At the end of the big heat we harvested a basket full of wild fennel flowerheads, and these have been drying in my room ever since, giving off a scent of sweet curry. What you do then is rub them between your fingers and thumb to detach the tiny flowers with their load of fragrant pollen from the stalks, and it's the resulting powder that we're after — a flavoursome spice that weight for weight is (allegedly) more expensive than gold. It smells of curry but tastes a bit like aniseed, a bit like fennel itself. Delicious sprinkled into an omelette or onto roasted tomatoes or a fried egg.
In other veg-patch news: We have now harvested all the winter squash (butternut, buttercup and a huge crop of self-seeded jack-be-littles) and the remains of most of the summer veg. A few tomatoes are hanging on so if we get any sunshine they may ripen, otherwise I guess we'll make green tomato jam again. That seems to be highly trendy at the moment as we saw it at several market stalls over the summer, though I didn't like it very much. Weird flavour. I spent this morning picking the last of the green beans and then pulling up the rows and rows of green and borlotti beans in ever more frantic haste as the Rotovator Man got closer and closer. The veg patch is now nicely dug over so it's time to plant up for winter. In fact a bit late, as usual.
I noticed out on my ride afterwards a lot of mushrooms in the woods which I'm pretty sure are edible, but didn't pick any because, well, I was on a horse... Plus, "pretty sure" isn't quite "dead cert". A few years ago I went on a mushroom course, which is technically a requirement now if you want to gather wild mushrooms — you have to attend a course in mushroom recognition and then apply for a patentino (licence). It's not a bad idea in that its aim is to avoid fatalities; but naturally I remember virtually nothing of what I learnt, mainly that most of the real nasties look practically identical to innocuous or edible ones, which is enough to put you off mushroom hunting for ever.