If you go down to the woods today you’re in for…well, probably not that big a surprise for anybody who reads this blog regularly. It’s that time of year again when strange fairy rings of fungi appear in fields and wooded areas and those who are brave enough and – most importantly – know what they are looking for, can happily supplement their diets with some tasty mush.
DJ has recently taken up running in the mornings. Not only does this have the benefit of keeping him trim for free, but it also enables him to scout out local areas where the mush are making inroads. On Sunday we decided to go foraging for some fungi that he’d spotted in the woods on one of his routes. He told me that there were tonnes of them and that they were really huge. We trekked in our wellies for what felt like ages on Sunday afternoon through the woods behind a farm near us. I was beginning to think he’d imagined them all until we finally found them. And DJ was right. They were an impressive bunch – absolutely huge parasol mushrooms. He only picked a few but soon our bag was heaving with them, they were so enormous.
Of course, the thing with mushrooming is that you’ve really got to know what you’re doing. Each year many people still poison themselves accidentally by confusing dangerous species with edible ones, so it’s best to take care and stick to what you know. If in doubt, it’s a good idea to join a local fungi foray in your area run by an expert. If you’ve already gone and picked some mushrooms on your own, you can take your samples along and get them identified. There are also groups of mushroom fanatics around the UK who meet and organise identification clinics. A group DJ belongs to in London have them weekly during the mushroom season. If in doubt, don’t eat it.
Luckily DJ, who knows a bit about certain species of mushroom, having studied them at university, assured me that the parasol mushrooms are only really easily confused with the shaggy parasol. Fortunately the shaggy parasol isn’t lethal, although it can cause stomach upsets in some people. The parasol mushroom has what look like tiger stripes on its stalk which the shaggy parasol doesn’t have, although DJ says it’s possible to find young parasol mushrooms which haven’t yet developed the stripes.
I was impressed. It cost us nothing but our time and effort but we managed to collect more mushrooms than we’d buy on a weekly basis in the supermarket. That said, I was still a bit concerned whether we’d be able to do them justice. Then – as usual – DJ came up with a cunning plan. When we got home, I caught him sneaking some wire hangers from the wardrobe and wondered what on earth he was doing. In no time at all, he created a little system that allowed him to dry pieces of the mushroom above the radiator in the hallway. He added some chillis from the green house too as he’s been struggling to dry them quickly in the airing cupboard. I don’t know about you, but I think the pieces look pretty funky. Early Christmas decorations, if you like!
Have you been foraging for mushrooms or other wild food lately? Found anything particularly juicy or discovered any good recipes? Leave a message and tell me about it.
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