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Foraging Courses Now Available in Dorset and Somerset

Hi, at mill close we are running a full programme of foraging courses. These foraging courses are held at various intervals dependant on demand and season, with winter courses being roughly once a month, and in the summer and autumn sometimes several times a week. All foraging courses are led by me, Carl.

A full programme of 2 different types of courses are available to choose from. We have the walk and talk and the walk and eat. I am unable to list the dates here as they are all subject to demand, and we can be very flexible around people’s requirements and can put on walk and talk foraging courses in new locations to meet geographic requests.

Courses available are the ‘Walk and Talk’, and the ‘Walk and Eat’.

The walk and talk foraging course is a 3 to 4 hour course that can be held anywhere across the whole of Dorset and Somerset. We meet somewhere with reasonable parking at a pre-determined location and we go for a walk using public footpaths Woodlands and private land that we have gained the permission to use. Throughout the foraging course I will show you edible fungi and other free wild edibles there are safe to pick. The foraging course is aimed at everybody from complete beginners to the intermediate forager. Costs for the walk and talk foraging course are £50 per person with discounts available for larger groups and for children. Should you be interested in attending please send us an email at millcloseforaging@gmail.com requesting availability and locations.

The walk and eat foraging courses start and ends at mill close homestead and is culminated with a meal made from what we have managed to forage throughout our walk on the foraging course. This course typically takes 4 to 5 hours and weather permitting we will eat in the gardens where you will get to meet the animals here at the homestead if you wish. These courses start and end at mill close homestead which is near Castle Cary. Again, for availability please send us an email at millcloseforaging@gmail.com requesting availability. Be aware these courses book up very quickly so don’t leave it until the last minute. Costs for the walk and eat foraging course are £80 per person with discounts available for larger groups and for children

Whichever course you attend the goal will be to leave you confident to continue your foraging journey into the future. In all cases we will be collecting edible mushrooms and various other wild growing food dependant on the conditions and the season.

Weather it’s elderberries, mushrooms, or watercress that excites you – we will be looking out for everything that’s in season.

I look forward to meeting you!

Foraging for mushrooms, a guide to 13 Mushrooms every forager should know

Here are some videos I made showing how to find and identify some of the common edible species of mushrooms we have here in the uk.

Always remember never pick and eat anything believing it to be edible mushrooms unless you can 100% positively identify it yourself. My guides should help you with that but it is always important to learn from more than one source and do your own edible mushroom research.

All my videos contain facts about which edible mushrooms one could expect to find here in the UK, but many of these species also grown in North america and around the world. It is always important to research which edible mushroom lookalikes may exist where you live.

Below are some of the more common edible fungi and mushrooms that I find, but the list is not exhaustive and I will constantly be updating the list of edible mushrooms for which I will make videos as the seasons pass.

The Trooping Funnel –

The trooping funnel is an under-rated edible mushroom available in huge numbers across woodland in the late summer and through autumn

The Shaggy parasol

Along with its edible brother, the parasol, the edible shaggy parasol is a really great edible mushroom that ticks all the boxes. Only try a little at first as it can cause stomach upsets in some people, but most eat it with impunity

The Shaggy Ink Cap

A super common grassland edible mushroom that is also easy to identify once you learn its two lookalikes.

The amethyst deceiver

A gloriously colourful purple edible mushroom that grows most commonly under beech in Autumn, and retains it’s striking colour through cooking

Beefsteak Fungus

Not the tastiest edible fungi, but it’s ability to be identified by even the most novice forager makes the beefsteak fungus a must learn for all beginners.

The Hedgehog fungus

Another super easy to identify edible mushroom. Common in woodlands in autumn and early winter.

The Velvet Shank mushroom

The edible velvet shank mushroom is another gourmet mushroom with cousins being cultivated for sale to high end restaurants. Available in the winter too!

The Horse Mushroom

A cousin to the common button mushrooms sold in supermarkets, only bigger, tastier and betterer!

The common puffball

This is one of the most common edible mushrooms you are likely to find. They can be found in almost every woodland walk in the autumn

Wood Ears

One of the easiest edible mushrooms to find by looking specifically for it due to its propensity to grow on elder. Available all year round in the uk

Witches Butter or Yellow Brain Fungus

A funky looking edible mushroom growing on downed wood in the winter

The Glorious Grey Oyster Mushroom

This edible mushroom is one of my favourite finds as it ticks so many boxes. Super tasty, easy to identify, found in large quantities, grows in the winter when less choice is out there, and not uncommon.

Finally, a poisonous one every forager should know –
The Sulphur Tuft

I include this as its a highly toxic mushroom that you are bound to find, and has been confused with some edible species such as the honey fungus.

So there you have it, my guide

I hope you have success learning, finding and eating wild edible mushrooms for yourselves.
And remember – everyone starts somewhere, so if you only learn one this year, and then spend lots of time outside looking for it – there is little tastier than your first wild edible mushroom you found yourself!

30 Rapid fire tips for your vegetable plot

Below are a list of my favorite tips for growing your vegetables.  I wish I had known all these when I was first starting my garden plot!

 

Tomatoes

They need a rich soil or feeding.

Remember they are a sun loving plant so they will only do well if not shaded out.

Water once a week, (or twice in drought) but water heavily and deeply to encourage root growth.

If saving seeds, remember that tomatoes cross-pollinate readily, so saved seeds will not usually be true to type if growing a mixture of varieties.

Cucumber

These guys LOVE water.

Once you have fruit setting, I water with a drip feeder almost continuously.

Experiment with different varieties as characteristics vary wildly.

 

Radish

One of the easiest, quickest produce types to grow.

Don’t waste space growing them in their own rows, rather use them as row markers to grown while other seeds are germinating and sprouting.

Unless you like them particularly hot (and stringy too sometimes) avoid growing in the full summer, here I tend to plant them after Oct 1st

 

Leeks

Seedlings are far easier to grow than seeds, although once established very easy to grow.

Earth up or use tubes to extend the white portion as they grow.

 

Cabbage

Another plant that

is easier to grow from seedlings in my experience, as they need lots of protection from pests.

Cover over with a net as soon as you start seeing butterflies.

Sweetcorn

As soon as sweetcorn is picked the sugars start turning to starch.  This is one that is certainly better if cooked straight from the garden!

 

Carrots

The most difficult part of growing carrots from seed is separating the seeds, they are so tiny.  Be prepared to have some patience, and don’t worry if a few seeds fall into one space, just thin and eat as baby carrots as they grow.

I like to use a big dibber and make a deep carrot shape hole in the ground, then fill with compost, and plant my seed into that.  The root will take the shape of the form you have made!

 

Peas

Cover with plastic bottles when starting seedlings to keep the birds from eating the seeds.

 

Beans

Protect the same as peas.

Check your variety, some will require something to climb, other bush varieties will not.

 

Potatoes

I highly recommend the no dig method of growing potatoes.

Simply layer your ground with a generous coating of compost and plant into that.  Your tubers will form in the compost and not require the back-breaking digging traditionally required to remove them.

You can use the potatoes that ‘go over’ from your kitchen, in place of buying seed potatoes.

 

Garlic

Garlic gives you the opportunity to be planting something when everything else is already overwintering or farrow.  Another ridiculously easy crop.

Also the easiest plant in the world to seed save, just select the best size cloves from your best size bulbs as next year’s seed stock.

You can use supermarket garlic as your first set of seeds!

 

Turnip

Another very easy crop much like radish.

If your family isn’t into turnips, and they don’t get the best press, then harvest them when they are the size of golf balls, and bake them whole.

 

Beetroot

My secret here is this; Beetroot is way better than you remember it!  We have it sliced fine and raw in salads, and diced and baked as a dinner vegetable, everyone loves it, and it’s another exceptionally easy to grow crop.

 

Courgette

OK, Courgette is so crazily productive, its actually hilarious! We grow 5 plants a year and that produces more than my family can eat, even with saving some by making chutneys, dehydrating and freezing.  We even sell them when in season from our mini roadside farm shop, and we never run out.

 

Runner beans

Pick them before they get too big or they become stringy and unpalatable. About the size of a whiteboard marker.

You can string, chop and freeze these without blanching which is a bonus.

 

Broad beans

Another very easy to grow crop, but pick and pod while still small, when the individual beans are the size of your fingernails, not your thumbnails as they are so much more tender.  Larger beans tend to develop a chewy shell.

These can be dehydrated easily for simple storage.

 

Kale

Susceptible to the same pests as cabbage, but as they don’t form heads the damage is less devastating so these can be protected by vigilant pest picking.

 

 

Choosing which crops to grow

The starting point when choosing which plants to grow is with your shopping list.  Which vegetables are you already buying regularly?  These are the ones your family is already eating right?

 

So, start with a list of what you already go through plenty of.  In our case there were three main types, they were salads, main meal vegetables (Think roast beef dinner), and then there were cooking ingredients and carbs.

 

For the sake of this article, I am purely looking at our annual vegetable beds.  For perennial vegetables such as asparagus check out our articles on perennial vegetables or the individual vegetables pages.

 

I knew we needed salad, so some leafy green salad vegetables were a necessity, along with tomatoes, cucumbers etc to make that leaf into a salad on a plate.  For main meal vegetables, we eat a lot of broccoli, cauliflower, leeks, cabbage, sweetcorn, carrots, peas and beans.  Finally, the things we used allot of for either carbs or as cooking ingredients, these were bell peppers, garlic, onion and of course potatoes.

Here’s how my list looked at this point –

 

Salad greens; mixed lettuce, spinach

Tomatoes

Cucumber

Radish

Spring onions

Broccoli

Cauliflower

Leeks

Cabbage

Sweetcorn

Carrots

Peas

Beans

Potatoes

Onion

Garlic

Bell peppers

 

 

The next list was aimed all at production.  I trawled many pages of my books, and the internet and produced a list of plants that were super productive or just plain easy to grow.  I feel it’s very important when starting out to make sure you have as much success as possible, so even if I had many failures, there were some plants I could bank on giving me results.

 

The list I suggest of high yield/work/skill ratio looked like this –

 

Potatoes,

Tomatoes,

Turnip,

Radish,

Courgette,

Runner beans,

Broad beans,

Kale,

Garlic,

French beans

 

As a completist, I had to try all of these from both lists, but I suggest you now merge these two lists (Which may well be different according to your family’s eating habits and your climate and conditions).  Anything that is on both lists is a no-brainer for you to grow.  All the things that are on one list but not the other is a judgement call based on your aversion to failure, and the time you have.

 

I have had real success every time from everything in the second list; In the south of the UK where I am, these have all consistently given me huge yields compared to the effort involved in growing them.  My success with items not on this list has been variable, although still very worthwhile.  If you are finding a particular type of vegetable from your first list daunting, remember; you don’t need to cultivate from seed every time.  Your success rates will dramatically increase by buying seedlings and transplanting them instead of germinating your own seeds.

 

The other factor when choosing your vegetables is the amount of space and time you have available.  Once you have planned out your space, you may wish to swap out some of your original choices.  Always remember though that things you know your family readily eat should always take priority.