Archive | September 2017

Studying Fungi on Lundy

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This is the view from the dining table in Bramble Villa East, on Lundy. Not a bad place to have breakfast, especially when the weather is kind, as it mostly was for my week on the island. I was there partly to have a holiday, and partly to study fungi. The first couple of days I went for long walks around the island, visiting my favourite places and watching the wildlife.

 

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There were several groups of climbers on the island, enjoying the classic sea cliff climbs now that the seabird nesting season is over.

 

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Then the hard work began with the arrival of the Lundy fungus recorder, a wonderful mycology professor who had offered to help me improve my fungus identification, and teach me the necessary microscopy techniques.

 

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We surveyed, and searched, and knelt, and examined, and photographed, and collected specimens, such as these stunning Parrot Waxcaps, which can be shades of yellow, orange, and even lilac, but always have some green on them as well.

 

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After a morning collecting, we would then spend the afternoon studying the microscopic details of each fungus, and comparing them to the reference books and keys. This is a Bog Bell, found growing on damp sphagnum moss in the quarries.

 

Bog Bell

 

I learnt to cut fine sections of the gills and mount them. I learnt how to examine the structures that make up the cap of the fungus. I learnt how to measure the spores. It was fascinating, and by the end of the week I was getting quite competent. This is the Blackening Waxcap, which, as the name suggests, goes black if damaged, and also as it ages.

 

Blackening Waxcap

 

My mentor and I ran a guided walk for some of the visitors and island staff, showing them some of the grassland species that grow so well on the flat top of the island. Below is the Egghead Mottlegill, a tall fungus that looks like half a hen’s egg on a stick, and grows on dung.

 

Egghead Mottlegill

 

Puffballs are very common, and there were several different species, including this Dusky Puffball, which is covered in tiny dark spikes which rub off to leave a mosaic pattern.

 

Dusky Puffball

 

Not all of the grassland species are so large. The Golden Spindles are tiny, especially when they first appear, like these little ones.

 

Meadow Coral

 

Other parts of the island have their own different fungi. In the wooded copses on the east side we found woodland fungi such as this beautiful Porcelain Fungus.

 

Porcelain Fungus

 

 

I really enjoyed my five days immersed in the study of fungi, and feel better equipped now to identify any I find on my wanders.

All too soon, though, Saturday rolled round again, and the Oldenburg arrived to take me home.

 

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Spiced Apple Chutney and other Autumnal Delights

It is apple season again, and our four trees in the orchard have responded well to their second winter of proper pruning, and given us an increased crop. The small red variety ripen early, and we have already picked and used some of these, and they are a sweet, if slightly woolly, eater. The other three trees were not quite ripe when storm Aileen hit, and this little lot was waiting on the grass for me in the morning. Ah well, it saved me picking them. There are still a few left on the trees for later.

 

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First priority for me is always a few dishes of savoury apple sauce to serve with roast pork through the year. Cooked up with a little salt and pepper, I like to freeze it in individual portions which I can remove from the bag while frozen, and pop in a ramekin to defrost. It is then ready to serve. By placing the bags in the ramekins to freeze, they are the correct shape and size, and once frozen I remove from the ramekins and place all the small bags in a large , labelled bag.

 

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Next I cooked up some of the riper apples with some blackberries from the garden for a crumble later in the week.

 

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All I need to do later is add the crumble topping and bake for 20 minutes.

 

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My favourite autumn apple recipe is for an Old Fashioned Scottish Apple and Ginger Chutney, which is delicious with cold meats, or even hot ones. Apart from all the apple and onion chopping, it is fairly straightforward, as you just throw everything into a large pan and boil until it is the right consistency.

 

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Old Fashioned Scottish Apple and Ginger Chutney

  • 450g onions, weight is for onions when peeled and finely chopped
  • 900g cooking apples, weight is for apples when peeled, cored and roughly chopped
  • 100g sultanas
  • 25g fresh ginger,peeled and grated
  • 1 tsp dried ginger powder
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 450g soft brown sugar
  • 300ml malt vinegar
  • 300ml cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  1. Place all the prepared onions and apples into a large preserving pan and add the remaining ingredients.
  2. Bring slowly to the boil and then lower the heat so that chutney cooks at a rolling boil.
  3. Stir the chutney regularly and make sure it does not “catch” and burn on the base of the preserving pan.
  4. Keep on cooking until the chutney is the consistency of a thick jam and all the liquids have dissolved.
  5. (A trick to check if it is cooked is to draw your wooden spoon across the chutney, if the space that is left fills up with liquid, the chutney is not ready yet).
  6. Spoon the hot chutney into hot and sterile jars and seal immediately.
  7. Makes about 2kg chutney.
  8. Store in a dark and cool place and leave to mature for at least 2 weeks.
  9. Will keep in ideal storage conditions for up to 2 years+.
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