Velvet feet

27th January 2013

Over the weekend the two nights of heavy rain and milder temperatures have completely thawed the snow in this part of the world, but in the process seemed to have submerged vast areas under water.

I finally stumbled across one of the better edible winter fungi which I have been searching our Oxfordshire woodland for all winter. It is the Velvet Shank or Velvet Foot Flammulina velutipes. It can be found virtually all year apart from mid summer but peaks in December and January. It grows on stumps and fallen logs of a variety of trees and shrubs but particularly Elm, Beech, Poplar and Gorse. It grows in tiered, compact clusters with the stems joined together. The caps have an inrolled edge when young but become flat as they age and the can range from yellow through to orange-red or tan. In damp weather the caps are quite slimy. The best way to identify them is from the stems, which tend to be a similar colour to the cap at the top but darken to a very dark brown at their base and are covered in a velvety down which gives them their name. The stems are also hollow and tough.

Velvet Shank Flammulina velutipes
This winter appears to be a good year for these fungi with some areas having an abundance of them. The are remarkable for being to able to withstand the recent snow, ice and low temperatures being able to be completely frozen and then produce more spores when they thaw.

The have a pleasant flavour but not a lot of texture. Discard the tough stems and wipe off or peel away any excess slime and add to stews and soups. If cooking on their own a bit of crushed up porcini will boost the flavour. If you find them still frozen they can be cooked as they are, no need to defrost first.

The aneamic looking Enokitake used in Japanese cooking is actually a cultivated form of this fungi, grown in the dark.

I also found a couple of tiny Scarlet Elfcups Sarcoscypha austricaca, although they are also edible these were a bit too small to bother with…..maybe next time.

Scarlet Elfcup Sarcoscyphya austriaca

As with all foraged plants and fungi, make sure you are 100% certain of your identification before collecting and eating, there are several small fungi which grow in clusters which can be mistaken for Velvet Shank including the poisonous Sulphur Tuft Hypholoma fasciculare and the deadly Galerina marginata.


Kev Palmer

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