With May being so cold this year, a lot of things have been a little slower to appear than usual. One example is the St George’s mushroom, Calocybe gambosa, which as its name suggests usually starts to appear around St George’s Day, 23rd April. This year, however, they didn’t seem to start appearing until much later in May. A friend of mine was kind enough to introduce me to a local patch and I’m not sure what would be a clearer sign of true friendship aside from possibly giving me a kidney! These mushrooms tend to reappear in the same place year after year, so once you have a patch you can enjoy the annual treat.
I should probably do a post at some point with some more detail about identifying mushrooms, because it does require a certain amount of knowledge, process, and a huge dose of care and attention. I have described the process briefly in this post about mushroom foraging in the New Forest, and have shared a few resources in this Foraging Resources post which are a good starting point. St George’s mushrooms are fairly straightforward once you know what to look out for, and once you are familiar with their toxic lookalikes. They have gills, a white spore print, and a smooth cap, and tend to grow in rings in “edge” areas like woodlands next to meadows, or roadside verges. Their smell is also very distinctive, and I’ve heard it described as “mealy” and vaguely cucumber-like which I would agree with. The closest toxic lookalike is the deadly fibrecap which as you might have guessed has a much more fibrous cap, and if you bruise the flesh or gills they will turn an orange colour. It also lacks the distinctive smell, but until you have smelled a St George’s mushroom I realise that’s a less helpful ID point.
St George’s mushrooms are absolutely delicious sautéed in a little butter, perhaps with some wild garlic, and enjoyed on toast or as a side (especially with brunch!). I tend to cook them down a little bit first as they tend to release a fair bit of water, before melting some wild garlic butter over them to finish them off. I thought they would go perfectly with some of the fresh late asparagus we got from the farmer’s market (British asparagus growers stop harvesting from 21st June) and the scapes (unopened flowering stems) from our spring onions that are starting to come to the end of their season too. St George’s mushrooms are really at the end of their season now, so I’ve tried drying some as well to see how well they can be preserved for broths and other recipes later in the year.
The puff pastry tart is a lazy kitchen hack that is one of the tastiest, easiest, most versatile things you can make. All you need is a puff pastry sheet, a base like tomato sauce for a pizza-esque result, cream/creme fraiche like I’ve used here, or even nutella or jam for a sweet version, and then your toppings. Then it’s a case of layering up, egg-washing the edges, and baking for about 20 minutes until everything is cooked through and golden. For anything like meat or mushrooms that could potentially take a bit longer or release too much liquid, I tend to pre-cook before assembling my tart. Follow your creative curiosity and experiment – you can’t go too far wrong, I promise.
St George’s Mushroom & Asparagus Tart Recipe
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 8-10 St George’s mushrooms, sliced
- Knob of wild garlic butter (see Preserving Wild Garlic To Use All Year Round)
- 1 ready-rolled puff pastry sheet
- 5 spears asparagus
- 2-3 spring onions (include the scapes if you have any)
- 2 tbsp creme fraiche
- 1-2 tbsp parmesan
- 1 small egg
- 1 tbsp milk
- Salt & pepper
- Take your puff pastry sheet out of the fridge (they usually need about 20 minutes to warm up a little). Preheat your oven to 220°C/200°C Fan.
- Gently saute your sliced mushrooms in the olive oil. They will release some water, at which point turn the heat up a little to encourage the water to evaporate off. Then continue to cook, stirring often, until they are a lovely golden brown. Add the wild garlic butter and heat until the mushrooms are coated. Take off the heat and allow to cool a little.
- Roll out your puff pastry sheet, keeping it on the baking paper that comes with it, and spread over the creme fraiche, leaving a centimetre or so around the edges for the tart crust to rise. Slice the asparagus spears in half lengthways and lay on to the tart base.
- Chop the spring onions where the white part finishes and the green part starts. Slice the white parts into discs and set side. Keep the green parts in one piece and lay them across your tart with the asparagus. If you have spring onion scapes (the unopened flower bud stems) lay those on too.
- Dot the cooked mushrooms around your tart, keeping the pan to cook the spring onion discs in any leftover wild garlic butter. Once they are slightly softened, dot those over the tart too.
- Season with pepper and a bit of salt if you like, and sprinkle over the parmesan. Mix the egg and milk together in a small bowl and brush around the exposed edges of the pastry sheet.
- Cook your tart for 20 minutes until golden and serve hot with a spring salad & some new potatoes.
Let me know what you think in the comments or tag me on Instagram @plotandlane where I always enjoy seeing and sharing what these recipes inspire you to make!
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