Much as I would like to be sitting in a warm room there are still tasks to be carried out in our winter garden. Soft winter grasses and fleshy weeds are taking advantage of the beds my partner prepared and planted out to garlic and onions. My task has been to weed the beds, which I have done over the past week.
There is still a bit to complete, but the worst is over and the chooks have enjoyed scratching among the weeds for fresh green pick. While the garlic has grown vigorously the onions have been overwhelmed by the weeds. Today I spent an ‘envigorating’ half hour filling in the gaps where some of the onions failed. It seems that the brown onions have fared better than the red cipollini. The gaps have been filled with more brown onions on the basis that their seedlings were the strongest available at the nursery.
One of our local magpie pairs has started collecting sticks and vegetation for nest building. While we see this as the start of the coldest part of winter these birds are looking forward to their first hatchlings of the year. Oh, and I’d better warn the postman, the magpies love to swoop him when they have young in the nest!
I’ve spent the last weekend catching up with jobs I should have done several weeks ago, particularly preparing the persimmons for drying.
This year we got a bag of persimmons when we went to Myrtleford, where the local markets are held every Saturday. I also got a large bag walnuts as I really enjoy buying nuts in season direct from the grower, over those sad specimens, as old as Methuselah and well past their use-by date, which seem to be what many shops offer.
Despite being neglected for several weeks, most of the persimmons were still easy to prepare for air-drying. Unfortunately some had ripened past the point of being useable for drying so I’m about to check out some fruit leather recipes, so we don’t waste any of our fruit.
Apart from prepping the persimmons, we also had another session of managing our latest batch of foraged mushrooms. After a disappointing start to last weekend’s forage, where we found nothing but dry old Slippery Jacks, we decided to head back to the car. Much to our surprise we found a bountiful supply of Saffron Milkcaps less than 100 metres from where we had parked. Of course they were in the opposite direction to where we first looked!
We’ve taken to cleaning the mushrooms outside so the pine needles and scruffy bits can just be brushed onto the ground. I’ve already stacked the dehydrator with one load of mushrooms, but I expect there will be at least another dehydrator load to go before they are all processed.
We did save some of the best mushrooms for a soup made on chicken stock, with onion and garlic, blended and then topped with sliced Saffron Milkcaps, fried in butter.
I have been wearing my favourite ‘at home’ cardigan so much lately that it’s literally coming apart at the edges. I want to keep this hand-knit garment going for a few more years yet so some mending was in order.
Previous repairs have been made with matching yarn, but I’ve decided to take a different approach this time by making visible mends. Luckily I found the yarn I was looking for in an op-shop (thrift store) when I was in Myrtleford recently.
I think these skeins are intended for wool embroidery, but they are fine enough to make repairs on my 4 ply cardigan.
It may not be the neatest mending job I’ve done, but every time I catch a glimpse of those green cuffs it makes me think of new moss peeking out from my sleeves.
Not content with our mushroom forage in Myrtleford we wanted to test our prowess out in the pine forests of Canberra.* In spite of the quite dry weather we have already had two successful mushroom hunts.
Our first foray we picked almost only Slippery Jack mushrooms and literally a handful of Saffron Milkcaps. This past week we have found a substantial plot of Saffron Milkcaps and by contrast only a few Slippery Jacks.
Here they are.
We celebrated our haul with our foraging friends by scoffing scads of freshly fried Saffron Milkcaps, sauteed with garlic from friend M’s garden on lovely Mosaics Sourdough bread.
Once we got home the dehydrator was working overtime drying the Slippery Jacks that we picked. But we have also been trying out some other options.
My partner in crime tried out a recipe for cooking the mushrooms in oil, then adding vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and bottling them.
Last of all I put aside 600 grams of mushrooms (both types) to make a Wild Mushroom Cheesy bake from a New York Times recipe my friend sent me. I found the dish very satisfyingly filling. I would definitely add more mushrooms the next time I make this recipe as I thought the cheese to mushroom ratio was too high in favour of the cheese. Don’t despair if you don’t have wild mushrooms, you can also make this recipe using shop bought mushrooms. If you read the comments on the recipe (online at the NY Times) you will see all sorts of other flavour variations that other people have tried.
*Please do not forage for mushrooms if you are not with an experienced forager or have been trained by an experienced forager. Deaths from eating wrongly identified mushrooms have occurred in recent years in the Australian Capital Territory.