Well what a fantastic fungi year it was last season. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my new clients that joined me last year and some reappearing from the year before and this year too, thank you all very much. It was a great year, abundant with all sorts of mushrooms and truffles. They were around till January maybe even February last year lets hope it will be the same again. I have never had the pleasure of such bounty to reward my hard walking clients with; it's been pure joy to hear the screams and squeals of delight of my fellow truffle hunting foragers on many occasions when they were unearthed and found, time and time again! It's a fantastic feeling being able to deliver such a new experience to most and fills me with such a sense of accomplishment and happiness for you all, it's great! Not one hunt has gone unrewarded last year, now that is saying something! I could guarantee truffle last year and it's not often I can guarantee anything except that I will always turn up in the undergrowth, ready for a hunt!
It was an interesting year for truffle, as new to me species keep cropping up, I have found T mesentericum a truffle that looks remarkably like Summer truffle it however differs in aroma and not in a good way either, its metallic very pungent and not at all appealing, however apparently edible if aired or warmed neither had an alluring affect upon me and I promptly spat it out, shame! T rufum was also unearthed, small reddish/white truffles minutely warted but only seen under a hand lens, would otherwise be considered smooth. Very aromatic, chemical like, oil, glue, bizarre smell not considered good to eat apparently, not completely unpleasant I found, too much of a miss spent youth perhaps and finally T borchii in very limited amounts but another good edible alongside T aestivum, the ones we have been intentionally hunting. . . The dogs indicate on all these species it's amazing and goes to show that it really does not matter what species of truffle you get to train your dog with they find more than one type, it's interesting, apparently all species have underlying complex aromas which frequent them all in one way or another hence their discovery by the dogs.
It was the second year of BioBlitz's and I'm still researching some of the final records, again the events were all a great success with over 300 species recorded. This year will be an exception and due to family bereavement I will not be doing any but I will be holding them every other year to build and keep up the fungal portfolio of records within these regions. Many good edibles last year Agaricus everywhere, Ceps, Hedgehogs , Black trumpets galore, like most of the other Chanterelle species, I even came across the rare Pseudocraterellus undulatus ; a lovely little example of a Lions maine on Beech also protected.. Chicken of the woods abundant and quite a bit of Beefsteak fungus and Cauliflowers too, parasitic truffles also rare (not edible); nothing better than a few interesting finds to make the year even if we could not or did not want to eat them!
These records will have more importance than ever if Sussex is deemed an area for the next source of energy by our Government, yes fracking. Records of this nature before and after fracking will be essential to prove a point, mushrooms are very susceptible to environmental change and to contamination, they are very absorbent organisms and prone to heavy metals, radiation and toxins, they will be a good gauge to what is really going on.
We will no longer be able to pick mushrooms or truffles for consumption if fracking is allowed to go ahead, especially with the rig density planned for Sussex countryside, sadly in due course it will be all over, time to write to our MP's folks seriously! I am heavily campaigning against this see my "Horsham Against Fracking" page on fb. https://www.facebook.com/Horshamagainstfracking
On a lighter note, I could not be more elated with my new little pup Ela, I was worried that I had not dedicated enough time towards her training in preparation for last year's season but I could not have been more wrong. She has followed Zeb's lead and caught onto what all the fuss was about like a Labrador to water. She has surpassed my expectations and achieving things even without asking her, she is a natural! She is so happy to please that on occasion she has thrown truffles at my feet and waited with trembling anticipation for her treat because she knows she has done so well! Bless. It's got to the point that out on a casual walk she appears with truffles in her mouth, just out the blue! How cool is that? She has raised the game! Zeb has also raised the game in his usual self indulgent manner. They have both been fantastic and I am very proud of the dogs results this year, it's interesting to see how their relationship has really developed and improved their hunting skills.
2013 was another year for me in the public eye, I was asked to go on the Sunday Brunch show on Channel 4 for an interview, the dogs found a truffle hidden in Karl Pilkington's sock which was quite entertaining, certainly different and challenging hunting grounds! Got there in the end just for the cameras! A lovely piece in the Sunday Times Sussex's Dark Secret, by Sophie Haydock and another good piece in The Argus about my all time largest find a 123g Summer truffle and although not a record breaker the story also made the Sussex Express and a few minutes on live Sussex Radio.
Thank you to all of you that have come to me for truffle hound training or assessing your hound over recent months it has been a pleasure teaching you all and meeting such individual canine characters, most with good potential.
I am still actively looking for land suitable for truffle cultivation, preferably south facing old pasture/downland for a plantation situation for the cultivation of truffle, T aestivum or perhaps T borchii, please get in touch if you have this type of available land and possible interest in a long term partnership/venture.
I now offer a service managing large areas of woodlands in suitable areas for the sustainable production of wild truffle, a new concept for this country and abroad so I am told. An idea that I have been studying for some time now and with my forestry background coupled with my knowledge of truffle it proves to be a concept which could be very interesting for the future, for the landowner and all concerned, increasing income from woodlands other than timber and pheasant rearing and shooting. This is an attractive concept as there is so little money in forestry. This form of agro forestry management will not only provide a sustainable crop of truffle over many generations but it will help conserve these delicate areas too, if managed correctly which is my intention and primary aim. This will be a new type of agro forestry considered for the wild undertaken in England and performed within existing woodland of all ages in suitable chalky areas.
The areas considered will be researched, surveyed and monitored every year to assess results from harvesting and record any positive/negative factors i.e. climatic conditions, plus many other variables which could affect production either way and with a regard to what can be done to improve production at all times within natural parameters and existing management objectives.
I will have the scientific support from a leading gentleman in the UK and international truffle industry, helping me monitor and record all data involved with such a ventures. Projects such as this provide the means for interesting research opportunities in the UK as well as the commercial viability, which is equally important.
uffle and managing woodland for the sustainable production of truffle is more than achievable in most woodlands that fit the criteria on the South downs, North Downs and other chalk or limestone regions. If you own woodland and are interested in any of the above please contact me for further enquiries, incidentally you would also be contributing valuable truffle data for the UK as part of the research that would be involved to oversea harvesting practices. Survey of site for suitability can be undertaken for initial fee and if suitable, harvesting and monitoring proposal with partnership details per site can be arranged free of charge for you to consider.
The result of a venture like this is that we will be able to manage woodland for the sustainable production of wild truffle, providing Sussex and the UK food market with small quantities of a very desirable luxury and locally produced gourmet product. Fit for fine dining and many other culinary uses whilst conserving these delicate, rather undervalued but fruitful areas, in soil generally considered infertile. . . .what could be better to raise the spirits of the frugal landowner and increase truffle awareness!
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