To the non-forager, the later months of the year, when autumn turns to winter, might evoke barren images of death and withdrawal: the dying-back and freezing-off of spring and summer’s bounty. But that’s not really how it works. The real famine month is august, the height of summer, when all the greens and vegetables we like to use at our pub The Verulam Arms (traditional British wild food and a great Sunday roast – you really should try it sometime) are parched, dried-out and gone to seed. By the time September’s cool damp climate comes around, we’re grateful for the life it breathes back into the hedgerow.
There’s a wonderful period of growth then, when some of the spring greens start sending out new shoots to take advantage of the moderate and moist weather. This is only stopped by a hard frost, but in sheltered areas of the cities of the South East, some years the hard frost never comes. We’re left with easy access to chickweed, hedge garlic, nettles, hogweed shoots and more even in the bleak midwinter.
It’s fun to mix these spring flavours with some more traditionally seasonal delights. Autumn is mushroom season, after all. The other day, we were out shooting for our new video series (more on that soon) and were lucky enough to stumble on one of these:
Hen of the Woods, with its deep aroma of cheesy, yeasty, musty goodness. Almost more than we could carry. Here we are, holding it like a pair of fishermen with their trophy trouts:
If we’re talking about mixing the fresh flavours of spring with the rich savour of autumn, then it doesn’t get richer or more savoury than Hen of the Woods.And we are talking about it. We made a dish out of it:
The best of both worlds: filo parcel of rabbit leg, liver and kidney seasoned with wild thyme, served with a hazelnut, nettle, hedge garlic and hogweed green shoots pesto on one side and Hen of the Woods mushroom on the other. Sit back and let the flavours of spring and autumn collide in your mouth.