Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Magic of Mushrooms

















Part of the magic of toadstools is the way in which they suddenly appear in unexpected places. During the current spell of wet weather these blewits Lepista personata have erupted through the soil under a privet hedge in our front garden. It's the first time I've ever seen them in the garden, although about twenty years ago I deliberately introduced some onto an old compost heap, where they produced a crop for a couple of years. 

I'm tempted to cook them because blewits are considered to be good eating by mycophiles, although they also have a reputation for triggering allergic reactions in some people. 

I have a fascinating copy of the second edition of a book published in 1847 by Charles David Badham M.D. entitled A Treatise on the Esculent Funguses of England containing an account of their Classical History, Uses, Characters, Development, Structure, Nutritious properties, Modes of cooking and Preserving etc., - all described in 152 anecdote-filled pages and illustrated with 12 hand-coloured plates. Having travelled in Europe and seen fungus markets and the enthusiasm for eating wild toadstools in Italy, Badham became a passionate advocate of toadstools as food for the poor and described the purpose of his book as being "to furnish the labouring classes with wholesome nourishment and profitable occupation"

In Badham's day blewits were rather poorly known in England and were just beginning to appear for sale in Covent Garden markets. He gives a recipe for collecting and preparing them, which goes as follows:

"... it is a fine firm fungus with a flavour of veal, like which it is dressed en papillottes with savoury herbs and the usual condiments, and the more highly seasoned the better"

Unfortunately he also says " As the Blewitt is apt to imbibe in wet weather a great quantity of moisture it should not be gathered in rain when water-soaked". Since there's not much sign of the rain stopping, they may no longer be a "fine firm fungus" by the time they've dried out enough to pick, so maybe I'll have to leave them to the maggots that often infest old blewits.


2 comments:

  1. Phil, if you peel the outer skin and cook them they shouldn't cause distress. I have to peel Puff Balls as I've found that the bad bits are in the skin. Try picking them and drying them. They are fine dried and added to stews...sorry Casseroles.

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