Where Can I Find Cramp Ball Fungus?

Where can I find cramp ball fungus?

You will usually find cramp ball fungus growing in temperate countries, in deciduous woodland, and on dead wood.

They favour Beech, Oak and Ash trees and are a relatively common fungi in the UK and mainland Europe.

Cramp ball fungus plays an important role in breaking down dead trees in deciduous forests.

Cramp ball fungus (real name Daldinia concentrica – of the genus daldinia), is also known by other common names.

This includes: carbon balls, carbon fungus, coal fungus and King Alfred’s cakes – aka burnt cakes.

They are usually black on the outside and black/silver internally – with the silver layers being the concentric rings inside.

These rings are known as growth rings or concentric zones.

Just like tree rings, each of these silver rings signifies 1 year’s worth of growth.

Discovery and classification

Daldinia concentrica was first described by the British mycologist James Bolton in 1971 as Sphaeria concentric.

It wasn’t until the late 19th century that it was reclassified and its scientific name (Daldinia concentric) given by Italian mycologists Giuseppe De Notaris and Vincenzo de Cesati.

The name “concentrica” comes from the concentric rings in the interior of the fruiting body which represent a season’s growth and reproduction.

Daldinia Concentrica uses

Fire lighting

Daldinia concentrica is great for fire lighting purposes.

It can take a spark from a firesteel or open flame which will then cause the fruit to smoulder, creating a large hot area once blown on – just like charcoal briquettes.

You can then use this to ignite a tinder bundle, such as dry, dead grass.

Transportation

It will slowly smoulder for hours, and can also be used to transport your fire in the form of a glowing ember.

This enables you to effectively carry your fire with you, speeding up the firefighting process when you arrive at the new site.

Caution! – These things burn hot!

You are obviously using them for this quality, but I would just caution you to think about storage once they are lit, as they effectively turn into charcoal.

Even a slight breeze will fan the ember and they do not easily self-extinguish.

You need to consider where you place them, as they want to burn and will ignite other objects accidentally if not monitored.

To extinguish these, you can cover them in water or crush them into the soil, presuming there is nothing in the soil that will catch, like peat, etc.

Use carefully and watch those fingers!

Daldinia concentrica facts

Daldinia concentrica is easily recognizable due to its carbon-like lumps on deadwood surfaces.

Rather than having the typical parts of a mushroom such as gills, a cap, a stem, or pores, this species consists of a stroma form with flask-shaped cavities called perithecia that are embedded within.

Fruitbody/Stroma

The fruiting bodies of D. concentrica are usually 2 to 10 centimeters in diameter and start off as matte, purple-brown before becoming jet black with age.

As the mushroom develops and ages, the stroma dries out and becomes more brittle, forming visible growth rings when cut in half.

The size of the fruitbody is also an indicator of its age, with larger specimens being older than smaller ones, and some of these mushrooms staying on deadwood for many consecutive seasons.

Perithecia

Cramp ball fungus, or Daldinia concentrica, is a type of fruiting body that is characterized by the lack of a spore surface.

Instead of this surface, the fungus has protrusions on its exterior (small bumps).

These protrusions are made up of flask-shaped chambers known as perithecia. This is where ascospores (spores that have been produced meiotically) are located.

Stem

Due to its unique structure, the D. concentrica fungus is different from other varieties in that it does not possess a stem.

Instead of having a slender and straight stem, this species bonds closely with the surrounding deadwood via a large, flat area beneath its body.

Asci

Ascospores, also referred to as asci, are microscopic cylindrical bodies measuring approximately 200µm x 10-11µm and have amyloid tips.

Inside each ascus are eight ascospores arranged symmetrically.

Ascospores and Spores

Ascospores are spores contained in an ascus.

When these ascospores are forced out of the ascus, due to high water pressure, via the necks of the perithecia – they are released into the environment.

This leaves behind a darker patch of wood around the fungus.

The spores are ellipsoidal and measure roughly 12-17 by 6-9 micrometers in size.

Odour

Daldinia concentric has no noticeable odour.

Edible or inedible

Daldinia concentrica is an inedible fungus.

Even though the flesh of this species is not poisonous, the fruit body is too hard to be consumed and should not be eaten.

Spore print

The natural spore print of Daldinia concentrica is distinctive – it’s black and broader than the mushroom itself!

Usually, a black spore print can be found around 3cm wider than the fungus itself.

Habitat

Cramp ball fungus can be found in woodland and deciduous forests.

It favours dead and decaying branches of Ash, Beech and Oak trees.

Location

Daldinia concentrica can be found in deciduous forests of the United Kingdom, Ireland and mainland Europe

Although not as common, it can also be located in the temperate climate areas of North America, Australia, and South America.

Season

This mushroom can be found year-round, however, the release of ascospores only occurs seasonally, from May to November.

Do not confuse with:

Kretzschmaria deusta, or the Brittle Cinder Fungus, should not be confused with Daldinia concentrica.

While both black, carbonaceous mushrooms that tend to grow on dead wood, K. deusta does not form the same rounded fruitbodies.

It also does not have the characteristic ring-like growth pattern inside its stroma normally associated with Daldinia concentrica.

Where can I find cramp ball fungus? – FAQ’s

Why are they called cramp balls?

Cramp balls get their name from an old wives’ tale which says that by carrying the fungus on your person, you would be protected from getting leg cramps.

Whether you buy into that or not, the name has indeed stuck and ‘cramp balls’ is what they are commonly referred to as.

Are King Alfred’s cakes poisonous? Is Daldinia Concentrica poisonous?

The inedible fungus Daldinia concentrica is not poisonous, but should not be eaten.

It is too hard to be consumed anyway.

What sort of trees do cramp balls grow on?

Cramp balls will grow on dead Beach, Oak and Ash, but will also grow on other deciduous trees.

If you venture down to your local broadleaf woodland or forest, you may just find some.

Which English king let the cakes burn?

According to legend, it was King Alfred who let the cakes burn.

During the 9th century, parts of Britain had been overrun by Vikings.

King Alfred was trying to escape the Vikings and is said to have taken refuge in an old woman’s house.

The old lady was baking cakes and asked King Alfred to watch over them while she went outside.

King Alfred forgot to watch over the cakes and they ended up burning.

Not knowing he was the king, he was scolded by the woman for this.

In his shame, he scattered the cakes in the woods to get rid of the evidence.

Due to the fact that Daldinia Concentrica is a black fungus, and looks burnt in its appearance, it is said to look like burnt cakes and has been tied to this legend.

It is commonly known as King Alfred’s cakes.

Where did Alfred burn the cakes?

Athelney, Somerset is where King Alfred is said to have burned the cakes, inside the home of a peasant woman.

Whether the story of the cakes is true or not, Athelney was of great importance to King Alfred and is where he built a fort and rallied his troops to fend off the Vikings.


Want more??? Take a look at more fire-lighting ignition options here.


Grilled Venison Burgers Recipe

Grilled Venison Burgers Recipe

Here is my time-tested favourite grilled venison burgers recipe. I’m confident that these will be the best venison burgers you have ever tasted.

JUMP TO RECIPE CARD

I believe venison is one of the all-time best and most underrated meats out there, which is why I am trying to encourage more people to try it. It’s incredibly healthy and delicious.

You can find more of my venison recipes here.

Venison is a very lean meat with a low meat-to-fat ratio and as such, you’ll usually need to add in a little extra fat to help with the flavour and to ensure the meat binds together.

This will be the same for any other wild game burger.

There is no reason why you can’t swap the venison meat in this recipe for ground beef if you wanted and make some amazing beef burgers.

You could also use another ground meat, such as turkey etc.

How to cook venison burgers on the grill? What is the secret to grilling burgers?

The secret to grilling a burger is to make sure you have created two heating zones on your grill.

First off, make sure you are using some decent lump wood charcoal, and let it burn for approx 20 minutes so that it has a decent covering of ash over it.

Scrape all the charcoal over to one side of your grill. Place your grill grates on top and get to cooking temperature.

You now want to cook your burgers on the side with no coals underneath.

This indirect way of cooking allows the burgers to cook more slowly and evenly, without flare-ups burning the outside of your burgers.

If your grill has a lid, put it on and let the smoke build inside to add more flavour.

Assuming you have a good medium-high heat, turn the burgers after approx 4-5 minutes and give the other side another 3-4 minutes.

Don’t overcook your burgers.

Undercooking is always a worry, especially when serving to family and friends, but as long as you follow the indirect cooking method (and maybe sample one yourself), then your burger should be thoroughly cooked through.

For extra reassurance, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. It should be at least 160°F (70°C).

The above method should give you a perfect venison burger every time.

How long should you grill venison burgers?

For a standard-size venison burger, grilling on medium-high heat, using the indirect method, you should grill for approx 4-5 minutes on one side, then turn and grill for approx 3-4 minutes on the other side.

This very much depends on the size of your burgers, as well as the heat that you are cooking.

To check your burgers are fully cooked through, use a meat thermometer and ensure the internal temperature is at least 160°F (71°C), or 165°F (74°C) if they contain any pork.

This very much depends on the size of your burgers, as well as the heat that you are cooking.

What do you mix with venison to make a burger?

You can mix a variety of different ingredients into your venison burgers, depending on your taste and what you have available in the pantry.

For some standard ingredients through, go with egg yolk, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, butter, salt and pepper.

What is a good binder for deer burgers?

Venison is very low in fat and you therefore usually want to add some fat back in to allow for a more juicy burger and to also allow it to bind together to form the burger shape and stop them from falling apart.

On top of adding bacon to the venison burger, you should also add in egg yolk, as this helps the burger mixture to bind properly.

Egg yolks help this to happen while adding extra flavour and nutrients to your burgers. Go for organic free-range eggs if you can.

Do venison burgers need a binder?

Yes, you should use a binder when making venison burgers.

One of the best binders is a free-range egg yolk.

Adding an egg yolk helps you to properly form the burgers into their shape and also helps to stop them from breaking up when cooking them.

Can venison burgers be pink in the middle?

Yes, venison burgers can be slightly pink in the middle, as long as the internal temperature has reached at least 160°F (71°C).

If you are unsure, use a meat thermometer to confirm this.

If you have used pork in the mixture, such as bacon, then the temperature should be at least 165°F (74°C).

What is the best fat to mix with deer burger?

The best fat to add to a deer burger is either beef fat or pork fat.

Beef dripping is good for this, or for the pork option, go with chopped bacon. Either of these will increase the flavour of your deer burgers.

How do I make my venison burger not taste gamey?

Use well-prepared venison and as fresh as possible.

Generally speaking, if you use good quality venison, for your ground deer meat, then once combined with the other burger ingredients, you will not notice any gamey taste.

Not everyone likes the taste of venison, but when put through the meat grinder and mixed with the other ingredients, most would think it is beef they are eating.

Grilled Venison Burgers Recipe Card

Grilled Venison Burgers Recipe

Grilled Venison Burgers Recipe

My time-tested venison burger recipe – that that just works every time.
Use good quality ground venison for this and you won't go far wrong.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, bbq, European
Servings 6

Equipment

  • 1 Chopping board
  • 1 large bowl, for mixing
  • 1 cast iron pan / skillet, or baking tray

Ingredients
  

  • 2 pounds ground venison meat
  • 1/2 pound smoked bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 6 large burger buns
  • Toppings: sliced cheese (either american cheese, or cheddar) garlic mayo, normal mayo, lettuce, mustard, onion, pickles.

Instructions
 

  • Using your hands combine the ground venison, egg yolk, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, butter, salt and black pepper, in a large bowl.
  • Once mixed, using your hands, form 6 even balls with the mixture. Then shape each ball into a burger pattie.
  • Place onto a baking tray that has been lined with parchment paper (greaseproof paper).
  • Cover with another sheet of parchment paper and put in the fridge for approx 20 minutes to help firm up the burger patties.
  • If cooking on the grill, preheat to a medium-high 450-500°F (232-260°C). If frying, preheat your cast-iron pan/skillet to a medium heat before cooking.
  • Using your thumb, make an indentation in the middle of one side of each patty. This indented side will become the top and the reason for doing this is that it will help stop the burgers from puffing up while the cook.
  • If grilling: brush some olive oil on the indented side of each burger and place on the preheated grill, indention side down. Cook for around 4-5 minutes. Flip the patties over and cook an additional 3-4 minutes until internal temperature reaches 165°F (71°C).
  • If frying: Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter to the preheated pan. Add 2-3 burgers (thumb indention side down), and cook over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Flip over and cook an additional 3-4 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (71°C). Cook the remaining burgers in the same way.
  • Place the cooked burgers onto a clean chopping board and place a slice of cheese onto each one while they are still hot.
  • Assemble your burgers: Slice each burger bun crossways (if not already done). Butter the top and bottom of each. Spread mayonnaise and/or mustard inside each. Add lettuce, sliced onion, sliced tomato and pickles.
  • Serve with french fries. Enjoy!

Notes

Tips:

  • If cooking on a skillet, make the burger patties a bit flatter (thinner) so that they cook more evenly.

Storage:

  • Refrigerator – Uncooked burger patties can be prepared in advance and then stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 24 hours before cooking. You can also use cling film (plastic wrap), but I try not to use this stuff, as it’s not great for the environment.
  • Freezing – Wrap each burger patty in parchment paper and place them in an airtight container. Freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before cooking.
Keyword venison burger recipe

Venison burger toppings

Some great venison burger toppings include:

  • Cheese slices – either American cheese or cheddar
  • Lettuce
  • Sliced onion
  • Sliced tomato
  • Pickles
  • Crispy bacon

The best cheese for venison burgers

This is a matter of opinion, but in general, slices of American cheese or cheddar work best with venison burgers.


Want more goodness? Check out my famous venison chili here.


How to Get a Fishing License in the UK?

How to get a fishing license uk

If you’re considering rod fishing in the UK, you might need a license.

Otherwise, you might get in trouble. Let’s look at how to get a fishing license in the UK?

This article shows you how and where to get a license for freshwater fishing in the UK.

It provides a comprehensive guide with the steps and prices.

Types of UK Fishing Licenses

There are two types of rod fishing licenses in the UK. Depending on the type of fish you aim for, you should choose one or the other.

Here are the two types:

1. Trout, Coarse Fish, and Eel License

The trout, coarse fish, and eel license allows you to catch all freshwater fish, including non-migratory trout.

It’s the most popular among anglers.

With this license, you get the following options:

  • Only one rod to fish for non-migratory trout in streams, rivers, canals, and drains.
  • Two rods to fish for non-migratory trout in lakes, ponds, and reservoirs.
  • Two rods for any freshwater fish.

Note that a 12-month license can grant you permission for up to three rods to fish for any type of freshwater fish.

2. Salmon and Sea Trout License

The salmon and sea trout license permits you to catch both sea and non-migratory trout in addition to salmon and all types of freshwater fish.

It basically offers you the same as the other type of license, in addition to salmon and sea trout.

Like the other type, this license also gives you three options:

  • Only one rod for sea trout, non-migratory trout, and salmon in canals, rivers, and streams.
  • Two rods for sea trout, non-migratory trout, and salmon in ponds, lakes, and reservoirs.
  • Three rods for any freshwater fish.

Are There Exceptions?

Although you’re generally required by law to obtain a fishing license, there are a few exceptions.

For instance, there’s no limit to the number of spod or marker rods you can use with any type of license if you have no hooks attached.

How Much Does a UK Fishing License Cost?

The price of the fishing license depends on different factors, such as the number of rods, license duration, and the type of fish you’re aiming at.

For instance, a trout, coarse fish, and eel license for two rods costs £6 if it’s only for a day, £12 for eight days, and £30 for an entire year.

In addition, you can have the same license for three rods only for a year at £45.

As for the salmon and sea trout license, you can have it for £12 for only one day, £27 for eight days, and £82 for a year.

Special Prices

Apart from the standard pricing, juniors under 16, seniors above 65, and people with disabilities get special discounts.

For example, seniors and people with disabilities pay £20 for a 12-month trout, coarse fish, and eel license of two rods and £30 for the same license for three rods.

As for a salmon and sea trout license, seniors above 65 and people with disabilities pay £54 for a 12-month license.

Interestingly, juniors between 13 and 16 years old can obtain their fishing licenses for free.

(prices correct as of December 2022)

Are You Eligible for a Disability Discount?

You’re eligible for a disability discount if you:

Hold a Blue Badge

Get any rate of Personal Independence Payment

Receive a Disability Living Allowance

How to Buy a UK Fishing License?

You can obtain your fishing license in the UK by three means:

Applying online at the government’s fishing license service website.

Calling the UK Environment Agency on 0344 800 5386 (Monday to Friday: 8.00 AM to 6.00 PM)

Visiting any post office until January 15th, 2023

How to Extend a UK Fishing License?

You can easily upgrade your one-day or eight-day fishing license to a 12-month license.

Simply call the Environment Agency on 0344 800 5386 within the first 14 days of your purchase.

In this case, you’ll be buying a new license, but you’ll get reimbursed for your initial one.

Do I Need a License to Fish in the UK?

You definitely need a UK fishing license if you’re above 13, planning to do any fishing with a rod,

or fishing in freshwater bodies within these areas:

  • Wales
  • England (except the River Tweed)
  • The Border Esk region, including the Scottish parts of the river

Do I Need Additional Permissions and Licenses?

When fishing with rods in England and Wales, you must also follow all the Freshwater Rod Fishing Rules.

In addition to the license and these national and local bylaws, you might, in some cases, need additional permits such as:

A special permit from the landowner of a private property

A license for fishing the locks or weirs on the River Thames

What to Do After Getting the License?

After purchasing the UK fishing license, there are three things to consider.

Start using your license within 60 days of its issuance.

Make sure to follow the rules of the area you want to fish in and get any required permits.

Report a catch return by the end of every year, even if you haven’t caught any fish.

What Happens If You Fish Without a License in the UK?

If you fish in any freshwater body within England and Wales, you might get a fine of up to £2,500.

Moreover, your equipment, illegally caught fish, boat, or any related item can be confiscated.

If this happens, you’ll receive a receipt, by which you can reclaim your belongings when a decision has been made.

When you go fishing in the UK, you should make sure that you have your fishing license as well as any required fishing permit.

This can come in handy as proof that you’re legally allowed to fish in the UK.

The officer may also ask to check your equipment or vehicle. In this case, you have to comply and cooperate.

Can You Fish for Free in the UK?

Not really! In fact, you can’t fish for free in any of the 2000 miles of freshwater bodies in England and Wales.

That being said, you can still get a free fishing license if you’re under 16 years old. Interestingly, if you’re under 13, you don’t even need a license.

However, there are frequent Let’s Fish events that are totally free and open to all people over six years old.

Can I Fish Anywhere With a UK License?

Even after you get a UK fishing license, you still need to obtain a special permit from whoever owns the fishing rights in the freshwater body you’re fishing in.

The owner can be a person or an angling club.

For areas where fishing rights aren’t claimed by any organization or angling club, you still need to get a Waterway Wanderers permit.

How Long Does a UK Fishing License Last?

There are different plans to choose from.

You can opt for licenses that last for a day, eight days, or an entire year.

Where does the License Money Go?

The Environmental Agency receives the money you pay to obtain a fishing license. It uses this money to fund its efforts to protect fish habitats, support fishing, and improve fisheries.

The agency also cooperates with other organizations such as The River Trust, Get Hooked on Fishing Campaigns, the Angling Trust, the Canal and River Trust, and The Angling Trades Association.

These tag teams work collaboratively to encourage fishing as a healthy sport and improve the conditions of rivers.

They distribute funds to finance the angling projects within England and Wales as well.

Conclusion

How to get a fishing license in the UK?

If you’re above 13, you must get a fishing license to fish in freshwater bodies in the UK.

The price of such licenses depends on certain factors such as the type of license, the number of rods permitted, and where you’ll fish.

You can purchase the license from the Environmental Agency’s website or phone. You can also get it from the post office.

No matter which fish you’re aiming to catch, get your license and regional permit ready to have legal fishing permission.

The Best Venison Chili Recipe

The Best Venison Chilli Recipe

Are you looking for the best venison chili recipe out there? Well, here it is…

I love all kinds of chili, beef, mushroom, or otherwise, but this venison chili recipe is simply delicious and my hands down favorite.

Feel free to adjust ingredients to your taste, but I would recommend following the main steps.

The Best Venison Chilli Recipe

The Best Venison Chilli Recipe

James
This is quite literally my favourite venison chilli recipe of all time.
It's easy to make, has massive depth of flavour and is truly delicious.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs
Total Time 3 hrs 25 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Mexican
Servings 6
Calories 450 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 Large cooking pot
  • 1 Chopping board
  • 1 Wooden spoon

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 pound smoked back bacon, chopped into mouth-sized pieces
  • 3 inches chorizo, chopped into small cubes
  • 3 pounds venison – minced (ground) or cubed
  • 1 large white onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bulb garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp chipotle powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1 tbsp chilli powder (adjust to taste)
  • 4 tbsp tomato puree / tomato paste
  • 1/2 pint good quality beef broth
  • 1 can red kidney beans (optional)
  • 1 can pinto beans (optional)
  • 1 can black beans (optional)
  • 2 large squares 90% cocao dark chocolate
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Heat up a large dutch oven or large skillet. Add the bacon and chorizo and gently fry on a low heat until both are lightly browned.
  • Remove the bacon and chorizo from the pot and set to one side.
  • Now increase the temperature on the hob to a medium-high heat and add the venison.
  • Stir until the meat starts to brown.
  • Add the onion and cook for a further 5 minutes until softened.
  • Now add the rest of the ingredients – garlic, cumin, smoked paprika, ground coriander, chipotle powder, chili powder, tomato paste, beef broth and beans (drained).
  • Add the bacon and chorizo back in.
  • Add chocolate squares.
  • Stir thoroughly.
  • Reduce to a medium heat, place lid on pot and simmer for approx 3 hours.
  • Serve.

Notes

  • If the chilli has a little too much liquid, you can remove the lid for the last part of the cook and allow to reduce down.
  • You can use minced venison (ground deer meat) for this, but my preference is to have cubed. Cubed venison makes for a more substantial dish in my opinion and is also more authentic.
  • Serve with either rice, tortilla chips, baked potato, fries (yes fries), or just have it straight up. I also like it with freshly buttered bread.
  • For toppings, go with some grated cheddar cheese, some sliced green onions, a dollop of sour cream and corn chips.
  • I like to make extra so I can also have it for lunches in the week. It always tastes even better the next day and will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days! Store in an airtight container if you do this, or freeze for future use.
  • Swap chipotle powder for 2 chopped chipotle peppers if you have them.
  • This chili works equally as well with ground beef, elk meat, other wild game or indeed any other lean meat that you can get your hands on. If it’s fresh and good quality, it should be good in a chili. You can also make a vegetarian version out of mushrooms.
  • If you don’t have tomato puree/paste to hand, you can use tomato sauce, just be aware that it will make it taste a bit sweeter.
  • The beans are all entirely optional.
Keyword Chilli, Cubed, Slow cooker, Venison

Can I cook venison chili in a slow cooker?

Yes, you can cook venison chili in a slow cooker.

Simply do the initial fry in a large skillet or dutch oven and then transfer to the slow cooker when it’s ready for the final cook.

If cooking this way, make sure to not have too much liquid once at the slow cooker stage, as it will not be removed.

Reduce the amount of stock (beef broth) you add and you should be fine.

A slow cooker venison chili is amazing and a great way to cook chili once the main prep work has been done.

It also means you can get on with your day.

What gives chili a rich flavor?

A chili’s rich flavour comes from the ingredients you add, as well as reducing down the liquid to form a more concentrated depth of flavor.

Personally, I think a chili tastes even better once it has had time to sit for a day or so in the fridge.

The flavours just seem to improve.

A good slow cook also helps.

What enhances the flavor of chili?

This is somewhat a matter of opinion and largely comes down to personal taste, but generally speaking a good beef broth or stock is a great way to enhance the flavour of your chili.

Some recipes also call for coffee to be added and molasses.

Chili seasoning is a highly debatable subject, with many strong opinions on the matter.

Some other alternatives include cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, adobo sauce, green chilies and even a bay leaf.

It’s your chili, so do as you wish and experiment a little until you find what works for you.

Should I leave the fat on venison?

Yes, you should leave the fat on venison.

Venison is a very lean meat as it is and if it does have any fat, then this will only help add to the flavour of the dish.

Due to venison being so lean, it is quite common to be adding fat back in, such as some bacon or chorizo.

Simply put, you want some fat in a hearty venison chili, so stop worrying and crack it in.

Does chili get better the longer it sits?

Yes, the longer chili sits the better it gets.

It gives a chance for all the flavors to mix and combine and increases the flavour massively.

Obviously, there is a limit. 1-2 days in the fridge is about max.

If you intend to keep longer then you should freeze.

Does venison chili taste gamey?

No, venison chili does not taste gamey.

In fact, if you are concerned about gameness, then this is probably one of the best venison recipes to try.

The combination of flavours in this easy venison chili recipe takes over and is a guaranteed hit.

Give it a try and you will see.

What is the best thickener for chili?

The best way to thicken a big pot of chili is to leave the lid slightly off while cooking, so that the liquid can evaporate off.

This reduces the chili down to a thicker sauce.

Another method is to add cornflour to the chili, but I would only do this if you have to.

Try reducing it first though.

Does chili taste better the longer it cooks?

Yes, chili tastes better the longer it cooks.

Cooking it for longer gives the flavours more of a chance to develop fully and will improve the dish.

Good chili toppings

There are many toppings you can add to your venison chili.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Green onions (sliced)
  • Sour cream
  • Tortilla chips
  • Grated cheddar cheese
  • Sliced chili pepper to taste

Looking for more venison goodness? I would highly recommend trying my venison burgers


When are Oysters in Season in the UK?

Oysters in a bucket - When are oysters in season in the UK?

Oysters are in season in the UK from the 1st of September to the 30th of April.

So the colder months of autumn, winter and spring.

The general rule is that oysters, as well as other bivalves, should only be collected and eaten when there is an ‘r’ in the month.

What months should you eat oysters?

Oysters are best eaten in the colder months of September, October, November, December, January and February.

This is not to say that you can’t eat them in the other warmer months, but be aware that they may not be in their peak condition due to them spawning and the water quality not always being the best.

Where do the best oysters come from in the UK? Where to find wild oysters in the UK

The best oysters come from the cleanest waters.

However, each area is said to impart its own different flavours and therefore, it is a matter of opinion as to which area produces the best oysters flavour-wise.

The main commercial oyster bed locations in the UK are in Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Kent and Essex.

Oysters from Pyefleet in Colchester are the most highly prized commercially and as such command the highest prices.

The west coast of Scotland is also highly regarded for oysters.

Be warned though, all oysters in Scotland are the property of the crown estate and a permit must be obtained before collecting wild ones.

Unfortunately, this permit will not be freely given.

If you are collecting yourself, then the above will be of little consequence.

Rest assured that as long as the oysters are in season and from clean waters, will be tasty – regardless of location.

The 5 golden bivalve rules

These are unashamedly stolen from John Right’s book – Edible Seashore and are a great set of rules to keep in mind when foraging for filter feeders (bivalves).

It’s also a great book to grab if you have an interest in coastal foraging.

1. Consult the locals

Talk to local fishermen and check with local authorities about the water quality in the area where you are looking to collect oysters.

2. Only collect from obviously clean areas

This sounds fairly obvious, but it needs to be said…don’t collect from narrow estuaries, harbours, marinas, or outflow pipes.

Oysters are filter feeders, so use your common sense on this one.

3. Only collect shellfish when there is an ‘r’ in the month

Whilst not relevant to every situation, this rule does have good reasoning behind it.

If the month doesn’t have an r in its name, then it’s one of the summer months and is when the mussels are most active (filtering lots of water), as well as the warmer water causing algal blooms and more bacteria being in the water.

As oysters are filter feeders, the above does not exactly help matters.

4. Always thoroughly cook the oyster

Unless you are 100% certain that your oysters come from grade-A waters, the only way of being sure that you have killed all bacteria and viruses is the cook them thoroughly.

Cooking will not however remove any algal toxins, which is why you need to be very careful about the time of year you collect and know the waters.

Simply put, just like mussels, don’t eat raw oysters unless you are 100% sure of the water quality and even then you risk it.

Cooking minimises this risk.

5. Always check for signs of life before cooking

Check that the oyster shut tightly when you tap them on the side of the cooking pot. If not discard.

Equally, if confident enough to go down the raw route, it’s always a good idea to smell the oyster once you open it. It should simply smell of the sea.

Oyster On Rocks - When are oysters in season in the UK?
Some foraged oysters and other finds

Where to find wild oysters in the UK – Where can I pick oysters in the UK?

Oysters are considered a rare find these days for the coastal forager.

They can be found in the South of England, Devon, Cornwall etc, as well as the Thames estuary and Solent. Northern Ireland also.

The West Coast of Scotland has relatively good numbers of oysters.

However, due to Scottish Law, you are forbidden from collecting native oysters, as they belong to the Crown.

You can get a permit, but these are not easily obtained.

You can of course find wild oysters in other parts of the UK, but the above locations are the main strongholds.

Are oysters good for you?

Yes, fresh oysters (from clean waters) are good for you.

They contain:

  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Manganese
  • Selenium
  • Vitamin D
  • Iron
  • Magnesium.

All of the above can contribute towards a healthy diet.

Can you eat oysters all year round? Why can’t you eat oysters in the summer?

No. Oysters should not be eaten in the summer as this is when they spawn and are not in their best condition.

Additionally, the water quality is not always great in the summer due to algal blooms etc, which is why oysters are usually only eaten in the colder months.

Do you chew oysters? How do you eat oysters?

This all depends on if you are eating them raw or not.

If eating raw, then you generally don’t chew the oyster and just swallow it straight down.

If eating cooked, then you chew the oyster before swallowing.

Are oysters better raw or cooked?

If eating raw, you may want to swallow the oyster straight down, without chewing.

When served in a restaurant, this is the general way they will be served to you.

You do usually put some lemon or tabasco on though to add to the flavour because the simple fact is – they don’t really taste of much!

However, as you are collecting oysters yourself, you get to choose their ‘end game’.

Having eaten them both ways, I personally believe they taste better cooked, fried in butter, or grilled in their shell on a barbeque/fire.

When cooked, they taste like a ‘fluffy cloud’, which is quite nice and my recommendation if you manage to locate any.

Added to the above argument is that unless you are certain that you are certain you have collected oysters in grade-A waters, then it is always safer to cook them.

Can you eat oysters straight from the sea?

Yes, you can eat oysters straight from the sea, providing that you are confident they are from clean waters and have followed all the usual precautions listed above.

Can you eat too many oysters?

Yes. Just like most things, you can eat too many oysters.

Oysters contain high doses of vitamins and minerals which can be too much for the system.

Stick to normal quantities, such as 3-4 oysters and you should be fine.

Are there pearl oysters in the UK?

Yes, there are ‘Pearl Oysters’ in the UK as such, but not the type that you would be making any jewellery from.

The most common type of oyster found in the UK is the Pacific Oyster (Crassostrea gigas) and our native oyster (Ostrea edulis).

Both can apparently produce a small pearl, but it is not often noticed and usually eaten.

Proper ‘pearl oysters‘ (Pinctada margaritiferus) are found outside the UK – mainly in China -and are produced commercially for this purpose.

Final word

Please exercise restraint when picking oysters and only take what you are going to eat that day.

They take a few years to reach maturity and if they are over-exploited, this will have an impact on future populations as well as the local ecosystem.

Disclaimer:

Collecting oysters brings with it its own set of dangers.

This comes from both environmental conditions, such as tides, wind, sun etc as well as the risk of getting it wrong and giving yourself food poisoning etc.

Please treat the above as a general guide only and cross reference with other trusted information sources, before you harvest and eat any oysters.


Hungry for more? Take a look at our other coastal foraging articles which include mussels, razor clams and samphire.

Where Can You Find Razor Clams in the UK?

Where Can You Find Razor Clams in the UK?

You can find razor clams in good numbers all around the UK, with the exception of the east coast of England and the north coast of Devon and Cornwall where they are less common.

They are also known as razor shells and in Scotland are known as ‘Spoots’, due to the jet of water that they can sometimes shoot out from their burrow.

There are four native species of razor clams in the UK:

  • E. siliqua
  • Ensis ensis
  • Solen marginatus
  • E. arcuatus

E. siliqua and Ensis ensis both prefer finer, sometimes muddier sand, with Solen marginatus and E. arcuatus preferring a grittier environment.

All species are edible and more importantly – all are tasty.

How do you find razor clams on the beach?

As above, razor clams can be found on sandy/muddy shores all around the UK.

A sign that they might be there is old, empty shells, that are washed up on the beach.

These shells however are only an indication, not a guarantee.

The best time to forage for them is on a low spring tide, when the water is at its lowest level possible, therefore exposing more ground.

Ideal weather conditions are very little wind or ‘chop’.

This might be a sheltered bay or similar.

Now that you have these ideal conditions, what you are looking for are the ‘keyhole’ shapes in the sand.

This ‘keyhole’ is what the razor clam sticks its siphons out of to feed.

Should you locate one, there is a chance that there may be a razor clam below.

You may find that when you place your foot nearby to the hole, you see a little spurt of water shoot out of the hole.

This is a good indication that there is a razor clam below.

Now for extraction…

The best and preferred method is to now pour some table salt down this hole and wait.

All being well, the razor clam will be irritated by this salt and should eject itself, where you can then carefully lift it out of its burrow.

Be careful not to pull too vigorously.

All being well, you should now have a nice fresh razor clam in your hands.

Now if you have found one, there will likely be more, so keep looking for those keyholes.

The video below gives a great overview:

Where can I dig for razor clams in the UK?

There are usually no restrictions to where you can dig for razor clams, but do check local bylaws.

Also, if you are digging for them, ensure you do the right thing and fill any holes you create.

It’s both unsightly and also risks somebody falling down one and twisting an ankle, should they be out there.

What do razor clams taste like?

Cooked razor clam taste like a sweet scallop, which is very nice indeed.

If you like seafood, you will likely appreciate the taste of a razor clam.

Obviously, you want your razor clams to be fresh, so eat them asap if you are collecting yourself, or ensure that any that you purchase are in tip-top condition.

Are razor clams seasonal?

Yes, razor clams are seasonal because they are best collected in the autumn and winter months.

Razor clams are filter feeders, and just like mussels, are best collected outside of the summer months, when the water quality is better.

The general rule of avoiding collecting them when there isn’t an ‘R’ in the month is a good one to follow and ensures you are outside of summer.

Is it legal to catch razor clams with salt?

Yes, it’s perfectly legal to catch razor clams with salt in the UK. In fact, this is one of the preferred methods.

The salt irritates the razor clam and it then ejects itself from its burrow, hopefully into your awaiting grasp.

Are razor clams healthy to eat?

Yes, razor clams are considered to be a very healthy meal.

They contain vitamins B1 and B12, minerals including calcium, iron and phosphorous, as well as being high in protein and containing omega-3 fatty acids.

How do you know if razor clams are alive?

If you want to check your razor clams are still alive, you can touch the fleshy part gently and it should withdraw back into its shell.

You can keep your razor clams fresh by covering with a damp cloth and storing them somewhere cool.

If you are storing them like this, make sure it’s not for too long, as razor clams need to be eaten as fresh as possible.

Storing overnight in a fridge or cool box is usually ok, but any longer than this and you want to be thinking about freezing them.

Can you eat razor clams raw?

You can eat razor clams raw, but as with most shellfish, it is advisable to cook them.

This ensures any bugs and viruses that may be in the razor clam are killed.

Cooking is therefore the safest way to eat them.

Do you need to clean razor clams?

Yes, you should give each razor clam a good rinse in fresh water before cooking in order to remove as much sand and other debri as possible.

Generally speaking, a quick rinse under the tap or clean water source will be all that is needed, but if your clams are extra sandy, they may need a bit more attention.

How do you cook razor clams in the UK?

You can follow any good clam recipe to cook your razor clams, but here’s a very simple one to try…

Steamed razor clams

Heat some fresh water in a saucepan and add some white wine, garlic (if you have any) and bring to a simmer.

Next, place your previously cleaned clams inside a ‘steaming implement’.

This can sit inside, or on top of the saucepan.

Position in place, so that they can be steamed by the liquid below.

Place a lid on top, so that you can trap the steam and allow to cook for approx 3-4 minutes, until the shells open up and the meat loses its translucent appearance.

Carefully remove the now piping razor clams and allow to cool.

All the clams should be open. If any are still closed, discard them.

Now, the only bit that you want to remove is the ‘black bit’.

This is the razor clams stomach and is best to be taken out, although if you forget, or you are feeling a bit adventurous, then you will probably be more than ok.

You can now lay out your steamed razor clams on the plate of your choice, squeeze over a bit of lemon (if you have it) and serve. Delicious!

Barbecued razor clams

Place your previously cleaned razor clams on top of a barbeque and cook until the shells open and the meat loses its translucent colour.

This won’t take long so be careful not to over-cook.

Discard any that haven’t opened.

Remove from the heat, allow to cool a little, remove the ‘black bit’ and serve with a squeeze of lemon.

Nice and simple.

Other razor clam FAQs

What do razor clams eat?

Razor clams are filter feeders and eat plankton and other small detritus which they extract from the water.

Why are they called razor clams?

They are called razor clams because they look like old-style cut-throat razors.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no hard evidence that people ever used these to actually shave, but it’s a nice thought.

What are razor clams used for?

Razor clams are mainly used for eating.

There are not many records of them being used for anything other than this, although they do look like a cut-throat razor.

Can razor clams hurt you?

No. Razor clams are unlikely to hurt you unless you step on one with bare feet.

They have a sharp shell, so they cause a bit of pain if you step on one, but the shell usually crushes underneath, so the pain is short-lived.

Summary

Hopefully, this has answered where can you find razor clams in the UK for you.

We have loads more great articles on our site.

For starters, why not try our posts on foraging for Limpets and Mussels. See you there!

Reference links:

How to Find the North Star Using the Big Dipper

How to Find the North Star Using the Big Dipper

To find the North Star, the quickest and easiest way is to first locate the Big Dipper (see main image).

This is also known as Ursa Major (forms part of Ursa Major), The Plough or Great Bear.

Once found, follow the “handle” of the Big Dipper along to the “bowl” section, which consists of four stars.

Locate the two outermost stars of the bowl (lower right and upper right) and extend an imaginary line between the two stars, upwards, for approximately 5 times the distance between them.

You will come to another star.

This is the North Star.

Is the North Star the brightest?

No, contrary to common belief, the North Star is not the brightest star in the night sky, it is actually not that bright at all.

The brightest star in the night sky is Sirius, which is also known as the ‘Dog Star’.

Is the North Star in the Little Dipper?

Yes, the North Star is in the Little Dipper, which forms part of the constellation Ursa Minor.

The North Star’s correct name is Polaris.

To the naked eye, Polaris is not as bright as you would imagine the North Star to be. It glows at a similar level to its surrounding stars, albeit a little brighter than most.

Polaris actually forms part of the constellation called Ursa Minor, also known as Little Bear or Little Dipper.

How is the North Star used for navigation?

The North Star has been used by man for navigation for thousands of years.

As mentioned above, it holds a constant position in the sky and for this fact can be relied upon for accurate navigation.

At this point in time, if you transfer its position in the sky, straight down to a point on the Earth’s horizon, you will have found Earth’s True North.

Once you have pinpointed this, you have a reference on Earth to base your navigation on.

This is the easiest way to find North via the stars.

As you will see from the diagram, it forms the tip of the handle of the Little Dipper and is the brightest of this constellation.

You will notice if you observe the North Star for an extended period of time, that it appears to remain in the same place, while all other stars rotate around it.

This is, of course, the Earth rotating, but it is worth knowing.

The direction of travel of the Big Dipper and other stars around Polaris is clockwise.

The video below from AlfieAesthetics gives a good video explanation:

Is the Big Dipper a bear?

Not exactly…The Big Dipper forms part of the constellation known as Ursa Major.

Ursa Major itself is known as The Great Bear.

So the Big Dipper forms part of the Great Bear, but not all of it.

Why is it called Big Dipper?

The Big Dipper gets its name from the fact that it looks like a large ladle, which has a long handle and a large bowl.

The Big Dipper is the common name in North America.

Elsewhere it is known as the Plough (UK), the Northern Dipper (China), the Ladle (Malaysia) as well as other cultures knowing it as a salmon net or butcher’s cleaver. 

Which star is the North Star in the Big Dipper?

As mentioned above, the North Star is not in the Big Dipper, it is actually in the Little Dipper, which forms part of the constellation Ursa Minor. 

You do/can use the Big Dipper to find the North Star on the Little Dipper though.

If you find the Big Dipper, then you should be able to find the Little Dipper.

How far away are the stars in the Big Dipper?

The closest star to Earth in the Big Dipper is Megrez, which is 58 light years away. 

Therefore, the light has taken 58 earth years to reach your eye.

Equally, if the star were to stop shining, or implode today, then you wouldn’t see evidence of this until 58 years later.

That’s pretty impressive and not easy to comprehend!

In miles, this equates to approx 470.5 trillion miles. Now that’s a long way!

How do you find the North Star in the Southern Hemisphere?

The short answer is that you can’t find the North Star in the Southern hemisphere.

At the equator, the North Star sits right on the Earths horizon.

Once you go below this, into the Southern hemisphere, the North Star disappears from view.

Therefore, you cannot view the North Star while you are in the Southern Hemisphere.

Summary

I hope you found ‘How to Find the North Star Using the Big Dipper’ useful.

If you want more great info, I invite you to take a look at our navigation section here which discusses many useful subjects.

Can You Pick Mussels Off the Beach in the UK?

Can You Pick Mussels Off the Beach in the UK?

Yes, you can pick mussels off the beach in the UK.

However, you need to be very cautious!

In the UK, the general rule of thumb is that you should avoid harvesting them during any month that doesn’t have an ‘r’ in it.

So, refrain from collecting them in the warmer months of May, June, July and August.

The reason for this is that algal blooms are more likely to be present during these summer months and as mussels are filter feeders, they can ingest these algae, which can be toxic to humans if we then go on to eat them.

The 5 golden bivalve rules

These are unashamedly stolen from John Right’s book – Edible Seashore and are a great set of rules to keep in mind when foraging for filter feeders (bivalves).

It’s also a great book to grab if you have an interest in coastal foraging.

1. Consult the locals

Talk to local fishermen and check with local authorities about the water quality in the area where you are looking to pick mussels.

2. Only collect from obviously clean areas

This sounds fairly obvious, but it needs to be said…don’t collect from narrow estuaries, harbours, marinas, or outflow pipes.

Mussels are filter feeders, so use your common sense on this one.

3. Only collect shellfish (mussels) when there is an ‘r’ in the month

Whilst not relevant to every situation, this rule does have good reasoning behind it.

If the month doesn’t have an r in its name, then it is one of the summer months and is when the mussels are most active (filtering lots of water), as well as the warmer water causing algal blooms and more bacteria being in the water.

As mussels are filter feeders, the above does not exactly help matters.

The mussels are also not at their peak condition at this time of year, so all things considered this old adage has a bit of truth behind it and you are usually best off waiting for the cooler months (with an ‘r’ in).

4. Always thoroughly cook the mussels

Unless you are 100% certain that your mussels have come from grade A waters, the only way of being sure that you have killed all bacteria and viruses is the cook the mussels thoroughly.

Cooking will not however remove any algal toxins, which is why you need to be very careful about the time of year you collect and know the waters.

Simply put, don’t eat mussels raw unless you are 100% sure of the water quality and even then you are risking it.

Cooking your mussels minimises the risk.

5. Always check for signs of life before cooking

Check that the mussels shut when you tap them on the side of the cooking pot. If not discard.

Equally, once cooked, only eat the ones that have their shells open.

Can you take mussels from the beach legally?

Yes, as long as local bylaws allow, you can take mussels from the beach in England and Wales without having to worry too much about permissions.

You still need to make sure that you collect them from an area where they are regularly covered by the tide (known as the intertidal zone), and ensure that the water quality is good before harvesting.

It gets a bit more complicated in Scotland as technically all mussels are owned by the Crown.

If you are following the rules, then you should seek permission from the Crown Estate before gathering them.

In reality, if you are just harvesting mussels for your own use, then you are very unlikely to find yourself in trouble and the collecting of wild mussels for personal use is generally tolerated.

Oysters are a different matter though, so it may be a good idea to follow the rules in Scotland if you are collecting these.

How do you harvest wild mussels?

Check with your local authority to see if any kind of license is needed.

Once you know you have permission and once you have found some, whether that be on some rocks or other structure, it’s as easy as getting hold of one and gently twisting it off.

Try not to dislodge the others in the process and just select the mussels that you want.

Is there a size limit on mussels?

This varies depending on the area and local authority, but generally speaking, the minimum in the UK is 45mm, which should be taken along the longest section of the shell.

Any smaller than this and you are damaging the next mussel generation and there is not going to be much meat inside either, so keep your collecting to the adult sizes.

How do you clean mussels from the beach?

An alternative method for processing mussels is soaking them in salt water for 20 minutes and then discarding any that float to the surface.

As mentioned below though, live mussels can potentially have air trapped in them, so this method errs very much on the side of caution.

You can then also tap any open mussels on the side of the pan/bucket etc and they should close up.

If not, then they are dead and should be discarded.

You can use a knife or similar utensil to pull the mussel beards away, leaving you with some nice, clean mussels ready for cooking.

Are some mussels poisonous?

They can be if they are filtering in unclean water and have picked up toxins.

This is why you need to be confident of the water quality in which the mussels you are collecting have been living.

Are mussels a healthy seafood to eat?

Yes. Mussels are considered a healthy seafood to eat.

They contain many beneficial vitamins and minerals including:

> Protein – Mussels are a high-quality, high-protein food, with similar levels to that of red meat.

> Iron – Mussels contain a healthy dose of iron, which is known to be good for your blood system.

> Vitamin A – which is great for your skin, immune system and eyes.

> B12 – an essential vitamin for your heart and overall health.

So yes, all in all, mussels are a great addition to your diet and have many health benefits.

How can you tell if mussels are fresh?

Assuming you have collected them from a clean water area, then follow the below.

If any float discard them and then tap any open mussels on the side of the pan/bowl and they should close. If not, discard these also.

Once cooked, eat only the mussels that have fully opened.

If you follow the above you shouldn’t go too far wrong, but do make sure to check out the 5 golden rules towards the top of this article.

Can you pick mussels off rocks?

Yes, you can pick mussels off the rocks; that is where you are most likely to find them.

One of the best times to collect them is a low spring tide when the water drops considerably.

You obviously need to be very wary of your surroundings though and take all necessary precautions.

Can you pick mussels in June? Can you eat mussels in the summer?

Although you technically can pick mussels in June in the UK, it is not advisable.

Remember the advice of not picking mussels when there isn’t an R in the month.

So May to August.

The reason for this is that the mussels are generally in poorer condition due to spawning during the summer months, as well as the warmer weather usually bringing in the algal blooms.

These can then be taken in by the mussels filtering system, with the risk of this toxicity then being passed on to you when you eat them.

It must be said that this risk is low, but it is a risk all the same.

So the safest bet is to keep it to the colder months when the mussels are in better condition and the algal blooms have disappeared.

Do mussels float in water? Should I discard mussels that float?

They can do if they have air trapped in them, however, they will usually sink.

There is an old method of checking mussels whereby they were soaked in water and if they floated they were discarded as they were thought to be dead, but as you can see, this is not always the case.

Live mussels can float too.

This does provide a belt and braces approach though.

How do you open mussels?

If you want to open up live mussels for cooking via an alternative method, such as frying them etc, then, as long as they are large enough, you can open them up with a knife as shown in the video below

Summary

Can You Pick Mussels Off the Beach in the UK? Yes, you can! But you need to be aware of the risks.

Follow the 5 Golden bivalve rules above and treat your harvest with care and you shouldn’t go too far wrong.

If you are interested in coastal foraging, then be sure to also check out our popular article on Limpets, which can be found here.

Also, I would recommend taking a look at John Wight’s book (River Cottage), Edible Seashore.

It has lots more info and facts for the coastal forager to get their teeth into.

You can find a copy here.

Other mussel FAQs

When is mussel season UK?

The mussel season in the UK runs from September, through to April.

These are the colder months of the year.

Remember the old adage about not collecting/eating mussels when there is an ‘R’ in the month.

Do you eat the whole inside of a mussel?

Yes, you can eat the whole inside of a mussel. Even the black bit!

All of the insides are edible, so, as long as the mussel is fresh, don’t think too much about it and enjoy the flavours.

What is the black stuff in a mussel?

The ‘black sack’ is the undigested plankton and other microscopic creatures that are still within the mussel’s digestive tract.

As long as you are collecting from a clean area, then this black stuff is perfectly safe to eat and just adds to the flavour.

Don’t think about it too much and get stuck in!

Are mussels freshwater or saltwater?

In the UK, there are both freshwater and saltwater varieties, although similar, they are different species.

Saltwater mussels (Mytilus edulis) are usually found on rocky shores, submerged structures and occasionally attached to seaweed.

This article focuses on the saltwater variety (UK).

There are however multiple freshwater mussel varieties in the UK.

These being:

> Duck Mussel (Anodonta anatina)

> Swan Mussel (Anodonta cygnea)

> Painter’s Mussel (Unio pictorum)

For more info on the freshwater mussel varieties (UK) the Nature Spot site has some good info here.

Is it cruel to cook mussels alive? Do mussels feel pain?

This is a matter of opinion.

Although some would argue that it is cruel to cook anything alive, the fact is that unless you intend to eat them raw (in which you will kill them by eating), in order to eat them in the standard way, you need to cook them somehow.

What happens if you eat mussel beard?

Nothing happens! Mussel beard is edible, if not that tasty, so don’t worry if you eat any.

However, the best bet is to clean them off beforehand.

Do mussels have eyes?

No mussels do not have eyes as such, but they are thought to have sensors that can tell the difference between light and dark, so as to be able to close up if they feel threatened.

Disclaimer:

Collecting mussels bring with it its own set of dangers, both from environmental conditions, such as tides, wind, sun etc as well as the risk of getting it wrong and giving yourself food poisoning etc.

Please treat the above as a general guide only and cross reference with other trusted information sources, before you harvest and eat any mussels.

When is Samphire in Season in the UK?

When is samphire in season in the uk?

Marsh Samphire is in season in the UK between the months of June and September, although it may vary slightly depending on your location.

Midsummer’s Day is the traditional start of the samphire picking season.

There are thought to be a few different varieties of Marsh Samphire in the UK, the most common type you will find is the bright-green Salicornia europaea.

If the Marsh Samphire you are collecting has a purple tinge to it, it may well be the variety Salicornia ramosissima.

Both varieties are edible and tasty.

Where does samphire grow? Does samphire grow in the UK?

Marsh Samphire grows all around coastal areas of the UK.

You will usually find it wherever you have salt marshes and/or mud flats.

It is not a particularly hard plant to find or identify and when you find some, there will usually be much more of it around.

I can vouch that it is very prevalent in Norfolk and Suffolk, so if you are nearby, it is worth exploring.

It is also quite prolific in Wales.

Is picking samphire illegal?

It is technically illegal to uproot samphire without permission.

You don’t want to do this anyway, as you don’t eat the root of the plant, only the tips.

Uprooting also damages the habitat, so please try not to do this.

How to harvest Samphire

Take some robust scissors with you and snip the tender tops off of the plant and store them in a basket or bag.

Other than paying attention to the safety aspect of being out on the marshes, it’s as simple as finding a decent patch and snipping off the tops.

Although you can store it, like with all wild foods, only take what you need.

You can always come back another day!

Is samphire seasonal? Is samphire available all year round?

No, as above the UK season runs from approx June through to September.

Outside of these months, samphire disappears, usually with the frosts in autumn.

You may be able to purchase samphire in the shops outside of the traditional UK growing season, but this will likely have come from abroad.

Is samphire good for your health? How healthy is samphire?

Yes. Marsh Samphire contains a number of vitamins minerals and antioxidants that are considered to be especially good for your health.

These include minerals magnesium, potassium, sodium and calcium, along with vitamins A, B and C.

Samphire also contains fucoidans, which are anti-inflammatory and have antioxidant effects.

Do I need to cook samphire?

No, you do not need to cook Marsh Samphire.

It can be eaten raw. However, it is also very tasty when cooked.

How to cook samphire

Steaming for around 5 minutes is the best way to cook samphire.

Once served, it benefits from having a dob of butter melted over it, but is by no means essential.

If you have a younger plant, or just have the more tender tips, then you can just eat whole and enjoy.

If you have a more mature plant, you will find that it has a stringy/woody middle section along most of its length.

You can easily deal with this by running the steamed samphire through your front teeth while holding on to the base.

This strips off all the tender flesh and leaves you with the stringy fibrous part in your hand which can be discarded.

Can you eat samphire raw? Can you eat samphire cold?

Yes, Marsh Samphire can be eaten raw (cold).

If you are going to eat it raw, make sure you go for the tips of the plant only, as these won’t have the stringy central fibre in them.

You can eat there and then, on the marsh, or save for later.

One of the best ways to consume samphire tips is to add them to a fresh salad.

The samphire gives the salad a new dimension, of saltiness and iodine, but you can overdo it, so just use a few.

Is all samphire edible? Can you eat rock samphire?

In the UK, both types of samphire are technically edible, these being Marsh Samphire which we are discussing here and Rock Samphire.

Although linked by name, they are actually very different plants and species.

Marsh Samphire is usually the variety Salicornia europaea and rock samphire Crithmum maritimum.

However, although Rock Samphire is deemed edible, most will not like the flavour as it contains aromatic chemicals, one of which is pinene, which is an ingredient of turpentine, hence why it tastes so awful!!!

If you are after good samphire for eating, go for Marsh Samphire, as this is the variety that is known for its culinary credentials.

Is samphire a seaweed?

No, samphire is not a seaweed.

It is actually a member of the goosefoot family, and looks more like a small cactus without the spines!

Marsh samphire generally grows on tidal mudflats, sometimes quite prolifically, and looks quite different to seaweed.

This extremely meditative video from Andy Ballard shows him foraging for Marsh Samphire on the Bristol Channel.

What does samphire taste like? Does samphire taste like seaweed?

No, samphire does not taste like seaweed. It has its own flavour, which is actually very pleasant.

It’s more like salty asparagus, which is delicious, but the salt can be overpowering if you eat too much of it, so take it steady.

How many calories does samphire have?

Samphire contains around 25 calories per 100 grams consumed.

This is for samphire when served on its own, such as when steamed/boiled or eaten raw.

If adding other ingredients, then this will obviously change accordingly.

How many carbs are in samphire?

Samphire contains around 1.5g of carbohydrates per 100 grams consumed, which is pretty much made up of dietary fibre.

Therefore, there are hardly any carbs in Marsh Samphire.

Is samphire the same as sea asparagus?

Yes, in other parts of the world, Marsh Samphire is known as sea asparagus.

In other locations, it is also known as samphire greens, sea beans, crow’s foot greens and beach asparagus.

Does samphire have iodine? Is samphire high in iodine?

Yes, samphire does contain iodine.

However, it doesn’t contain anywhere near as much as some seaweeds do, so samphire wouldn’t be classed as high in iodine as seaweed – although it’s a pretty decent level.

For comparison, samphire contains approx 90 micrograms per 100 grams.

Some seaweed contains approx 250,000 micrograms per 100 grams.

However, it must be noted that adults recommended daily iodine intake is 140 micrograms per day, so a decent portion would easily get you up to this.

Does samphire contain iron?

Yes, samphire contains iron. It also contains vitamin C and calcium.

Samphire also contains antioxidants, which in combination with the other vitamins and minerals make it an extremely healthy plant to eat and a great addition to your diet.

Is samphire good for you?

Yes, as long as it has been collected from a clean environment, samphire is very good for you.

As mentioned above it contains:

  • Vitamin C
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Iodine
  • Antioxidants

It is low in fat, low in carbs and makes for a delicious and nutritious foraged find.

Where to buy samphire in the UK

Not liking the sound of all that mud? You can always purchase some samphire first to see if you like it.

Samphire has become quite a trendy thing to eat over the last few years, so you may see it on the menu at good restaurants.

If you live near the coast, you may be lucky enough to have it available at a local shop or stall.

Failing that, some supermarkets now stock it, including Waitrose, so you should be able to get hold of some one way or the other.

Summary

So, when is samphire in season in the UK?

Usually between the months of June and September. with Midsummer’s Day being the traditional start of the season.

Keen to pick up some more free foraging goodness???

Take a look at our foraging section for more articles on such things as limpets and gorse flower.

What is Map Scale?

What is Map Scale?

Map scale describes the relationship between a distance on a map, in relation to the distance on the actual ground.

For example, for a map with a scale of 1:50,000, every measurement you make on the map is 50,000 times bigger in the real world.

So if you measure 1cm on the map, it equates to 500 metres on the ground (1cm x 50,000).

Similarly, a 1:25,000 scale map is 25,000 times bigger in ‘real life. So if you measure 1cm on this map, it will equate to 250 metres on the ground.

What is a map scale used for?

Map scale is used to allow you to accurately measure distance on a map, with it then being able to be directly transferred over to the real world and vice versa.

Simply put, map scale tells you how many times smaller your map is in relation to the real world, or, how many times bigger the real world is in relation to your map.

See definition of map scale below for more info.

How big is a grid square on a 1:50000 map?

A grid square on the 1:50,000 scale, is 2cm x 2cm in size, as opposed to the 4cm x 4cm for the 1:25,000 scale.

So, although the size on the map is different, the grid squares represent a 1km x 1km square on the actual ground for both scales. Hopefully, that’s not confusing.

As you can see, the 1:50k map’s 1km grids are smaller (2cm). This means that the map can cover larger areas, which at times has its advantages.

On the other hand, the 1:25k map’s grids are larger, with the total map covering an overall smaller area, but because the grids are larger, the map is ‘zoomed in’ and therefore shows more detail.

The Royal Marines training aid and helps explain this further:

Marines – how to read a map video

Definition for map scale

The definition for map scale is the relationship between distance on a map and the distance in the real world.

Map scale is the number of times that a map is smaller than the ground that it represents.

Or if looked at the other way round, map scale is the number of times that the real world is bigger than the area on a map that represents it.

As above, a 1:50,000 map means that the real world is 50,000 times bigger than the related area on the map.

How to calculate map scale

Should you have a map and not know what the scale is, perhaps because you are missing a section, or you just want to check one is what it says it is, you need to do the following:

For this method to work, you need a map that actually covers the location that you are in.

Choose a section on the map that you can measure in the real world. This should preferably be two easily identifiable landmarks, that are easy to identify on the map, as well as in the real world.

An example would be the distance between two bridges that are on the same road.

Now measure out the distance between the two bridges in the real-world. You may need to pace this out.

Then, measure the distance between the two bridges on the map.

Now calculate as below:

Map distance *divided by* distance on the ground = Map scale

Fo the above to work, you must use the same units of measurement. For example, you are probably going to measure the map distance in centimetres – and the real world in metres.

You will have to convert the real-world distance to the same units for the formula will work – so convert the metres into cm.

How do you find the scale of a map?

You can either use the formula mentioned above or in the majority of cases, you will find the map scale printed on the actual map itself.

If in the UK, we generally use 1:25000 and 1:50:000 scales, so it will likely be one of them.

However, many other scales are used across the world, so be sure to check yours.

Map scale calculator (table)

Scale1cm on map represents (on ground)Example uses
1:10,000100 metresGeneral in-car navigation
1: 25,000250 metresUsed for Ordnance Survey maps
1: 50,000500 metresUsed for Ordnance Survey maps
1: 100,0001000 metres (1km)Adventure touring, 4 wheel driving
1: 250,0002.5kmAdventure touring, 4 wheel driving
1:1 million10kmTourist maps

Summary

Map scale is simply the ratio of the map distance against the actual ground it represents.

It can take a bit of getting your head around this at first, but when you think about it, it’s actually very simple.

Looking for more on maps? We have written a full detailed post on the fundamentals of map and compass navigation where even the most seasoned navigator should pick up a thing or two!

Get it here.