December forage of the month with Ruby Taylor

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Posted Dec 29 2019 by Ruby Taylor of Native Hands
December forage of the month: so-called King Alfred's cakes

With edible pickings thin on the ground for her December forage of the month, Ruby Taylor of Native Hands instead collects inedible fungi for fire making, commonly known as King Alfred’s cakes.


At this time of year there’s not so much around to forage, but these are a favourite for fire making. I always keep an eye open for them when I’m out in the winter woods.

King Alfred's cakes are a great foraging find in December

Credit: Native Hands

Their Latin name is Daldinia concentrica and if you break one open you’ll see why: layers of concentric growth rings are easily visible. They grow on dead and decaying wood, particularly ash trees.

King Alfred's cakes growing in the woods

Credit: Native Hands

It’s the blackish ones you want to prise off; leave any grey ones as they need to mature. If they’re too old to be useful they’ll crumble in your hand. Take only what you need, never take all of them. The forager’s guide is to take 10%.

King Alfred's cakes growing on dead wood

Credit: Native Hands

Their name comes from the cakes that King Alfred is said to have burned while in hiding in Wantage (near the famous Uffington White Horse), back in the 9th century. Like the king’s cakes, these fungi are inedible, but they’re excellent to use in fire-making, so much so that we forage for them and use them on our own fire making courses.

The White Horse at Uffington

Credit: Native Hands

You can find the original post by Ruby Taylor over on the Native Hands blog available here.


Ruby Taylor of Native HandsAbout the author

Ruby Taylor of Native Hands has been a maker since she was knee-high, and a teacher for over 20 years. She runs popular courses in Wild Basketry and Wild Pottery using foraged materials in the woods. She has experience of a wide range of basketry techniques and also works as part of a team teaching ancient crafts and technologies.