As the leaves change and the weather becomes cooler, I have been struck by how quickly the time is flying by at Ewhurst Park. We are now firmly in the autumn season, which has brought bursts of colour to the trees, honking geese to the lake, and what appears on the surface to a slowing of life at the farm. Children are back at school, the calves and piglets are growing up, and the summer flowers have faded into a more understated Autumn landscape. However, this in no way means that Ewhurst is becoming devoid of life.
Autumn at Ewhurst Park
When I speak about Ewhurst Park as an edible landscape, I think some people struggle to understand what that could possibly mean. We are so used to food being something from a supermarket shelf, packaged in plastic and brightly lit, that we tend to forget where our food really comes from. However, when you slow down in natural spaces, and know what to look for, you will see that there is nourishment all around you. Food can be found on the branches and trunks of trees, on bushes, under logs, and growing out of the ground throughout the woodland. The landscape of Ewhurst Park is truly an edible one.
I had the amazing opportunity to go foraging with expert forager Marlow Renton last week. I have worked with Marlow and his team at WildFood UK before, and have learned so much from walking across the land with them and seeing how easily they identify the edible plants around us. Marlow is a fountain of knowledge, and I consider myself lucky to have such an expert in my circle of friends.
The end of September and beginning of October are prime time for mushrooms of all shapes and sizes. I was amazed and delighted to discover just how many varieties of mushrooms are growing on the grounds. In a short, roughly 1km walk, we found and identified nearly a dozen varieties of fungi. There were several types of poisonous mushrooms, which I will be sure to avoid in the future! The most beautiful of these was maybe the Magpie Inkcap – a lone, tall mushroom with a gorgeous pattern. Wonderful to look at but certainly not one to cook.
The Toxic Magpie Incap
We also discovered many edible mushrooms including Penny Buns, Porcelain Mushrooms, several kinds of Bolettes, Grey Oyster Mushrooms, and Puffballs. All of these mushrooms are edible, and we collected several types to take home and cook into a delicious lunch! I especially enjoyed the meaty flavour of the Penny Buns. They were gorgeous, wonderful to cook and were an excellent centrepiece in my risotto.
Cooking Mushrooms for Risotto
One of my favourite parts of our lunch, though, were the desserts made from foraged ingredients that Marlow brought with him. The Pineapple Weed Posset Pots were divine, as were the chocolate chestnut tortes. It is amazing how much food you can really make out of the weeds that are so common in Hampshire.
Delicious Foraged Desserts
One of the reasons I fell in love with the land at Ewhurst was that I saw the potential for the manicured lawns and controlled forests to become abundant with wildlife. Foraging outings like last week’s remind me of how bountiful the land truly is. I look forward to continuing learning from Marlow and and the other experts from WildFoodUK over the coming years, and learning more and more about the land as the seasons change every year. I hope to make foraging sessions a regular occurrence at the farm, and create opportunities for you all to come along and experience the edible landscape of Ewhurst with me.