Tag Archives: Mushrooms

Has foraging gone too far?

We love to forage but always follow the foragers code of ethics, it got me thinking though, surely like everything else on our planet, there will be some people who don’t follow this code and rape Mother nature for profit.

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Gathering fungi in the Gwydir Forest near Betws-y-Coed in Wales. Photograph: The Photolibrary Wales/Alamy

Funnily enough The Guardian had the same thought and wrote this article below:

This has been called the year of the foragers. Every year more and more people armed with guidebooks are exploring the hedgerows to indulge in a spot of Mesolithic role-play. Something that was once seen as anorak hobbyism has slowly gained traction, probably due to the early efforts of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and even Jamie Oliver, who got into mushroom collecting a decade ago thanks to his mate Gennaro Contaldo.

The rise of the 21st century hunter-gatherer has also been aided by the popularity of eating locally and seasonally, and the recession certainly made the concept of food for free attractive. But nothing pushed this once-specialist occupation to the forefront like the media spotlight swinging suddenly on superstar chef, René Redzepi, whose commitment to this fundamental procuring of ingredients is likely what won his Copenhagen restaurant Noma the title of “best restaurant in the world”.

It was only a matter of time before concerns grew over the sustainability of harvesting mother nature’s bounty. As a forager myself, the protection of wild plants and mushrooms has always concerned me; will there be enough elderflower or jelly ear fungi for the next person? But more importantly, has enough been left behind so no negative impact is made on the local ecology?

While the organisations that care for our countryside are keen to embrace “one for the pot” foragers playing by the rules, they are worried about those gathering for commercial purposes. There are sensible harvesters that forage sustainably, but, as with every industry, there are those looking to make a fast buck: apathetic in their approach, unconcerned about the impact of their actions.

Foraging has to be done carefully, and common sense dictates that there is little point in denuding an area that you and others may wish to rely on in the future. There are many like Yun Hider, a professional forager who, through his company Mountain Food supplies some of the country’s top restaurants, that share this ideal and show concern for the sustainability of the foods they forage. In some cases just like coppicing a woodland, harvesting can have a positive effect. As Hider points out: “sea beet is often over-crowded, by removing a certain amount of leaves, we are actually encouraging growth”.

Fergus Drennan, one of the UK’s leading foragers and very much against the supply of wild foods for commercial gain, turns down at least one chef a week asking if he could supply them. Aside from the ecological concerns, he believes the connection with nature is lost by the time wild food hits the pass.

More and more restaurants, desperate not to miss out on the popularity of foraged fare, have increased the demand for wild foods. Ceps, chanterelles and oyster mushrooms can fetch as much as £25 a kilo at London prices, so it is no surprise that areas in and around the bustling conurbation are being hit harder than ever. Epping Forest, though protected by local bye-laws suffered greatly during the course of last year’s exceptional mushroom season, with some pickers being caught and prosecuted.

I have always thought that if a chef wishes to use foraged ingredients on the menu, then he should damn well go and pick them himself. So I was quite pleased to see that if you are a chef at Noma, it’s part of the job description. Even Redzepi, however, was accused of picking illegally on Hampstead Heath last year following a mushroom hunt to promote his new book.

But is it unfair to lay the whole blame at the door of the restaurants – if we, as consumers, naturally seek out foraged ingredients shouldn’t we accept part of the responsibility both as restaurant-goers and home cooks? Or are we just responding to cheffy fads and media hype?

It would be interesting to know what your thoughts are about foraging and the sustainability of it all.

Low impact living in a town – what can be done?

We live in Blackpool which is a seaside resort in the Northwest of UK, population of roughly 142,000, so we are a large town. Contrary to popular belief from my photos, we live in a terrace house surrounded by neighbours and the normal trappings of large town life. So until we get our dream home in the countryside what do we do to have a lesser impact on the environment and to live a ‘back to nature’ way of life. A simple guide to our low impact living.

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Benefits of coconut oil

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We love coconut oil, its a must in our house, I use it as an all over body moisturiser and to heal chapped lips, great in cooking (with potatoes, rosemary and garlic, roasted in the oven-yummy!) good for babies bottoms instead of toxic nappy rash cream. Awesome on untreated wooden furniture as an alternative to furniture polish.

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Portobello pie recipe

Tonight I made THE most yummy dinner, completely vegan and delicious.

I present to you Portobello pie!

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Portobello pie recipe:

2 Portobello mushrooms

3 cloves of garlic

3 large sage leaves

A glug of balsamic vinegar

Large tbsp coconut oil

2 tbsp Free & easy gluten-free vegetable gravy

salt and pepper

Roughly chop the mushrooms, heat the coconut oil in a frying pan ( we use ceramic for health reasons, that’s another post 😉

Fry the mushrooms, chop and fry the garlic, sage, balsamic, s & p for a few minutes until the mushrooms are slightly soft, add 300 ml water to the pan and heat, add the gravy and stir until it thickens.

Then transfer to ramekins and pop in the oven on a low light to keep warm.

Make mash, we use rice milk, nutmeg and vitalite to make it creamy. Top the ramekins with the mash and pop under a hot grill to crisp up, serve with veggies and enjoy!

I would love to read your comments if you make this recipe.

Vegetarian budget breakfast recipe

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Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

We really enjoy a big breakfast before a day at the allotment and this recipe is just the ticket!

Omelette from our chickens eggs, chestnut mushrooms cooked in coconut oil on a bed of rocket and spinach on granary toast

Take 2 or 3 eggs depending on size, we use our on free range chickens eggs but I know not everyone has chickens at hand so if you do buy eggs please make sure they are free range and organic, local is even better if you can find a farm nearby as you can go and visit the farm and see how the chickens are treated. I think eggs are one of the main things to spend the most money on because the welfare of the hens are at stake and you can vote with your money.

If you have an area where you can keep chickens I would wholeheartedly recommend it, after the initial set up, 6 chickens only cost 12p per day to keep.

Back to the recipe, add salt and pepper into the eggs and some herbs if you have them, thyme is always nice, whisk them up add 50 ml water and leave to one side.

Slice up your mushrooms and shallow fry in coconut oil with sat and pepper and a chopped up clove of garlic, I like mine quite crispy but cook them to your taste.

When the mushrooms are ready cook your omelette, I always put a pan lid or a big plate over the top of the frying pan, this makes the omelette rise and become fluffy. At the same time grill your toast, on this occasion we used granary bread from the bakers.

Serve your meal with some organic rocket and spinach, this is really quick and cheap to grow in a container and you can cut it and it regrows a few times so is very economical. You can also buy it in a mixed bag from the supermarket!