Don’t you just *love* a spontaneous trip?
My foraging friend Matt and I were lamenting the distinct lack of mushrooms around in December oop north now that winter has most definitely arrived. So we decided to jump in the car and head down to one of my favourite places on earth, the New Forest, where it is still late autumn and the fungi are still fruiting and it’s still warm!
Our mission: to find Matt some winter chanterelles!
I grew up in this area so I know the forest pretty well and have foraged here for years. We scouted a couple of new places I’d spotted from the road but never tried, but there wasn’t much to find. We then moved on to a wood I knew to be bursting with edible fungi during autumn and full of prime habitat for winter chanterelles, with areas of both beech and pine. I’d just never visited this late in the year before! Exciting.
We met up with another experienced local foraging guide Peter who kindly showed us around a wonderful patch for winter chanterelles (Cantharellus tubaeformis), and even more exciting (for me!) a very similar species but one I’d not met for myself before: the golden chanterelle (Cantharellus lutescens). The golden chanterelle looks very similar to the winter chanterelle, however it has distinctly yellow ‘gills’ rather than brownish. Cool beans!Peter headed off, and we returned to the woods after decanting our treasure-so-far into spare baskets in the car. We then explored a denser area with long grass and mixed tree types including holly, pine and beech. The ground was uneven and boggy in places. And here, we found some of the largest winter chanterelles I’ve ever seen. Hundreds of them. Woop woop!!
We also found hedgehog mushrooms (Hydnum repandum) and their redder cousin, the terracotta hedgehog (Hydnum rufescens) and to my sheer delight, a new patch of black trumpets (Craterellus cornucopioides)! I’d found some huge cauliflower fungi (Sparissa crispa) and hundreds of hedgehog mushrooms in this wood back in the autumn, as well as ceps (Boletus edulis), hen of the woods (Grifola frondosa), saffron milk caps (Lactaruis deliciosus), chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius) and even a few early winter chanterelles… it’s an amazing place.As the light faded we called it a day, with basketfuls of bounty to keep us in wild mushrooms over the winter and to give away to friends. We stopped off at a large Tesco for extra dinner ingredients and I spotted a huge stand of beech so went to check underneath them. Sure enough, we found wood blewits! Brilliant.
As a thank you for the free B&B at ‘Casa Cutcliffe’ we cooked my folks linguine in creamy garlic white wine sauce with sauteed hedgehog mushrooms and winter chanterelles accompanied by crusty walnut bread… YUM!
The next day, we pottered around some of Winchester, where I grew up, and took a hike up St Catherine’s Hill. Despite being December, there were still many more types of wild plants and herbs around than up north, and some different species we don’t see up our way very much, if at all. We found wild marjoram/oregano, wild basil, salad burnet, wild carrot, common hogweed, to name but a few… all sorts of things, some only identifiable by dried up seed heads and a few scant leaves.
We also found some more wood blewits and some jelly ears…A wonderful way to end 2014 with so much foraging gold in our baskets! Here’s to the hope of many more fungi-filled forays in 2015!
Happy Christmas everyone.
[A big thank you to: Matt @edenwildfood for doing all the driving and for taking most of the pictures! I never quite got my camera out…! And also to Peter @absolutelywild for allowing us to tag along on a pre-Christmas amble with you and for introducing us to an edible mushroom I haven’t found before! It was a pleasure to meet you. And finally to Mum & Dad Cutcliffe for having guests to stay at such short notice! x]