…And Mellow Fungifulness…


Further to my post last week about Lovely Autumn, I’m getting soppy again today. Scared of Chives has sent me some fab pictures of the park all dressed up in its golden finery and the suns’s shining. I love Greenwich Park all year round but there’s something special about it now that’s truly glorious.

I managed to miss out on the chestnuts this year – by the time I got there, they were plump and ripe – but mainly gone – perhaps it’s the credit crunch that has made us begin to remember that age-old source of food, wildlife (though no one seems to have tucked into the hundreds of squirrels yet… )

The collection of sweet chestnuts by locals has been going on in Greenwich Park for centuries – though the park keepers now frown on the other age-old tradition of beating the trees ‘to encourage growth.’ I reckon the second week of October is optimum time for nuts being just about ripe but not already harvested by armies of enterprising Chinese grannies. Better put a note to myself in next year’s diary…

But there are other foods to be found in the hedgerows around here (and yes, there are a few still left.) Elderberries have been amazing this year, as have rowans. And the wet weather has brought out the funghi. Dave spotted this strange specimen:


and though I wouldn’t be too keen to try it, you never know. I once watched on in horror as someone harvested a giant growth on the side of an oak tree that my mum would have given me a smack for if I’d touched as a child, pronounced it a ‘chicken-of-the-woods’ and pan-fried it with garlic. It looked far scarier than the above, but you never can tell. And yes – it did taste just like chicken.

To be honest I’m too much of a wuss to take on funghi – there are too many varieties on the wrong end of the yummy/belly-ache scale, but people who would know their chanterelles and ceps from their fly agaric and their death caps are the curious London Foragers who I have written about before. I admire their style, (roast chestnut ice cream – mmmm…) but I’m still not touching any toadstools. Especially not the ones that appeared in my, ahem, rather ancient doormat last week (ick.)

A very good guide to dull-but-tasty versus pretty-but-deadly mushrooms is the UK Safari page, though for clarity I prefer the Northern Ireland Fungus Group’s site, which also has good tips for harvesting – I’m guessing the main species will be the same. Cheaper, though perhaps a tad riskier, than the stall on Blackheath Farmers Market…

As Scared of Chives’s pic below shows – we have short, crisp days with bright, low sun and breath-catchingly cold walks to look forward to. And they don’t cost anything, either…


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