Mushrooms – 10 Reasons to Love Them
First of all, I must start today’s blog with an apology for my tardiness. April’s been, quite frankly, a shit month and I haven’t produced anything like my usual number of posts. Unfortunately, after a very short dalliance with Alzheimer’s and Dementia, my lovely mum passed away on Easter Sunday. As a result, I’ve had to put on my “big boy pants”, put the tissues away, and get on with it, which is what I’m trying to do, albeit somewhat reluctantly. So, bearing that in mind, allow me to introduce this week’s post to you. The glorious “St George’s Mushrooms and 10 Reasons to Love Them.”
St George’s Mushrooms
Calocybe gambosa (St George’s Mushrooms), are edible and grow in fields, woodlands, grass verges and roadsides. You’ll often find them growing in cute mushroom rings or clumps. And, although it may seem obvious, they were named such following their discovery, on St George’s Day. Namely the 23rd April, and belong to the Lyophyllaceae family of mushrooms.
“Nature alone is antique, and the oldest art a mushroom.”
10 Reasons to Love Them:
- Originating from ancient Greek, the term calo means “pretty” and cybe “head”. Hence calocybe refers to the smooth, milky white cap of a St George’s mushroom. Their caps can also sport a light tan hint of colour, growing slightly darker as it ages.
- Gambosa translates to “club footed”, not overly attractive I must admit. However, it does describe its large stem and somewhat, ever so slightly, bulbous base.
- These delicious mushrooms can be eaten raw and have a slightly floury, flavour, with a hint of cucumber.
- However, when cooked they showcase a rather yummy, meaty scent and nutty flavour.
- Although St George’s mushrooms may, initially, be hard to find. Once you’ve located them, they will grow in the same location for many years.
- This tasty mushroom’s cap can be anywhere between 5cm – 15 cm in width, giving it a lovely, chunky appeal.
- The stem can grow quite thick, 2cm – 7cm wide and doesn’t display a stem ring.
- You’ll find this a firm mushroom, which holds its firmness well, making it the perfect cooking ingredient.
- And they’re healthy, containing vitamins D, C, iron, calcium, fibre and iron.
- These mushrooms, along with all other edible mushrooms sport anti-inflammatory properties. When you think about it, you could say mushrooms are THE original superfood!
Now, you may well find yourself in the enviable position of finding more mushrooms than you can eat! Worry not my friend. I’m here to help, even if I’m a tad jealous that you’ve found yourself in said position! However, the good news is, that there are various ways to preserve mushrooms – methods, such as drying, salt preserving, powdering and freezing. However, my absolute favourites are drying and powdering, and it’s those methods I’ll share with you today.
For me, the best thing about drying mushrooms is the intense flavour they develop, making them an ideal ingredient to add to stews, pies, soups and casseroles.
- Make sure your St George’s mushrooms are free from dirt. Don’t wash them, but wipe them with a damp cloth and cut off any damaged areas.
- If the mushroom has a stringy, chewy stem, then it’s best to remove it.
- Slice the mushrooms thinly.
- Line a baking tray with grease-proof paper and a couple of layers of newspaper. Follow this with a final sheet of grease-proof paper.
- Place the mushrooms on the above and leave in a warm, dry place for two days. If you have an airing cupboard, pop them in there for this purpose.
- Alternatively, you could place the mushrooms in a pre-heated oven at 80 C, or on low gas, for two hours. Keep the door slightly ajar (a wooden spoon is ideal for this).
- Check the mushrooms are thoroughly dry before placing them in an airtight jar. (If they’re not dry enough they will produce mould).
- To rehydrate your dried mushrooms, you merely place them in a bowl of warm water (not boiling) for 20 minutes. Afterwards, keep the water and use it for stock.
Using A Dehydrator
Once upon a time, I followed the above drying method. However, as I tend to dry multiple plants, my house was always full of trays, in various stages of drying. And I needed to “tidy” the process somewhat. Unfortunately, they were taking over every available counter or table space. And Mr B wasn’t sure what he would find when he opened a cupboard door! Hence the need to find an alternative means of drying my wild goodies. Fast forward a bit, and after a thorough search of the internet. I found the ideal dehydrator for drying and haven’t looked back. If you would like to purchase this dehydrator, click this link, I can promise you; you won’t be disappointed. It’s reasonably priced and does a great job of the drying.
Drying and grinding mushrooms are my favourite ways, by far, of preserving them, and the thing I love most is the intense flavour they take on. That said, however, it also means that you should use the powder sparingly. Subsequently, you’ll find it a tasty addition to stews, pies, casseroles and soups.
I like to add arrowroot to my ground mushrooms, instantly transforming the powder into a delicious gravy! And, if you’re interested, here’s a link to the grinder I use, of course, you could also use a coffee grinder.
- Take the above-dried mushrooms and place in a grinder and reduce until they produce a fine powder.
- Place in an airtight jar.
To make up for the fact that I’ve neglected you a bit over the last few weeks, I’ve put together a rather tasty mushroom recipe for you to try. Please let me know if you give it a go, and don’t forget to send me a photograph! If that recipe doesn’t grab you, then take a peek at this one, ‘Wild Mushroom Pancakes with Wild Garlic Butter’.
Now, all that remains to be said is stay safe and happy foraging! And remember to subscribe here if you never want to miss any of my posts.
Mushroom Crepe with Asparagus Spears
- 230 g plain, white flour
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 2 tbsp melted butter
- 250 ml milk
- 1 pinch salt
- 1/2 lb St George’s Mushrooms Trim and clean. If you can’t find enough, make up the difference with any other available white mushrooms
- 1/2 lb mushrooms of your choice Trim and clean
- 2 shallots Finely chopped
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 250 ml double cream
- 3 tbsp fresh tarragon Finely chopped. Dry is fine if you don’t have any fresh.
- 8 asparagus tips Whole
- 1 pinch salt
- 4 slices Prosciutto ham Lightly cook the Prosciutto under grill and place on top of mushroom filling before rolling the pancake
- In a large bowl add the flour, eggs, sugar, salt and melted butter.
- Using a whisk or electric mixer, beat in the milk gradually until a smooth batter forms with no lumps.
- Heat a lightly buttered crepe or frying pan over medium/high heat.
- Pour the batter into the pan, then tip and rotate the pan to spread the mixture as thinly as possible.
- Cook on both sides for about 1-2 minutes and then set aside (keep them warm)
- Melt the butter in a large non-stick frying pan, add the shallots and fry over a gentle heat until soft. Once soft, set them to the side. Meanwhile, coat your asparagus spears in olive oil.
- Add the asparagus spears to the frying pan and season with salt and black pepper. Cook for 1-2 mins, occasionally turning until tender. Once ready, place two spears on each pancake.
- Add the mushroom to your frying pan and cook over moderate heat to soften. Add the shallots, cream and tarragon. Increase the heat until thick and creamy. When ready, spoon the mushroom mixture over the asparagus and roll up the crepes and serve at once.