Frequently Asked Questions
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FAQs - Fungi & Mushrooms
Are fungi plants?

No. Fungi are living organisms that are distantly related to plants and more closely related to animals, but rather different from either of those groups. Fungi belong to the Kingdom Fungi while plants belong to the Kingdom Plantae; fungi are plant-like organisms that lack chlorophyll and absorb food from their many habitats. They don’t require sunlight for their growth, so fungi can live in dark places.

What are some uses of fungi?

Fungi have been closely associated with the food that we eat everyday – edible mushrooms would be the best known examples; we have them on our pizza or in our soup and salads. Some yeast fungi are required for us to make beer, cheese, bread and soy sauce – many moulds are also used to help make a wide range of food products. Fungi are also used to make many important drugs like penicillin.

How are fungi important to the environment?

Fungi can be helpful or even harmful (parasites) in some cases, but they all are important in the ecosystem. Fungi are considered to be one of the earth’s great recyclers, because they decompose dead plants, animals and other organic matter into soil. They are essential to the health of soil in vegetable gardens, crop fields and forests.

Besides humans what other animals eat mushrooms?

A wide range of animals are known to eat wild mushrooms – some examples include badgers, deer, mice, pigs, rabbits and squirrels. Wild mushrooms are also eaten by slugs, snails and many insects including ants and termites which cultivate their own fungus gardens. It is dangerous to assume that it is safe for humans to eat the same species that animals consume without any ill effects – deer and rabbits can eat poisonous fungi with impunity.

What are the health benefits, if any associated with eating mushrooms?

Mushrooms are low in fat, contain B vitamins and minerals such as potassium and selenium. Mushrooms are also a very good source of fibre and they are surprisingly high in some antioxidants. All mushrooms also contain chitin, a non-soluble protein which may help in lowering cholesterol and reducing inflammation. Many mushrooms contain polyphenols and other substances that may stimulate the immune system, lower blood pressure and help in cancer prevention.

Which mushrooms are good to eat?

There are several thousand kinds of mushrooms, not including the many tiny and obscure species, and only relatively few (100 or so) are considered good to eat. The remainder are not worthwhile for consumption or of poor quality, deadly to mildly poisonous or edibility still unknown. Some of the best wild mushrooms include Cep, Chanterelle, Horn of Plenty, Morel and Hedgehog Fungus. The cultivated favourites include Shiitake, Oyster Mushroom, Portobello and Common White Mushrooms.

Are all mushrooms slimy?

No, not all mushrooms are slimy! There are very different textures across the range of edible mushrooms – many mushrooms are chewy, some with a nearly crunchy characteristic (Russula). Canned mushrooms tend to be the ‘slimiest’ while reconstituted dried mushrooms are less so (Porcini).

Why is mouldy food dangerous?

You should not eat mouldy food because it may contain poisonous substances that are produced by the moulds. Many species of common moulds such as Penicillium and Fusarium often grow on bread, cheese, fruit and vegetables, and do produce poisons called mycotoxins. Some of the moulds’ mycotoxins are toxic at very low doses and many are heat resistant, so you can’t render the food safe by cooking.

What are lichens?

Lichens are ‘dual organisms’ consisting of a fungus and an alga. Every lichen is a partnership based on a mutually beneficial relationship (symbiosis). The fungus protects the alga and provides it with water and mineral nutrients. The alga makes its own food like plants do and leaks some of this food, which is absorbed by the fungus. This partnership enables lichens to grow in places where nothing else can survive but lichens can be very susceptible when the air is polluted with sulphur dioxide – this dissolves in the rain and is absorbed by the lichens, which often die as a result.

Seasonal Foods

Summer 2016

June was one of the wettest on record. July was cooler than average but quite dry. August is hotter so far but dry. Plants have responded by growing fast but fruit has not matured as quickly as might have been expected. There was an early flush of edible mushrooms in June, Parasols in particular, but not much thereafter. Should the weather turn wet, look out for Boletus edulis, (Ceps or porcini). There is every chance of them appearing soon.

Our Foraging Courses begin soon. The first are two Taster Days on Saturday the 27th of August and Sunday the 28th, these will be in Surrey and are intended to be an introduction to foraging for beginners. We will hold two more Taster sessions later on in Essex on the weekend of the 8th and 9th of October. The cost is £25 per person for each session.

Foraging 2016

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Dates & Venues

Wild Harvest Day Course New Forest

Come join us on one of our courses in the wonderful English countryside for a day of foraging, identifying, cooking and fun...