very similar to the Mahonia and also produces a fruit that is extremely similar in flavour and uses.

In fact, you may often come across a Barberry bush and mistake it for a Mahonia because they look so similar. You won’t come to any harm if you do, just bear in mind the differences. While the Mahonia berries are clustered into a grape like bunch across a stem, the Barberry hangs in bunches instead. The leaves are also the same as the Mahonia leaves, but tend to be much smaller, like a miniature version of the Mahonia. The Darwin’s Barberry bush is more commonly seen used as a hedge, whereas the Mahonia is a bit more of a stand alone plant.

Darwin's Barberry

Name: Darwin’s Barberry

Location: The berry of this plant, is typically found around early autumn in a plant that looks very similar to the Mahonia but smaller and often as part of a hedge.

Months: August, September

Edible Parts: Berries

Non-Edible Parts: Anything else

 

Darwin’s Barberry can be used very much in the same way as the Mahonia (Oregon Grape) to make jams and wine and perhaps even cordials. As a fresh fruit it is edible but a bit too tart to be a treat so is best used cooked/preserved.

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.

 

Puff Ball Mushrooms

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Name: Puff Balls

Location: Dead wood

Months: Usually August and September (**Note I found some fresh new ones as late as November this year due to the mild weather!”

Edible Parts: The spongy middle if pure white (Remove skin and do not eat if it is turning yellow or green inside).

Non-Edible Parts: Skin (yucky)

 

Here’s what these puff balls look like when skinned.l They are spongy, pure white and have a bit of air in them so you can hear it escaping sometimes when you squeeze them.

Some puff balls have spiked skin and some are less wrinkly. All puff balls are edible.

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They can be dried for storage just like any other mushroom but go great fried and added to burgers (especially giant puff balls which can make up a steak sized portion in your burger!).

 

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).