Wild Mushroom Masterclass
Brighton Food Festival Masterclasses
I've just returned from the first of two masterclasses held at the Brighton Food Festival on Hove Lawns (http://brightonfoodfestival.com/events/festival-masterclasses-2/).
I spent the whole of yesterday afternoon out looking for wild fungi to take with me, and for me at least, the mushroom season is now chugging along very nicely. I found the first hedgehog mushrooms I've seen this year, and the first winter chanterelles, as well as a selection of boletes and other stuff that I've already been finding over the past week or so. It is still a bit patchy - there are still long stretches with not many mushrooms, but then I'm finding hotspots of activity. This is reflected in what is being posted on the internet on this website and elsewhere - some people are having considerably more foraging success than others. Anyway, I managed to cobble together quite a nice selection of stuff to take, including a giant puffball and a beefsteak fungus. I also took some poisonous stuff along with me, which is why there is a (deadly) destroying angel in that photo.
There is a second masterclass tomorrow morning, with a few tickets still remaining as I type. The purpose of the class is to introduce people to the edible and poisonous wild fungi of Sussex. It is a general introduction to foraging for mushrooms, with a specific focus on what happens to be growing right here, right now. So it is largely driven by the mushrooms themselves, although I did take some chicken of the woods that's been frozen since early June. The class involves a small amount of cookery, mainly simple frying of mushrooms for people to try, but also a chicken of the woods dish with double cream, chives and paprika.
Tomorrow's class is going to include an extra mushroom, and it's a good one. On my way back home to Hastings I spotted a very large patch of fungus growing about 10 metres from the road in Bexhill. I wasn't sure what they were at first - they were big enough to be a young fruit body of giant polypore (which is inedible), but their lighter colour was more suggestive of chicken of the woods. It's a bit late in the year for that species to still be producing like this though, so I stopped the car and went to investigate. I was rewarded with a mass-fruiting of a species I don't see very often, but which ranks among my favourite wild mushrooms for eating. Poplar Fieldcaps (Agrocybe cylindracea) are firm and tasty. They look a bit like very large versions of normal supermarket mushrooms, but actually belong to a completely different family, and grow on wood rather than earth/compost. They are very popular in Italy and cultivated in China and Japan (where they are known as Yanagimatsutake). And there were enough for me take plenty with me tomorrow, provide several meals for myself, give some to a local restaurant and still leave half of them there - not that they are likely to last very long where they are growing before some stupid person comes along and kicks them to pieces. :-(
Mushrooms in the masterclass photo (left to right, top to bottom): Larch boletes, tawny grisette, winter chanterelle, hedgehog mushroom, pavement mushroom, oyster mushroom, penny bun (cep, porcino), beefsteak fungus, brown rollrim, birch polypore, destroying angel, chicken of the woods (chopped), bay boletes, tiger sawgills, the blusher, giant puffball.)