A Jew’s Ramson

Despite the constant rain, I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be Spring here in the UK. This means it is a good time for the foragers out there. Foraging is the bushcraft skill I am most interested in developing; although I have still got miles to go. That said, when I compare what I know now to what I knew a year or two ago, then I can see I have definitely learnt something.

And that’s the most important thing.

In the last week I have made two good finds.

First up is a fungus – Jew’s Ear Fungus.

This predominantly grows on dead Elder, though not exclusively so. It ranges in size from something the size of a penny, up to two or three inches across. When it dries out it shrinks and can be re-constituted by simply allowing to soak in water for a few minutes.

It’s not the most attractive fungus, but is quite edible. They are best not eaten raw – they’re still edible, but it’s like chewing a bit of rubber. Most often they are cleaned, sliced thinly and added to stews. You can let them dry out and then crush them into a powder to use as a thickener/flavour to stews and soups.

The good thing about Jew’s Ear fungus is that it’s an easy one to identify.

A couple of days ago, whilst out for a bike ride, I passed a large patch of Ramsons (otherwise known as wild garlic).

The flowers, and the smell, made it hard to mistake them. Do be warned though – it is easy to misidentify Ramsons for two very poisonous species: lily of the valley and lords & ladies. All three plants have similar leaves. You should ensure you are aware of the differences. However, if in bloom, Ramson flowers are very different to both lily of the valley and lords & ladies. Also, Ramsons smell of garlic – the other two do not (crush the leaves and smell your hands – Ramsons will have the unmistakable smell. Always wash your hands afterwards – the others can give you a nasty skin infection and you don’t want to accidentally ingest any sap left on your hands).

Taste-wise, Ramsons don’t taste as strong as the odour would suggest. They are more like a strong spring onion than a bulb of garlic. You can use them as you would use any onion/garlic – when I had them it was in some garlic/ramson bread. And jolly nice it was too.

If you are unsure then leave any wild fungus/plant well alone! ALWAYS seek advice from experts (and, no – I’m NOT an expert).

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