Sunday 1st September had long been earmarked in my calendar as a day to look forward to. It was another opportunity to savour the foraging and culinary skills of Szymon from Foragerium. With the change in season from late summer to early autumn, the expectation was for lots of mushroom talk. After a chat about some of the plants available at this time of year, we began collecting berries and seed rather than leaves or flowers. The humble nettle – harvesting seed, how to create rope and the medicinal benefits of stings, particularly for arthritis (a bit of a hard sell). In addition, the bounty of berries – jam and preserves or alternatively, and fruit leather.
We ambled on past the stands of nettles and on into the woods, we reached mushroom territory, which at this time of the year is everywhere. The first rule of mushroom foraging is; you don’t give up your location. Everyone has their secret larder that they discover for themselves. Everyone has their own treasure to find – of course with the landowner’s permission. As this was a walk about foraging and not particularly about mushroom identification, my fellow walkers and I discussed the skills required for foraging native seasonal mushrooms. Highlighting the risks to health, the dangers posed by, amongst other things, the yew tree and the vast array of gilled mushrooms.
Luckily, our seasoned professional had been gathering the day before. Without knowing we had strolled straight into lunch; this is the perk of walks with Szymon. Gathering his kit, we fired up the camping stove and cooked up a feast. Sauerkraut stew, a polish speciality packed with vegetables, fruit and spices, followed by an omelette packed to bursting with a wide array of foraged mushrooms; ceps, hedgehogs, oyster and young puffballs created a taste sensation and a treat for all involved. Supplemented by Szymon’s favourite vegetable – the cabbage – dressed with home fermented vinegar and seaweed. Accompanied by sourdough bread with mushroom butter – flavoured with our hosts own foraged dried cep powder and garlic.
The Polkemmet foraging party left that afternoon with our minds and stomachs filled with new and interesting treats. With renewed vigour to go outdoors and hunt down all that nature can provide, and with knowledge and respect for our local environment.