Country diary: Foraging for delights of the countryside

Parasol mushroom
Parasol mushroom
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Having happily munched our way through all Michael’s home-grown vegetables – 
potatoes; runner beans; broad beans; cucumber, and a donated marrow, only tomatoes remained. Our thoughts immediately turned to foraging! What memorable moments we’ve spent, along with our terrier Tigga, seeking the delights of the countryside.

Blackberry-picking is a battle against nature, but most satisfying. Whether raw, stewed, served as a summer pudding or in a crumble, they’re scrumptious!

Field mushrooms are relished, but several edible species need careful identification before cooking. Along a sunny grass bank beside conifer woodland, we discovered one of the most sought after fungi for its fine flavour and texture. They were reddish-brown Ceps, resembling glossy brown penny buns! Boletus pinophilus has not gills, just a spongy mass of tiny pores from which spores are shed. The creamy-yellow sponge-like pores may be spooned out before cooking. The caps are excellent, and used in many recipes. Unfortunately they are well-liked by insects and slugs too! You should cut each one in half, and check before cooking.

Another delight was a solitary parasol mushroom growing on the grassy cliff top beside the Cleveland Way. From the tall stipe, or stem was a scaly cap with a central brown prominence. It measured seven inches (ie 17.5cm) across the cap, and its white gills were not attached to the cap, The stipe was slender and hollow, with a delicate patterning like network. Its striking resemblance to a parasol was confirmed by a ring on the stem which could be moved up and down! Another prize mushroom for cooking.

Think back to 6 September – one of the hottest days of late summer. It was the day chosen by our colony of ants beneath the patio paving slabs, for their wedding flight. Thousands of winged ants emerged at 4pm and alighed on walls and pavers before winging their way. Usually this event has happened annually around mid-August, and always in hot weather. Martin took excellent photographs of them, but just missed a darting dragonfly preying on the feast of ants!

Another visitor was the Angle Shades moth. It was strikingly patterned in shades of brown and grey, and could easily be mistaken for a dead leaf, when at rest. Being a nocturnal moth, I was lucky to spot it in the darkness of the refuse bin, beneath the lid! Lucky for the moth too.

Visiting the bird feeding tables from 4pm, we found them laden with food, and attracting numerous species, along with four hungry squirrels! Forge Valley’s bird feeding station is very popular. Using the car as a ‘hide’ one can enjoy a variety of avian activities at close quarters.

Meanwhile, Michael spends every spare moment creating bird tables for sale in Scarborough’s charity shops. Call at Falsgrave’s ‘Blind Society Charity’ for the latest.