Earlier this month, I was approached by the production team behind The Hungry Sailors, starring father and son team Dick and James Strawbridge, requesting whether they could come and do some fungi foraging with me for their new series. Dick and James are sailing a 45’ Bristol Pilot Cutter, the Morwenna, around the SW coast, meeting foodies, farmers and foragers en route. Never shy of publicity, and the promise of a free meal, I agreed to take the boys foraging in Tremayne Woods for the day.
Now, this autumn hasn’t been the greatest for fungi. Last year I blamed the very dry and warm September and early October for the poor harvest (remember those sweltering autumn temperatures?). This year, it’s just been too damned wet! Fungi are fickle things; you can never quite predict when they’ll emerge. Earlier in the year I found Puff Balls in May, Chanterelles in June and ceps in July. October however, usually the month of fungal fruitfulness, has been a complete dead loss.
So, it was with some trepidation (and a basket of dried ceps and pickled blewits just in case) that we entered the woods last week not expecting to find anything worth picking. As expected, the woodland floor seemed all but devoid of any fungi aside from plenty of common earth balls and a couple of deadly poisonous Destroying Angels. Not exactly the culinary delights they were hoping to find.
As one enters into the more ancient oak woodlands around Tremayne, the fungi interest improves, and sure enough as we rounded the corner towards Point Field as the light was beginning to fade, a glint of orange gold in the leaf litter was the telltale sign of Chanterelles! Further scratching around amongst the litter unveiled more of these beautiful, and very sought-after, delicacies. With the added bonus of a nearby cluster of Amethyst Deceivers, (brilliant purple and frankly rather unlikely delicacies), and a most peculiar looking gelatinous Beefsteak Fungus, we finally had enough fungi for the Hungry Sailors not to go hungry.
On Sunday, I was joined by Simon and Linda, a couple of local monkfish fishermen who had taken James out fishing, and David from Gear farm who had helped Dick cook up my mushroom harvest, and we were taken out to Morwenna moored in the Helford River.
A wonderful three course dinner was then served. A superb wild mushroom ‘cappuccino’ with poached egg and wild mushroom pastry puff was served as a starter out on deck before going below deck for ‘Creek’ Curry, local monkfish cooked in a wonderful aromatic Thai style sauce. The meal was completed with a delicious hedgerow crème brulee and a shot of my very own hooch, Chanterelle Vodka.
Look out for the episode on ITV1 next spring. It should be rather entertaining!