Foragers afield

It would be tempting to look back on the summer and feel that one was short-changed.  It seems that the annual heat-wave occurred back in April-May when we struggled to keep gardens watered, and spring plants which are unadapted to water shortages, alive.  July and August were indifferent months in terms of good weather.  Nevertheless nature has been bountiful in fruit yields.  Then again my tomatoes are now rotting.  You need optimum weather conditions to get the most out of your crops but some foodstuffs are indifferent.

The littoral zone of a beach is the area of shore that is subjected to exposure during the twice daily cycle of tides.  Plants and animals living in that zone are adapted to extremes of heat, cold, drying out and immersion.  Barring drastic events such as oil spillages life ticks by, you could say at a steady snail’s pace.

Nick and I headed for Ringstead one sunny afternoon when guilt at having been housebound by chores and computer-based activities drove us outside.  You have to pay a hefty toll of £5 to use the private road which gives you the right to park close to the shore.

The bay was beautiful in its tranquility and sparsely populated state.  We walked west towards the headland.  I poked around in rock pools on the limestone platform and found snails in repose in crevices and amongst tufts of algae.  It occurred to me that I had never tested the palatability of Osilinus against that of the traditionally eated winkle Littorina littorea.  I collected both, cooked them separately and subjected them to a taste test.  There was a slight difference in flavour but the Littorina  won hands down because they could be removed from their shells with a pin much more easily.

Then again, I know a verge where Boletes grow.  We first collected some in 2009 when Nick spotted them whilst we were parked up at garage on the A3 buying a newspaper.  They were growing beneath a group of small pines and silver birch.  Returning to Winterborne the other day I pulled in at the garage to check for the mushrooms.  There were many large, overly-ripe adults to be found on our original plot, but also a flock of the young toadstools under some distal pines.  I collected these, noting that there was a mature Death Cap (Amanita phalloides) growing amongst them.

Back in Dorset I unpacked the car and it being a whole two days since I had logged on, opened up my machine.  On Facebook I found a fresh post from Kitchen antics with a posh recipe for mushrooms on toast which I followed, with some minor modifications.  They were delicious!

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