Thursday, August 15, 2013

Mushroom season brings a bumper crop

It's Field Mushroom season here in South Wales but it seems I may have been missing out.

I expect to see them first on our hillside in South Wales around the middle of August but some of my wife's patients in the Vale of Glamorgan mentioned they were already enjoying a bumper harvest in the first week of the month.

They may be a little later up here than in the coastal plains which are warmer being closer to the sea and at a lower altitude than our 550 feet (175m). But there are certainly plenty around now.

I try picking them between 9 and 10am and twice a week, though judging by the spoiled ones around I could be there every other day and still get plenty.

This morning I picked about 4lbs - all either of them had either sprouted out of the ground this morning or later yesterday. Any damaged or a bit manky looking get left.

Once picked, you need to use them quickly as they go soggy if left out.

I tried this recipe for Mushroom and Tarragon Pate on BBC Goodfood website and it was delicious. I simply used 200g of wild Field Mushrooms instead of shiitake and chestnut mushrooms and although the recipe called for fresh tarragon I used freeze-dried as I haven't any of the fresh stuff.

The taste is really quite strong but it went superbly on toast. I left one batch in the fridge for three days and it was still fine.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Back to the Stone Age

The small wood in our garden is relatively new having grown out of a pile of large stones which were dumped here in the 1950s.

These had been blasted out of the ground to produce the reservoir on the other side of the lane from us and probably served a second purpose of filling an old quarry which the boundary of our garden straddles.

The stones are up to eight feet long and three feet wide and being Pennant Sandstone are flat, layered strata, the biggest being a foot or so deep.

When we first moved in I soon earmarked the largest visible rock to become a standing stone - or monolith or menhir - at some stage in the garden.

The logistics of erecting it remained blurred and unformed in my mind until I asked Richard, the farmer next door, if he could drag it from the wood with his tractor. He thought about it and suggested that he could take the fence between our garden and his field down – but a better alternative was to take a similar sized stone that he had on his land instead.

He’d hit it with a plough several years earlier and, after much mud, sweat and tractoring, had unearthed it and dragged it to the side of his field on the hillside a quarter of a mile up the hill from us.

The stone - he estimated it at 1.4 tonnes - was delivered and dumped next to our garden pond. I dug a hole by hand – in places more than three feet deep and up to eight feet wide and six across.

With a chain around the stone, Richard winched it carefully upright and, with a bit of brute force, we turned it to face the gate at the end of the drive. He held it in place with the tractor's bucket.

I then mixed a couple of tonnes of quick-drying concrete with some rubble and steel reinforcement to set it hard in the hole.

Two hours later the concrete had set – though still green – but  it was clear the stone wasn’t going to budge and we took the tractor away. I’ve since covered the concrete with a few inches of soil and turf.

It’s not quite Stonehenge - it now stands up to five-foot six-inches proud of the ground and two-and-a-half feet wide - but it is quite imposing and in proportion with the rest of the garden.

And it's going nowhere.