Daniel Greenwood

The language of leaves

Posts tagged ‘Mushroom foraging’

A German New Year’s card – with symbols of good luck, including fly agaric

Fungi Friday 25th December 2020

Merry Christmas to you! I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to post a second piece about the Santa Claus and magic mushroom myth. I saw an Instagram post by Gordon Walker which criticised the oft-repeated story (oops) of Santa and fly agaric mushrooms. I asked for more info and he kindly suggested listening to a psychedelic mushroom podcast.

https://www.podbean.com/ew/dir-t3mdd-545caae

Just to warn you, it’s a bit sweary and the author, Tom Hatsis, is pretty angry about the ignorance he suggests maintains the myth of fly agaric and Santa. He describes the proponents of this idea as conspiracy theorists. There is also a lot of talk about psychedelic drug taking which is not quite the content I’m looking for. I think you might have to read the book for him to substantiate his argument against the story.

What I gleaned from this interview:

  • There is no evidence that Santa Claus was a shamanic figure who consumed fly agaric mushrooms or used them to herd reindeer
  • There are no Siberian reindeer-herding shamans
  • Fly agaric does not appear in authentic Germanic Christmas cards, they’re New Years cards which use fly agaric as a good luck symbol, alongside horse shoes and four-leaf clovers
  • Jesus was not a mushroom…
  • Fly agarics would not dry on trees (to release hallucinogenic chemicals) in the very cold temperatures of Siberia or northern Scandinavia

Merry Christmas and thanks for reading.

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Fungi Friday 9th October 2020

A couple of weeks ago I visited the New Forest and saw hedgehog mushrooms for the first time. There are several species of hedgehog mushroom in the UK, all being edible. Since then I’ve been doing my research to try and learn more about them. This video has been helpful:

In short, hedgehog mushrooms are difficult to confuse with anything else because they have spikes where gills or pores are usually found, under the mushroom’s cap. If you want to eat any wild mushroom you should be sure you have used several different forms of identification and are completely sure of what it is.

I was out for a short photography expedition (walk) at the weekend and I discovered some more hedgehog mushrooms. Their numbers were so healthy and the shrooms themselves were in such good condition, I couldn’t help pick a few for myself.

I used my penknife to cut the mushrooms at ground level. I then used the knife (as in the video) to remove the spikes.

This may help with spore dispersal and allow more hedgehog mushrooms to spread.

This is what they look like in the wild. The caps of these mushrooms were a bit mouldy.

I got the mushrooms home as quickly as possible. I didn’t have an air-proof container to put them in so time was of the essence. I cleared the rest of the spikes from them and washed them, scraping off any excess soil.

I had no idea of a recipe for the mushrooms, I hadn’t even planned to eat them. I fried them in some butter and garlic until they were lightly browned.

In short, they were delicious. I think they would work well with something like chorizo.

Back to the woods where the mushrooms I had no intention of eating were doing really rather well.

The edge of the town I live in has a lot of conifer plantation, once heathland, a sandy, acidic habitat. There is plenty of silver birch which means fly agaric.

This was the best specimen I could find, a veritable pondshroom.

The leaf litter is becoming so damp from recent heavy rain that smaller species are coming up. Woodland soils are incredibly rich in life and our footfall can be very damaging if not managed in sensitive places. This small mushroom (mycena, I think) is one that can be easily found at this time of year. The time before leaves fall is an easier time to find fungi. This is also because after the leaves fall the cold weather comes and mushrooms are held back.

My favourite find of the week, despite the delicious hedgehogs, was this pink fungus growing at the base of a pine tree stump. It took me a while to work out what this species is. Bizarrely, it took the accidental viewing of a YouTube video to learn that it’s called plums and custard! It is a stunning shroom.

Thanks for reading.

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Epping Forest - 13-817 djg-41

Fungi Friday 21st August 2020

This week I thought I would write a post answering the most common question regarding fungi – which ones can you eat?

Disclaimer: I am not encouraging you to forage without following a code of respect for nature, wildlife, habitats and the environment. Your desire to eat wild food is not more important than the thing you are trying to forage or the habitats those species depend on to exist. Learn your foraging rights and exercise them with restraint. Respect habitats and know what you are picking.

Here are five well-known species:

Dartmoor 2018 djg (6)

Cep (Boletus edulis)

There are few other places to start with edible mushrooms. This mushrooms is known in Italy as porcini, America as king bolete, France as cep and England as pennybun. When finding ceps you’ll need to ensure they haven’t been eaten through by larvae from the ground up. This is done by cutting the mushroom where it’s attached to the soil and looking at the condition of the stipe. Ceps can be eaten raw in salads and are also good in risotto. I’ve only ever eaten them in restaurants. They grow in woodlands, plantations and on heathlands.

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Chantarelle (Cantharellus cibarius)

Chantarelles are a species I’ve only ever seen twice in the wild and I’ve never eaten one. I’ve eaten horn of plenty but they were a gift from Spain. This is the time of year to be looking for chantarelles (August-September). They are a yellowy-orange colour and look a bit like splattered egg yolk from above. People who reliably find chantarelles often have a patch that they return to each year. Not to be confused with false chantarelle. Later in the autumn trumpet chantarelles are another edible relative (that is a phrase you don’t hear often). I’ve found them growing on heathland.

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Chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus)

I saw a couple of specimens of chicken of the woods this week, but the best time to find them is May-June. This is an easy to identify fungus which grows mostly on oak, but also on sweet chestnut and even yew. Often it grows on fallen tree trunks. Never, ever, eat this if it grows on yew. Yews are poisonous and the fungus will absorb the toxins. It’s important to know that some fungi absorb pollution, so be careful where you are picking things. They are best eaten when younger. This species is important for invertebrates so don’t hoover everything up. That should be the consideration at all times.

Epping Forest - 13-817 djg-41

Amethyst deceiver (Laccaria amethystina)

This is a very small, common mushroom in woodland. Sometimes they are so small you completely miss them down in leaf litter. In 2019 on a single visit to a favourite woodland I found thousands of them growing. They are a beautifully photogenic species and when in good light they have a lovely amethyst glow. They can be found from August to November. They have to be picked in larger numbers to be worth cooking.

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Common puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum)

Giant puffballs are famous for the their unusual size and the fact you can, well, eat them. A smaller cousin of the giant puffball is the common puffball. This species grows on the woodland floor and can be found throughout the autumn. I often find them at the edges of footpaths, which are not great places to find anything you ever want to eat. I think common puffballs look like submarine bread rolls with their speckled caps.

Thanks for reading. Don’t do anything stupid.

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DH-29-4-2020-lo-res-3

Fungi Friday 15th May 2020

I mentioned a fungi photo project which I was working on, watching the development of a fungus on my daily exercise ration. Both of those things have now been foraged and are consigned to the past. We can go out for a walk more than once a day, and my subject has been sliced and munched by someone who knows what they’re doing.

I was watching the slow mushrooming of a chicken of the woods fruiting body on a circular walk from my house but its progress was interrupted last week. Now the post looks wafer thin. Here’s how it played out on Twitter:

COTW_1

I first saw this mushroom developing on 25th April on a fallen oak tree next to a footpath, lodged between farmland and a wooded estate.

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Three days later I passed it again under twilight and the advancement was pretty clear.

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I also felt it looked quite a lot like Mark Twain, one of the great American writers. His characters sure ate plenty a chicken in the woods, sure did.

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Chicken of the woods is a highly desirable edible fungus for people who desire that sort of thing. It’s one that’s easy to identify and is not known to have any serious side-effects. I have noted ecologists arguing that it should be left for the many species of invertebrate that find a home in it.

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The images above show a chicken of the woods fruiting body with some of the invertebrates hanging out on it. Believe me, there were so many more.

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At this stage, on May Day, the chick was beginning to make its way in the world.

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Four days later, it was positively enjoying life. Then, this happened:

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The moral of this story is: we all get foraged in the end.

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Here you can see the clean cuts of someone who knows what they’re doing. They’ve brought a knife with them on their walk and have made an attempt to not damage the mycelium which is attached to the dead wood itself, and not visible here.

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I’ve found some pretty epic chicks in the past, like this 1-2m long gathering on a fallen oak or sweet chestnut next to a river in West Sussex. It’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen. It does make me laugh how bites have been taken from the side, possibly the teeth of deer which are common in this area.

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This one is several months old and had begun the process of falling apart. This is in July and is probably a June fruiting body.

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This is the same day, and here Richard’s coat was not dissimilar to the fungus itself. He is a bit of a chicken in the woods at times, too.

Thanks for reading.

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