Sunday, 20 July 2014

Mighty Mushroom and the road of terror

With the recent weather jumping about from torrential rain to hot and humid days where all you want to do is sit in the fridge with the beer and back again, it has been hard to find a time to take a decent cycle ride without getting drenched in either precipitation or perspiration.
As luck would have it, this morning saw acceptable conditions for putting in a good few miles before breakfast, and judging by the number of other cyclists on the road I wasn't the only one feeling the same way.
So I set off shortly after 7am with my route planned, tyres freshly inflated to the required 100psi, a bottle of chilled water and the determination to enjoy the open countryside before the rest of the world had crow-barred itself out of bed and taken to the roads to spoil the peace and tranquility.
Turning on to West Fen Road between Ely and Coveney, my mellow mood was quickly turned into a state of grumbling agitation thanks to the local council having decided in their infinite wisdom to lay what they refer to as 'surface dressing' - know to everyone else as 'piles of loose gravel specifically designed to ruin grip, break windscreens and chip paintwork'.
Now I know that this particular back road was in seriously shoddy condition, but this crappy cheap-skate excuse for road repair simply doesn't work. If you're going to repair a road then do the job properly for God's sake. Scarify the surface, fill the cracks and potholes, and put down a good layer of smooth new tarmac. Whoever came up with the idea of pouring a thin layer of bitumen on a knackered road before spreading ten times more gravel on top than can possibly stand a chance of sticking to the black gooey layer wants bloody well shooting. It's like putting a sticking plaster on a bullet wound and hoping for the best - no sodding use whatsoever.
So there I am with gravel flicking onto my legs from the front wheel and almost coming off a number of times when I caught a particularly deep patch of gravel which did its best to make the wheels go anywhere but straight ahead. Not a happy bunny. And then something caught my eye which make me stop and turn back.
There on the verge was a patch of giant puffball mushrooms. Now I'm no fungi expert and I would never normally do this, but this variety simply can't be confused with anything dangerous except when they're very small, and these examples were certainly not small so I picked one to take home.
The only downside was that having picked up this mushroom that was bigger than a football was that I then had to transport it home. So I had to ride the remaining 8 miles home one-handed with this freak fungus cradled carefully in my left arm with the constant fear that something should cause me to drop it and it all be wasted. I've been looking for one of these things for the last two or three years since I found out about them and the last thing I wanted was for it to be ruined before I got to eat it.
Clearly my luck was in and I arrived home with no worries beyond an aching back caused by the awkward riding position. My unusual travelling companion was then set about with a large knife, resulting in a serious pile of light fluffy marshmallow-like flesh that with careful freezing should keep me in mushroom heaven for quite some time to come. And that was only half of it, but I know a wild fungi enthusiast who will probably be quite happy to take the other half off my hands.
Naturally I kept some pieces aside for immediate consumption and I have to say the soft texture and subtle earthy taste went very well with the sausages, eggs and potato waffles with which it briefly shared the breakfast plate.
I love investigating nature's larder and I'm always keen to try anything provided I know exactly what it is. Indeed, if I'd been riding with my air rifle slung across my back then some of the mushroom would probably be occupying the slow cooker right now with a freshly shot rabbit because there were plenty of those running around this morning too....