Articles

Magical Mushrooms

John Wright is one of those very lucky few that have managed to turn a hobby into a full-time job. Jon Bennett chats to the River Cottage expert about the wonders of mushrooms, and why he spends his days foraging and encouraging others to do as well.
After one of the wettest June and July ever, it seems we all feel we’re owed a long Indian summer. But if you’re a forager – or you’re interested in taking up an ancient hobby that more and more of us are embracing – it’s time to stop praying for sun and embrace the wet British weather.

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The Wonder of Mushrooms

Fungi are amazing, they really are.

They range from the microscopic to huge; they make our bread rise; produce alcohol; give us some of our most effective medicines; make our soils fertile and help trees to grow, plus some of them can be eaten and are delicious. On the downside, they can cause disease, make our floors collapse and poison us if we aren’t careful, but the balance is definitely on the positive side.

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Forest Foragers, forestforagers.co.uk

Forest Foragers is a collaboration between Hackney-based ecologist Peter Sibley and his friend Clifford Davy, a mycologist (fungi expert).

Their day courses combine education, a good lunch and an outdoor forage, the aim being to arm people with the skills and confidence to go out and collect wild food for themselves. Safety is a priority – pretty important when you’re looking for the difference between ink caps (nice sautéed in butter), and death caps (multiple organ failure and probable death). And Peter explains that mushrooms can absorb and even intensify poisons and industrial waste in the soil, which is why we leave Hackney behind and head east out of the city to the woods around Takeley.

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Fungal Foraging

Clifford Davy gives us an introduction into the world of the wild mushroom...

It’s October and autumn has arrived – the woodlands are enhanced with yellow, red and gold. The leaves are destined to fall to the ground and with the onset of seasonal rain, the forest floor comes to life again. The fungi are back! Mother Nature has provided the food (leaf litter) and drink, so it is no coincidence that most mushrooms and toadstools emerge during this period.

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Wild Harvest by Dulcima Mansell

Dulcima Mansell went on a wild mushroom day, run by the author of our article in last month’s issue. Here’s how she got on….

It was a crisp Saturday morning when I arrived at Pucks Oak Barn in Compton to join the horde of fellow welly-boot wearing and basket carrying course attendees. The course was the first by mycologist Clifford Davy and ecologist Peter Sibley and they debuted to a strong turnout. Seventeen of us attended the course from all over Surrey and London.

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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...