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Wild Magical Powders: Processes & Practices

Firstly, this article isn't about 'consciousness altering/psycotropic substances' - that would no doubt expose me to serious scrutiny from the powers that be, thanks but no thanks. However, this post is about wild flora & fungi and my culinary experimentations with some of them. 2014 was, among many things, a year of wild food experimentation, most years are come to think of it - always something new to discover and explore. One technique I explored and had particularly great success with was, powdering. Powdering wild mushrooms, seaweeds, plants, roots and seeds is great fun. Not only is it fun but wild powders, add to and enhance, aromas, textures, tastes and even aesthetics, while at the same time freeing up much required storage space - bonus!




Drying

Before powdering can begin you must first dry what you intend to powder. If this isn't done correctly you will encounter difficulties when powdering and once stored in air tight containers any moisture remaining will promote the growth of potentially harmful bacteria, yeasts & moulds, which will at best, result in extra compost material, at worst cause illness, and all that lovely time spent gathering/harvesting will just have been lovely time spent gathering/harvesting, which is great, but not the desired outcome.

To dry foods properly all that's required is a warm, dry environment and airflow. There are several techniques employed when drying foods and each have their pros and cons.

Dehydrator: Is basically an electronic device that removes moisture from food to aid in its preservation by providing the necessary heat and airflow. An extremely useful piece of kit, useful any time of the year but really comes into it's own Autumn/Winter when it's generally damper and cooler (but this is the UK). Dehydrates foods quickly and efficiently. Carbon footprint could be an issue for some.

Oven: Can be used instead of a dehydrator but be sure to leave oven door slightly ajar to avoid accidently cooking what your drying (no prizes for guessing how I learnt that nugget of info!). Again carbon footprint could be an issue.

Air Dried: The traditional method and my favourite. Average 2/3 days (possibly less) in a warm dry room or outside in full sunshine should do the trick. This is my preferred method but then again I don't have a dehydrator and I'm not a fan of energy consumption where unnecessary. Besides that and specific to drying fungi, when left in full sunshine their Vitamin D levels actively increase meaning healthier fungi! Zero carbon footprint too :0)


Sliced Ceps laid on racks for drying
Dried wild fungi ready for powdering

When drying there are a few things to remember; time of year, moisture content and size. The larger/denser/wetter the items your drying the longer they will take, so bear this in mind. Patience is the watch word.








The Powdering Process
Powdered Fungi & Seaweeds

Once fully dried the powdering can begin. I use an electric coffee grinder, it's small, robust and creates a very fine powder. There are other specific spice grinders available that I imagine would do the job perfectly. I tried using a standard sized food mixer once but found it didn't create a fine enough powder for my liking. Once powdered store in clean, dry jars or tubs. Easy.


Hogweed Seed: Whole, Powdered, Infused in Vodka










Using Your Magical Powders
Hogweed Seed Shortbread

There are a myriad of  way to use your magical powders. I use them frequently, adding them to, soups, stews, stocks, sauces, breads, butter, desserts and pates - they can be added to just about anything you are cooking, if not everything. I even open jars and smell the contents to aid in reminiscence of particular memories,  powders and have a right good nasal inhale  etc... you get the jist.
Porcini Bread

                                


Mushroom Powdered Pheasant
                         


I'm sure there are plenty more dynamic ways of utilising them, that's where experimenting comes in and that's all part of the fun.

Comments

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  2. Thanks for the tips here Craig, I came on the foraging day yesterday (which was great by the way) & as an amateur chef the powders were particularly inspiring ! Looking for ward to trying them out. Cheers, Jonny

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    1. Hi Jonny. Had a great time with you all. Enjoy playing with the powders, be interesting to hear your experiments/results. Also, while here, you mentioned you may like to join an all day forage in the forest hunting for fungi, if you send me an email at: edible.leeds@gmail.com I'll add you to mailing list and keep you posted regarding up coming events. Cheers, Craig :)

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