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Here you can find a collection of our thoughts, reports and ramblings together with some fun things we find along the way. We try to update the blog at least once a week and more often during busy periods so make sure you check back regularly..

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Dec 14 2014 10:01PM

If we said chestnuts to you, what comes to mind? We'd wager good money that a cosy fire, dark nights and a general sense of snug Christmassy nostalgia would be among your first thoughts. Is the mention of any other ingredient so comforting and emotive?

Late October through to late December is the season of the sweet chestnut. A native of the Mediterranean, many of the original chestnut trees in the UK were planted by the Romans and the Latin name "castan" can be found in various guises across Europe including Wales (castan) France (châtaigne) and our own derivation, chestnut.

Interestingly, for a food now so quintessentially seasonal and British, very few of the chestnuts sold in the UK are grown here. The chances are that, if you buy chestnuts in the UK (even from a market) they will have come from abroad, most likely France. We're not quite sure why that is but presumably the 20 year growing period of your average tree makes it, at the very least, quite a long term investment.

We've all lobbed the odd stick into a chestnut tree in the hope of dislodging a spiky prize or two but (and this is speaking as someone who once had a "discussion" with the Royal Parks Police on the matter) it's best not to do this unless you own the tree. Picking them up from the ground will ensure they are ripe, although of course you need to get there before the squirrels do, but getting to them early (earlier than mid-December when we're writing this blog!) will also ensure that they don't get damp. Damp is the enemy of the chestnut as they will quickly rot so, once foraged, make sure you store them in a dry, well ventilated place.

For the Well Seasoned team, nothing beats a traditional roast chestnut. Get a crackling fire going and throw a handful of chestnuts into a roasting pan (make sure you cut a small cross in the top of each nut first, to prevent any unwanted explosions and a dash across the living room to stamp out burning embers). After about 10 minutes, depending on the heat of your fire, your nuts should be beautifully roasted and easy to peel. If you haven't got an open fire you can roast in the oven at 200 C for about 25 minutes (again, cutting them first). If you've got a large number you can grind the roasted nuts into chestnut flour which makes a delicious (and gluten free) base for pancakes and shortbread.

There's an old Corsican saying that "he who has nothing will not eat. If you want flour, go gather chestnuts." We'd love to end this blog post on an educational high note by telling you what it means. Unfortunately, we have no idea. Enjoy your chestnuts this Christmas!

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Nov 3 2014 10:02AM

We’re rather embarrassed to have reached November without having mentioned wild mushrooms! October is so jam-packed with fantastic ingredients to talk about that we just didn't get round to it.

The UK has something like 15,000 types of wild fungi. You can narrow it down to around fifty that are in season in October and November with serious culinary appeal.

And sure as night follows day, an introduction mentioning mushrooms needs to be followed by a serious health warning. A large number are toxic - some just enough to give you an upset stomach, others enough to kill you in under an hour. The golden rule is simple never, ever to eat anything unless you're absolutely certain of its identification. In Croatia, where mushroom hunting is very popular, they have an adage that is well worth keeping in mind - "All mushrooms are edible, but some only once."

So, the first thing to do before you even think about foraging for mushrooms is to get yourself a comprehensive mushroom guide. The best books come with laminated field guides that you can take with you on your woodland ramble. Three of our favourites are:

- Mushrooms by Roger Phillip (perhaps the best known and most comprehensive guide available).

- A Field Guide To Edible Mushrooms Of Britain And Europe by Peter Jordan (a use friendly guide focussing on edible species).

- Mushrooming Without Fear by Alexander Schwab (a detailed guide to a few of the most common varieties).

Here’s our top tips for finding fantastic fungi:

- Mushrooms like damp, cool woodlands and the edges of fields. You're unlikely to find them on sandy soil.

- They often grow around rotting trees and piles of cut wood.

- Where you find one, you'll often find others. Mark your original find with a stick and explore the surrounding area. Mushroom spores are blown by the wind, so they will often grow in a line with the prevailing wind direction.

- September and October are the classic months for mushrooms but some very well-known and highly prized mushrooms like St. George's and morels come out in the Spring.

- Don't forget to look up as well as down - some of the tastiest species like Chicken of the Woods grow amongst the branches.

It was perfect mushrooming weather this weekend. We spent it in West Sussex and found huge numbers of these parasol mushrooms nestled in a wooded valley near Battle - the famous site of the Battle of Hastings. Perhaps if Harold had feasted on a hearty mushroom breakfast he’d have had better luck!

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Oct 17 2014 11:45AM

We recently helped out HolidayCottages.co.uk (you'll NEVER guess what they do) with an autumnal infographic they were putting together.

HC wanted to encourage their holiday guests to get out in the countryside looking for all of those foragers' favourites that you can find in the hedgerows at this time of year, so we suggested they take a look at cobnuts.

It's a neat little graphic with some tasty recipes at the bottom, including our very own cobnut pesto.

Check it out (and if you check into one of their cottages, tell them we sent you):


Autumn Infographic - holiday cottages
Autumn Infographic - holiday cottages
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