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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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Mush appreciated, my Lady

ARMED with wellington boots, a trowel and a basket, this is not the look most people associate with Lady Jane Lowther.

Stepping away from the family estate, it has emerged that she has a secret passion – for mushroom collecting.

Lady Lowther is good friends with Kenny Hogg, owner of Fantails restaurant, in Wetheral, and can be frequently found helping him in the restaurant garden.

For the past three years or so, she has also been supplying the kitchen with Chanterelle mushrooms. Only in season for about six weeks of the year, the delicacy are an added bonus for diners – but Lady Lowther is keeping the location of her supply a strict secret.

“Mushroom foragers never tell where their patch is!” she said.

“We were terribly lucky to find our patches – we have more than one. Talking to other chefs, they are not easy to find, so we are very protective of ours. We’re not going to let any of our secrets out!”

She got into foraging when she lived in Spain for several years, she said.

“They are big foragers over there. I love foraging, particularly at this time of year – it’s not just mushrooms, there are wonderful fruits in the autumn.”

And it’s not just Chanterelle mushrooms that Lady Lowther collects, she also harvests ceps and hedgehogs. She has been supplying the Chanterelles to Fantails where head chef Alan McCarton said they served them on toasted brioche, with garlic and chive butter.

Alan said they went down a treat with customers. “As soon as we get given them they are straight out of the door,” he said.

“People go wild for them.”

Lady Lowther said she had tried the dish at Fantails and it was delicious.

At home, she uses them in stews and on salads.

“Foraging goes back hundreds of years to Medieval times. I’ve been gardening with Kenny for more than 10 years and he has been wonderfully kind over the years so I give him mushrooms every year.”

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