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The right mushroom can be gourmets delight

by Paul Cormacain

ADJACENT to Lisburn are a number of golf courses, and adjacent to one of these courses I came across a huge mushroom.

For all the gourmets among you, take one large mushroom, cook it in a closed pot with some milk and butter and its own juice. When cooked, but partly al dente, put a soft poached egg on top, grate some smoked cheese on top of all, and grill till cheese melts.

You are now ready to sample one of the easiest-to-make meals, one of the most delicious meals of your life, and one of the cheapest meals you could have.

Identification of mushrooms can be difficult at times. The possibility was that this was a horse mushroom, which grows to a diameter of 20 cms, but all parts of this mushroom stain yellow. And you have to be careful not to mistake this good edible mushroom with the highly poisonous yellow-staining mushroom.

Then again, the common mushroom, the field mushroom, has a number of sub species. The Agaricus campretris only grows to a diameter of 10 cms, but one of the others, A. macrosporus, grows to a diameter of 30 cms. On balance, the gourmet meal I had was Agaricus macrosporus.

Apart from edible and inedible fungus, other things of beauty were out. That simple. lovely, easily-overlooked flower, the daisy, was alive and thriving, in spite of the books saying that the daisy flowers from August to September. So I looked up the book usually accepted as the authority on British and Irish flowers, W Keble Martin, and Keble says the daisy flowers from March to October.

Paul Hackney works in the Ulster Museum, and luckily he knows more than the other experts. In his book, Flora of the North-east of Ireland, he lets Keble off the hook by saying that the daisy flowers mostly from, arch to October, but will actually flower from January to December.

So it is now well into December, and the daisies are flowering. Now perhaps I have seen them in mid-December in the past , but if so I do not remember. But I will remember them growing this mid-December.

Daisies are very popular, except when they appear on well-kept lawns, then they lose some of their appeal, if they do not actually lose their head. Great writers and poets, who liked to remark on things of beauty, were fond of daisies. Take Robbie Burns, the great Scottish poet, who wrote a poem apologising to the daisy.

To him it was a 'wee, modest, crimson-tipped flower', and he deeply regretted that the flower met him at an evil time. He had the plough out, and while the role of the plough is to dig and turn, aerate and recycle, he re-cycled the daisy unintentionally. So he said 'sorry' in one of his best-loved poems.

Wordsworth and Shelley had nice things to write about daisies. Likewise Francis Thompson, who even wrote a poem 'To Daisies'. Charley Dickens gets into daisies in his 'The Old Curiosity Shop', where Little Nell comes across the old woman in the graveyard.

Tennyson tried to persuade a lady that daisies were peculiar to the Isle of Wight. Just what was Tennyson getting up to? Milton was into daisies, and Chaucer was partly obsessed with them. How do you stand on daisies on the lawn, and daisies in the fields in December?


Saturday 15th Sunday 16th December: A Santa who has changed his colour to green can take you on walks at Castle Espie, more from 028 9187 4146 Saturday 22nd December: Feeling energetic? Fancy a Walk in Mournes at 1000? Call Mourne Heritage, 028 4372 4059

Wednesday 26th December: Lisburn RSPB St Stephen's Day Amble, details from 028 9260 1864

Wednesday 26th December to Tuesday 2nd January: Treasure Hunt every day at Castle Espie, further details from 028 9187 4146.

Thursday 27th December: Birdwatch Morning, 11:30, Castle Espie, phone 028 9187 4146.

Sunday 30th December: Oxford Island, 11:00, you are invited to follow a simple trial around the Nature Reserve, loosing a few calories in the process. The Island is on 028 3832 2205.

Saturday 5th January: Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, at 14:30, find out how to help the birds in winter, more from 028 3832 2205

March 2002: RSPB/Birdwatch Ireland, joint conference

Ulster Star