We’re listening out for: Birds
Virgin twitcher? Get to know your local birds by opening your ears to the resurgence of the dawn chorus, making a return this month before tailing off again in late October. Lower-key than the spring one, it’s still a soothing soundscape to wake up to. Listen to the National Trust’s recording, with timed markers for the calls of different birds including the chaffinch, robin, wren and blackbird. See how many you can tick off, even in city centres, next time the little people are awake early doors…. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/article-1356393771610/
Click this: Awesome wild play app
Momentum is building ahead of the forthcoming October launch of a new documentary on children and nature, highlighting the importance of outdoor Play. Filmmaker David Bond is campaigning to encourage outdoor play for children around the UK, especially in urban areas. Sign up to join his campaign and view the trailer for his film at www.projectwildthing.com. Best of all, download the free Wild Time App from the App store: it’ll suggest original outdoorsy things to do with your child whether you have ten minutes or hours to kill.
Wild wisdom on: Foraging and feasting
Picking wild mushrooms is not to be attempted unless you know what you’re looking for. A cautionary first-hand warning: In the olden days of Wildmum’s youth, Dad picked a basket full of beautiful brown mushrooms in a French forest on a family holiday. He fried them up (at which point they began to ooze a dubious looking puss-hued slime), served them on toast (‘er, no thanks Dad…’), ate them indignantly himself, deaf to the protestations of offspring… and spent the following night on the loo. The next day, taking the remaining handful of ‘shrooms along to a French pharmacist, we children sniggered when the man behind the counter told us ‘ah, oui. These are famous laxateef….’
So, it’s important to make sure you know what you’re after, clearly (or you could end up with more than just an an upset tummy). All that said, when you do get the right ones, such as the delicately fragrant Puffball (which looks like a chalky stone and cannot be purchased anywhere but the most specialist markets), the results can be seriously rewarding. We asked John Wright (www.wild-food.net), River Cottage foraging guru who has written numerous foraging guides and runs training courses in the New Forest, for his top tips on scavenging with children:
Why should parents take their children foraging?
“It’s brilliant fun. Children are natural foragers; why else would every mother or father have to repeat the famous invocation ‘Don’t eat the berries!’ I am always delighted by the native dedication of even the most urban child to find the next mushroom or plum. Their excitement is palpable and otherwise fractious children will enjoy hours in the woods without complaint. Foraging is an instinct and children inherit it uncorrupted by time and the distractions of modern life. Most of us grown-ups remember the foraging trips of our childhood with misty-eyed pleasure – outings with my parents and sisters blackberry picking or cockle hunting are still bright in my memory, even after fifty years.”
What are the easiest and safest things to forage?
“At this time of year, apples, crab apples and plums are abundant and are easy to find even in urban streets. And of course, this is peak bramble season too. Mushrooms require more caution, for obvious reasons, especially when you are foraging with children, but with a good guide books (always use more than one), and by following the check list on my site (detailed below), there is no reason why you shouldn’t find delicious edible fungi.”
For safety reasons, it’s best to encourage children to spot them, but not to touch or pick them.
Here is John’s safety checklist:
1. Never eat any fungus if you are not absolutely sure of its name.
2. Never take any notice of old wives tales about silver spoons, or whether or not you can peel it, or if it grows on wood it’s OK and so on. These are all rubbish.
3. Familiarize yourself with the poisonous species such as the Death Cap and the Yellow Stainer.
4. Use your books carefully, making sure that the descriptions and the photographs (and the key, if it has one) all agree with each other.
5. Always use more than one book.
6. Always gently lever unknown mushrooms out of the ground and handle them with care. This will preserve important characters for identification.
6. Always try a little of a fungus the first time you eat it to check if it agrees with you.
7. In general you should cook wild fungi as some are quite poisonous raw.
8. Don’t mix up your known edible finds with your unknowns in the same basket.
9. As with fireworks on 5th November, only one person in any kitchen should be in charge.
And in case you’re wondering, John identified the specimen in my picture (above) as Dryad’s Saddle: ‘edible, but not very tasty’.
This month’s most coveted
As someone who baulks even at Hunter prices, these are de trop £££. But whilst we’re splashing about in our £15-off-Amazon jobbies, we’ll be dreaming of these little rubber beauties, tapping into memories of years spent in regulation 90s teen DM 16-holers. Ilse Jacobsen wellies, £110 www.ilse-jacobsen.com/en-uk