The rain gave reason to mushrooms to flourish this season.
Our urban parks are filled with the most prolific displays, like this one, a fairy ring of Blewits (Lepista Nuda and Lepista saeva).
Cab’s Wild Food Page, a UK based foraging site, says of this mushrooms:
Probably the most popular wild mushroom in many parts of the Midlands in England, the blewit (bluey, blue-leg, bluebutton, etc) can be found growing in large numbers from late summer right through winter. Nearly always free of maggots, this is a strong tasting, meaty mushroom.
Try to pick it while dry, because it can absorb more than its own weight of rain water.
The wood blewit (Lepista nuda) is an highly distinctive mushroom. Beautiful to behold, the purple cap goes brownish as it ages. Like the field blewit (Lepista saeva), make sure you cook it well because some people find it a little indigestible raw.
One highly recommended way of cooking it being Nottingham blewits.
The site also indicates:
NEVER eat anything from the wild unless you can be absolutely sure of its identity. While I would hope that this is a fairly obvious safety tip, cases of poisoning from mis-identifications aren’t unknown.
You doubt there would be such a risk in Sydney though, those mushrooms are growing without anybody coming anywhere near them for about a week. People over here are so enstrangered to the environment around them, they just think anything out there is out to get ‘em..
This is happening in a park due to be redeveloped in late ’08, Prince Alfred Park, due to become one early “new sydney” showcase. A city “Green, Global and Connected” where sustainability becomes a keyword.
The fairy rings you saw in the past week take decades to develop, they hardly come out overnight.
Wouldn’t it be fair to say that if we keep re-designing, re-surfacing, re-greening, re-thinking, re-developing the landscape over and over again we actually making sure biodiversity doesn’t develop? How many butterflies have you ever seen in a urban park?
You personally welcome the vision brought about by Jan Gehl, you personally would love to see a city in 2030 where you will be able to ride your bicycle without gambling your life in the process.
But you are also somewhat cynical. Between here and 2030 there are 4 changes of government at each level (local, state and national).
In the mean time the council workers will come through the park to mow the grass, and the blewits will disappear for another long time..
In the meant time when the contractors will refurbish the park they will resurface it with mono-cultures by the roll.
You love the vision, but you also would like to quote Jane Goodall:
“Let us move in the new millennium with hope…
let us develop respect for all living things”
She was talking about primates, you would love to extend the argument all the way to weeds.
Anyway, here’s a recipe from Antonio Carluccio, a chef who lives in Britain but grew up a stone throw from where you grew up. Antonio knows about foraging, he even published a book about it, Antonio Carluccio goes wild, but you will have to do another post about this book all together..
Piccioni in casseruola con lepista
Casserole of wood pigeon with wood blewits
The wood blewit’s very firm and fragrant flesh makes it one of the most desirable of wild mushrooms. I’ve seen them on sale in markets in the Midlands, but i always get mine, some wonderful examples, from my friend Timothy Neat in Scotland, which are sent by express delivery.
600g fresh wood blewits
4 wood pigeons, prepared by your butcher
plain flour for coating
6 tbsp olive oil
2 smoked pancetta or bacon rashes, cut into strips
1 onion finely sliced
1 carrot, finely sliced
1 celery stick, finely sliced
100 ml red wine
1 tbsp juniper berries
4 bay leaves
stock or water if necessary
salt and pepper to taste
Clean the blewits, and slice if large. Season the pigeons both inside and out, then dust them with flour. Put them into a hot pan with the oil and pancetta, and fry on both sides until golden. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Put the chopped vegetables into the same pan and fry until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the wine, salt and pepper and heat to let the alcohol evaporate.
Put the pigeons, breast-side down, into a large casserole dish with mushrooms, juniper berries, bay leaves, vegetables and their juices. Put on the lid and leave to stew on a gentle heat on top of the stove for half an hour. Should the mushrooms not exude enough moisture, then add a little stock of water.
After half an hour, turn the pigeons round so that they are breast side up, and cook for another half hour. For the last 10 minutes, remove the lid to thicken the sauce. Remove the bay leaves and serve the pigeons with blewit sauce. A good accompaniment would be boiled rice or wet polenta.
You will also have to talk some other time about four leaved clovers..