Sunday 17 April 2011


Admiring the bluebells in our local wood today I spot a cluster of the brightly-coloured bracket fungus known as chicken-of-the-woods (laetiporus sulphureus) on an old tree high above the path. A determined climb gets me alongside and I harvest two pounds of this gastronomic treat (it's £50 a pound in London's fancy foodie mecca Borough Market).

Back home most of the delicacy is dried and stored - it's a very good substitute for dried penny bun (boletus edulis - or ceps or porcini as Hugh Fearnley-Whatsisname and his fellow gastropornographers would call it) and we have the rest for dinner fried in olive oil with shallots, garlic and rosemary on a bed of wild garlic from the same wood.

The recipe is from Franco Taruschio who used to run the Walnut Tree near Abergavenny, in those days the best restaurant in Wales. Yum: it does resemble chicken in texture but the flavour is like fresh mushrooms plus a scent of sweet tobacco - very like the more famous penny bun eaten the world over.

Two years ago I found a specimen of chicken-of-the woods weighing over 60 lb - not unusual and could be profitable if you could get it to market quickly (easier said than done). Needless to say you shouldn't pick and eat fungi unless you know what you are doing. I only pick a few very recognisable types which can't be confused with the deadly ones. Even chicken-of-the-woods, though accepted as an edible species, disagrees with some people.