Thursday, 1 November 2012

Foraging for mushrooms

Smitonius:

Our local farmer's market has a stall which is run by the Mushroom Man (well, his name is Matthew actually). In the Autumn he organizes foraging walks in a wood near Colchester, and this year (unlike last year) there were mushrooms to be found. About 15 or so people, most of us unknown to each other, gathered on the fringes of the wood to be split up into three groups: one of whom I found myself calling 'the Mushroom Warriors', as the strapping lads stomped off to the ramparts (there are remains of an Iron Age settlement nearby). Our group tentatively and quietly set off, all eyes to the foliage covered ground and soon spotted our first (edible) mushroom.


Just look at how well disguised it is in among the leaves. It was relatively tricky to spot them until you learned about which types liked to grow near which trees. My other half was determined to find a parasol mushroom, and had been told to look among the holly, and there was sucess:

That came home and ended up in a risotto later that evening. Of course, not all the mushrooms were edible, although quite striking like this one straight out of a fairy tale:


 These little ones, like butterflies resting on a branch, are not edible as too tough but are believed to help cancer sufferers if made into a tea:


And, as we walked, all of our group quiet and focused found out about mushrooms and also a little about each other: the one whose father would benefit from drinking this mushroom tea, or where recent holidays had been spent, or who had rudimentary Latin. It was a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon and concluded with a mushroom fry up. All the groups did well, our basket was fairly filled with Wood Blewits, among others. The 'Mushroom warriors', of course, found the rather dramatic looking beefheart mushroom (apologies for blurry photo of their basket). Can you spot it?


And, as we all said farewell, their leader was seen to hold it aloft in one hand and a knife in the other in order to carve up the spoils. I kid you not, mushroom foraging can bring out the wild one within.... and, after all, we were in Queen Boudicca's part of the world.

8 comments:

Molly said...

What fun! Since the mycology course has not been offered in recent semesters my student finally decided to teach himself. So I have been up close and personal, and learning more than I ever wanted to know, with and about all the stages of mushroom cultivation, including, but not limited to infestations of tiny, pesky flies! [Fascinating, but couldn't you take it outside?? Climate control....] It's an amazing study. I'd prefer it in your woods though....

Love that fairy toadstool!

rachel said...

I just can't bring myself to eat a mushroom I've found in the woods. Too ignorant, too scared. Even the guide books manage to be rather unreassuring.....

Marcheline said...

That is SO amazing. I just received an email from my friends in Italy - it was a collection of photos of the mushrooms they gathered in the woods! Total fungal synchronicity, man.

shandy said...

Gosh, you are brave. I was put off the idea for ever after reading the account of a group who all needed kidney transplants after a foraged lunch.

Friko said...

There are nature walks that include foraging for mushrooms around here too. I am always to frightened that I might pick a ‘bad’ one and therefore go on buying and eating the tasteless, pallid, supermarket variety.

An afternoon spent walking in the woods is something that appeals to me, though.

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

I would absolutely love to go mushroom foraging. We have loads around us and every year I pick some and pore over the identification book and every year I wimp out at the last minute and fail to cook them! I need a bit of proper instruction I think!

Isabelle said...

I'm with the scared brigade. Good for you, though!

Liz said...

I keep seeing fungi and saying we must go on a led-walk. Sounds a good idea.