I have barely left the fug of my studio in almost two weeks, needle felting like a thing possessed. Last Sunday was misty and murky and I needed a change of scenery, so we decided to pop over to the woods, to see if there were any mushrooms around. We have had so little rain that the fungi season has barely happened. The woods are beautiful at this time of year and everything was slowly dripping as if nature herself was quietly weeping.
It is a very late autumn, but at last the leaves are tumbling and things are bedded down and dying back for the winter. The trees take on a dishevelled witchiness.
We met a woman with a nice Red Setter dog and stopped to chat - she said that not only were mushrooms out in number, but she had seen lots of those 'red ones with white spots' in a particular corner which we know. A few days ago, she had met the chap who collects edible fungi for the nearby and oh-so-upmarket Daylesford Organics; he thought he had found some Chanterelles, which we have never spotted here. But there were plenty of things to look at - some good sized Wood Blewits which I wanted to pick, but Andy claims they are too woody for him. As I only had two paper bags, I left them where they were - these two were the size of a tea plate, about 7 inches in diameter.
The fun of mushroom hunting (and taking copious photos) isn't just about finding edibles, but finding out more about unknown types and trying to identify them later - such as these pretties, which I think are Grey Milkcaps. The clue is in the name, but I didn't know that until I got home. Next time I'll try breaking a cap to see if it leaks 'milk'.
These little fellows were hiding in the undergrowth, just a couple of inches tall - I hesitantly think they are some kind of Scalycap.
Joy of joys, we found another Penny Bun, or Cep. It was absolutely perfect; this is only the second one we have found and they are the best, so delicious!
It was growing very near where we found our first Penny Bun, last year, a tall chap with a fat head, easily identified.
A proud moment and a text book example. Although something had been nibbling at it, it was still a good size.
Last year we also found a Death Cap in one of our patches. It seems silly to say this about a toadstool, but they really do seem to have a sinister feel about them. This is last year's specimen -
And growing in the same area, this year's specimen - (even the other mushrooms and toadstools seemed to give it a wide berth, growing far away from it).
Here we also found several Shaggy Parasoles - these are darker brown ones and best when younger, before the caps get leathery. These can cause gastric upsets in some people, but we've eaten them before and our only problem has been wishing we'd picked more! Their gills start to turn pink when they are picked, which is a good way of double checking they are what you think they are.
As usual, Andy found Puffballs.
Did we find the copious Fly Agarics - or red ones with white spots as the dog lady called them? Oh yes! Lots, to my joy! Make way for fairy toadstools (but don't eat them: the fairies don't like it).
Personally I can't look at enough pictures of Fly Agarics, as you may have gathered. But, onwards and another great edible find; a Matt Bolete in very good condition - often the slugs have got at them and they are useless.
Further on, a near relation, the Red Cracking Bolete. My first wild mushroom at the tender age of 11 was one of these; I found it in the woods, identified it in my little book, double checked with mum and fried it myself. It was delicious and I became hooked on mushroom foraging. Even though this one was a bit nibbled, it was still good enough to gather.
One last mystery - this clump of oddly textured, gelatinous looking toadstools. Can't find them in my books or online.
If you look closer, you can see that they are bleeding a clear orange liquid. from the stems Most odd. I will not rest until I discover what they are.
We ended up with two bulging bags of various mushrooms, which was far more than I had anticipated.
The short afternoon was already closing in and it was not even three.
Time to head home.
One last delight, the jewel-like Spindleberry, my favourite wild shrub.
Once home with a pot of tea, everything was checked in our 'bible' - Roger Phillips 'Mushrooms'. Not only matching up pictures, but reading the descriptions, what they look like when cut, habitat - just to be absolutely sure, even though we were pretty certain of most of them. I fried them all up and we had them with bread, eggs and bacon.
As I am writing this several days on, we obviously survived.