Shanks and Bigfoot: A Foraging Special

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Thought I’d brighten up your January with a foraging special!  The fungi (above) is a cluster of Velvet Shank (Flammulina velutipes) mushrooms [Thanks to Fenwickfield on iSpot for the ID] growing out of a felled tree.

Also called the ‘Velvet Foot’, ‘Winter Agaric’ or ‘Winter Mushroom’ (and even sold as Enoki sometimes!), it is one of the most common winter mushrooms, able to withstand frosts.  It is also rumoured to be anti-carcinogenic!  At this time of year, it is difficult to confuse with other species.  *Ahem – I should probably state here that you should NOT eat ANY wild mushrooms EVER.  Do as I say, not as I do.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo a quick chat with my foraging buddy Sally (whom you met in the pignut / chicken of the woods episode) and we made plans to harvest the crop.

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We met this morning on site, and immediately set to harvesting (and checking the ID!) the mushrooms, making sure we left enough small mushrooms to come back for a second crop

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVelvet Shanks are identified by their orangey brown colouring (paler towards the edges), sticky texture, and velvety stalk (shank) which darkens toward the base.  A cross-section of the stalk reveals different coloured layers with a small hole in the centre.

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Picking these mushrooms, especially when frozen, is a job for a sharp knife and a lot of patience, as they are quite fragile, too!  I actually left mine outside in the cold all day until I could bring them home and cook them straight away.

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My original plan was Risotto, but alas, I drank all the white wine last night, and risotto isn’t the same without it, so decided (after consulting the River Cottage Mushroom Handbook) on a bit of a ‘wild’ bangers and mash as I had some venison sausages in the fridge.

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So I began by putting some spuds and turnips on to boil for the mash, and washing (gently) my mushrooms.

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I threw two cloves of garlic and 6 shallots in my mini blender while the sausages were cooking.  Took the sausages off the heat, and sauteed the shallots, garlic & mushrooms in a bit of olive oil.

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After 5-10 mins, I added the sausages back into the pan and mashed my spuds while it all came together.  Then served up, deglazed the pan with some beef stock and reduced it to make a jus, and voila!  Posh & Wild Bangers & Mash!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, the review:  Delicious, mild and earthy tasting with no bitterness, BUT they do retain their slimyness so that when they are in your mouth the texture is very much like mushrooms from the chinese takeaway, but with WAY more flavour.  Just a bit of a head’s up that the texture won’t be to everyone’s liking.  (We are so used to white, firm mushrooms that it may be a bit weird for some.)  I have read recommendations to dry this mushroom and use it in stews, etc, so I’ll give that a go on my next harvest and let you know how it goes!  🙂

3 Replies to “Shanks and Bigfoot: A Foraging Special”

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