Things really start to hot up in July, the evenings are still long, schools are out and Americans celebrate Independence Day. In the world of plants and fungi there is a celebration of it’s own occurring and there can be real gluts of food to be found for the keen forager.
Giant Puffball and puffballs– Calvatia gigantea
I found my first puffball on Brackmills industrial estate just outside a logistics company where I was working as a drivers mate. I plucked it up first thing on a July morning and had the football sized mushroom hanging around in my bag until I got it home that night. It went into a delicious risotto and ever since whenever I find this mushroom I like to do the same with it – rice, stock, pepper, mushroom, tarigon and cream – delicious. It is easy to tell a puffball from other fungi as when you cut into the flesh it is pure white with a uniform texture. If it is grey or a dark colour then it is best left alone, similarly if you cut it in two and there appears to be a small mushroom forming inside then don’t eat it, this is an immature poisonous mushroom and not a puffball.
Habitat – Open Fields, on industrial estates
Edible Part – The fruiting body i.e. the whole puffball
Blackberry or bramble Rubus fruticosus
Blackberry’s are just about everyone’s introduction into foraging. Across the summer humans most resemble our bird and animal neighbours by flocking to these bushes to take advantage of this abundant fruit. The plant has adapted to attract a range of animals to distribute its seed, which is why the berries ripen at different times. The first to ripen is the berry on the very tip and then each berry in order heading back from the tip berry. For this reason the tip berry is always the most choice so it is best to eat these and those around it raw and save the sometimes slightly bitter back ones for cooking. Blackberries are very versatile and can be made into a huge array of things, such as fools, ice-cream, wine, summer puddings. I find it preferable to make a jelly rather than a jam out of the fruit as the pips can get a little chewy. One novel use of the blackberry is to make ketchup out of them.
Habitat – Everywhere!!!!
Edible Part – Berry. Leaf can be made into a tea.
Mint – Mentha (Lamiaceae family)
Some people collect badges or postcards, I somehow have found myself collecting mint plants. It wasn’t intentional, I didn’t buy them but I have found myself growing a number of unusual varieties including one that is supposed to taste like chocolate (it doesn’t it tastes of mint!). The ridiculous part of me growing mint is that it can readily be found growing wild. One my favourite uses of this plant is to simply make it into a tea. In many Islamic countries where the drinking of alcohol is prohibited mint tea is often substituted as the social drink of choice, so much so in Morocco they call the drink ‘Moroccan Whisky’. I also like to mix it with yoghurt and cucumber and serve it up with curries or spicy food.
Habitat – Water mint by water, Wild mint roadsides, gardens etc
Edible Part – All except root
Article written by Dave Hamilton. Dave has now left Selfsufficientish but you can catch up with him on davehamilton.me.uk or on twitter @davewildish