After being indoors all day Saturday, I fancied a bit of fresh air, albeit freezing cold, so we headed out to Manor Park in Caterham for a bit of winter foraging.
There may not always be as much wild food to find in the winter months but, if you're lucky, you will still find some edible mushrooms.
One of the few mushroom species that are around between December and March are winter mushrooms aka the velvet shank. we were lucky and found a cluster of shiny orange ones at the bottom of a tree. The stem has a velvety texture, and graduates from a light shade near the cap to a darker base.
The caps of the mushrooms can be used in soups, stews or risottos.
Something else common at the moment is Auricularia auricula-judae, or wood ear, jelly ear oreven pig's ear. These floppy, jelly like mushrooms look just like flappy ears and are a pinky-brown or sometimes purple colour. You will often see them on elder trees and some are really quite big. The fungus is popular in Chinese dishes and also used in Chinese medicine.
We keep our mushrooms in a basket, in general we leave the smallest ones and only ever take a couple, fungi perform a crucial job, breaking down debris, nurturing trees and building soils, as well as being a valuable food and home for insects.
Never pick mushrooms unless you are confident that you can identify them - good books are The Pocket Guide to Mushrooms or if you'd like an app on your phone - we recommend Myco Pro.
When Spring arrives, wild garlic, wood sorrel and many other wild foods will start to appear in the woods so keep your eyes peeled.