Wild Foods Guide 'F'
This is the sixth of my series of 26 postings on wild foods. Each post will deal with a separate letter of the alphabet ('F' today) and will describe a wild food beginning with that letter as well as presenting a classic recipe incorporating that wild food.
Today I'm dealing with the letter 'F', the sixth letter of the English alphabet, which includes foods such as fat hen, field mushroom, fairy ring champignon, fireweed, furse and many others. Today, however I am going to devote this page to the field mushroom (one of my favourite musrooms) and Fat Hen.
The Field Mushroom (also known as Meadow Mushroom) represent the fruiting bodies of a basidiomycete fungus (filamentous fungi composed of hyphae that reproduce sexually), Agaricus campestris Its species name campestris is derived from the Latin word campus (meaning 'field'), and it is found most commonly in meadows either mown for hay or grazed by horses, cattle or sheep. It can be found worldwide and appears in fields and grassy areas after rain from late summer through autumn (but is most common in late August and September, though it can be found as early as June and as late as November). It is fast maturing and has a short shelf-life and ideally should be consumed immediately after picking.
The Field Mushroom grows alone (ie it is not dependent on tree species), gregariously, or sometimes in fairy rings where it tends to stimulate the growth of grass inside the ring. It is closely related to the cultivated white 'button mushrooms' sold in grocery stores but, typically, the Field Mushroom is smaller and rather more delicate in stature, while having the same characteristic mushroom smell.
Young specimens have closed caps and bear tightly-packed bright pink gills that are covered by a veil. As the mushroom matures the cap opens and becomes less and less convex, eventually flattening out. The gills darken becoming brick red then chocolate brown and finally black and slightly mucilaginous. As the fungus opens the veil tears away from the cap, leaving a transient membranous ring which can often become rubbed off. The cut flesh colours slightly pink. Typically the cap is a pure white, but there are variants that bear light brown scales and as the mushroom ages even the white ones tend to develop brown scales near the center of the cap. The margins of the cap remain inrolled until maturity where they flatten. The stipe (stem) is short and white and bruises brown whilst the flesh bruises slightly reddish and the mushroom has a stronger smell than the shop-bought varieties. The spore print is dark brown.
The classic recipe for this mushroom uses the mushroom itself as a base for a cheese topping in the form of a rarebit:
4 large field mushrooms or horse mushrooms, peeled
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Worcesterchire sauce
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour. Cook this mixture for about two minutes, ensuring that the flour doesn't burn. Add the mustard, Worcestershire sauce and the beer. Cook for about four minutes then begin adding the grated cheese little by little, ensuring that it does not burn on the bottom of the pan. Whilst the cheese is melting fry your mushrooms on the upper side (the side without gills) in a buttered frying pan. When the cheese has all melted turn the part-cooked mushroom over and carefully place on a grill pan before adding the cheese mixture on top of the uncooked side of the cap. Place back under the grill until the cheese has coloured a golden brown (personally I like to add a little paprika at this time)..
This recipe is reproduced, with permission, from the Mushroom Rarebit Recipe from the Celtnet Recipes Collection.
If you are interested in recipes for field mushrooms then you can find a range of field mushroom recipes.
Fat Hen Chenopodium album, (also known as: white goosefoot, lamb's quarters, lambsquarters, or pigweed) is a fast-growing, upright, weedy annual species of goosefoot, very common in temperate regions, growing almost everywhere in soils rich in nitrogen, especially on wasteland. It tends to grow upright at first, reaching heights of 30-80 cm, but typically becomes recumbent after flowering (due to the weight of the foliage and seeds) unless supported by other plants. It is a member of the Amaranthaceae (the Amaranth family) and like most of the plants in this family bears flowers on long spikes.
Fat Hen can be eaten as a vegetable, either steamed in entirety, or the leaves cooked like spinach as a leaf vegetable. Each plant produces tens of thousands of black seeds. These are very nutritious, high in protein, vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium. In the past it was grown as a poultry feed (both seeds and leaves). Indeed, Fat Hen seeds are some of the most common seeds frund in prehistoric sites indicating widespread consumption of the plant during prehistoric times.
The recipe presented below is for a classic version of a bean fritter incorporating fat hen.
Savoury Bean Fritters
1 bunch of sorrel, chopped
70g chopped, roasted, hazelnuts
1 bunch of fat hen greens, chopped
1 handful of freshly-grated horseradish
500g processed Celtic Beans (see below)
salt, to taste
flour, to bind (use strong wholemeal bread flour)
Melt a little butter in a pan and use to gently fry the sorrel, hazelnuts and fat hen until wilted. Take off the heat and transfer to a bowl. Mix in the horseradish and beans then add an egg. Stir to combine then season with salt and add just enough flour to bring the ingredients together as a stiff dough.
Shape the dough into rissoles, melt the butter in a large pan and use to fry the shaped rissoles until browned all over. These can be served either hot or cold.
To process Celtic Beans: Soak the beans over night then drain and place in a large pot. Cover with plenty of water, bring to a boil and cook for at least 3 hours. Cover, take off he heat and allow to cool in the water. You now need to remove hard skins from the beans. This can be done by rubbing the beans between your hands to slough-off the skin (as is done in Africa) but this is laborious and time-consuming. You can also grind the beans between two stones, or, if you're impatient dump the beans in a food processor and grind them there. Once you've ground the beans place in a bowl of water and let the skin pieces float to the top. Drain the beans and remove the skins. Your beans are now ready to use.
This recipe is reproduced, with permission, from the Savoury Bean Fritters Recipe from the Celtnet European Recipes Collection.
If you are interested in recipes for Fat Hen then you can find a range of fat hen recipes.
This guide is brought to you in conjunction with the Celtnet Wild Food Recipes collection.
You can find more wild foods beginning with the letter 'F' on the Wild Food Guide for the letter 'F', part of the Celtnet Wild Food Guide.