All about mushrooms

On Sunday it rained. And rained. And rained. And in the afternoon, it cleared. The fungi season has come late upon us, due to a prolonged dry spell. We were keen to see if recent wet weather had persuaded any mushrooms or fungi to sprout. There were some, but not as many as we are used to. and mostly of the 'dull' beige-brown variety which blend in with the fallen leaves.
We did discover a new, prolific corner of the woods, which was crammed with goodies. To his delight, Andy found a 'Penny Bun'. If you watch Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Valentine Warner and the rest of our lovely hunter-gathering TV chefs, you might believe that all you have to do is walk into a field and Boletus/Chicken of the Woods/Truffles/Morels/Chanterelles will be growing in abundance, conveniently within camera shot and almost leap-frogging into your picturesque basket. Sadly, despite many years of fungi hunting, I have yet to find such happy hunting grounds, and this is the very first we have found, anywhere. See the little knife? It belonged to Andy's grandfather. We always cut the stalks, to avoid pulling up the root system. Remember this knife; it makes another appearance, later on.
This part of the woods proved to be a treasure trove. It was also Someone Else's pet puffball patch; there were white cut stumps, evidencing another fungi gatherer. We found plenty of others.
I was particularly interested in a colony of what looked like Shaggy Parasoles, but were browner than any I had ever seen. I didn't trust my judgement enough to pick any.
Bliss it is to shuffle through autumn leaves, ducking under branches, hunting for mushrooms to photograph or pick. It got dark all too soon, but we were partly compensated by a lovely sunset. We headed home with our foragings.
Supper was rather inevitable, with homemade bread. Earthy tasting goodness.
Today I found myself in the woods again, and being on my own, did a little 'off pisting'. I pretty much know where things grow along the footpaths, and was looking for new spots. I dived into the undergrowth, following deer paths.

At once I found some wood blewits, already feasted on by some woodland creature, but there were enough for me to gather.

Back to the new puffball patch. Sure enough, since our last visit, more had popped up.
Some had gone over; only ever eat the white fruit bodies- if the interior is anything other than pristine white, discard. I learnt this the hard way when I was eleven and gave myself a very nasty upset stomach, eating a slightly yellowing specimen. This one is already at the 'puff' stage, exploding to let loose powdery spores.
I revisited my 'are-they-aren't-they' possible shaggy parasoles. They had grown pretty fast and were looking more familiar. Here they are, on Sunday -
And today -
I picked one close by that I was sure was 'right'.
Looking at this fallen one, it has all the characteristics of a shaggy parasole. But I would need to get home to double check.
Further on I found a wonderful city of fresh Birch Polypores, or 'razor strops'. They are inedible, but look so pretty growing together. My fungi bible, '
Mushrooms' by Roger Phillips, records that Otzi, the 'Iceman' mummy found in the Alps, was carrying some, possibly for antibiotic use.
Now I wanted to see how the large fly agaric that we had found on Sunday was faring. First of all I located its baby brother. The other day it had looked like this;
Today it was missing most of it's white spots, but had survived fairly well.

Cheek by jowl were also growing wood blewits (top left corner) puffballs, (centre right) and there is our rotting agaric friend lying in the leaf mould (bottom right corner). A little more cropping to be done.
Reaching in my pocket for the knife I found - nothing. Well, my gloves, my mobile, assorted bags and various other gubbins, but no knife. Oh, how many times had I nagged poor Andy about looking after his Grandfather's knife, and '
give it to me or you'll lose it'...

With my heart beating faster I followed my route back to the last place I might have left it - the maybe-parasol patch. Did I carelessly put it down while I was taking shots of them?
Yes, I had. Oh happy day! There it was, blending in rather too well with the woodland floor. Can you see it? Look closer...
I felt a huge wave of relief at not losing a precious family heirloom (and not mine either). Back it went to the safety of my pocket.
I retraced my steps again, harvested a few Blewits and puffballs, and found the large Fly Agaric Andy had found on Sunday. Then it looked like this -
Today it is decaying beautifully; the red skin must be particularly delicious to slugs, although the whole thing is, of course, poisonous to humans.
I returned across the fields to my bike, pondering that I was sure I had found parasoles along the edge here before, and sure enough, as if prompted - can you spot them?
The little darlings. And their big brother growing in splendid solitude nearby;
Out came the nearly-lost knife and into my bag they went. A good haul.
Back at the cottage, I checked my bible, and confirmed that I had indeed picked two types of Parasole Mushrooms. The flesh turns pinky red when it is cut or bruised and the not-quite-sure one with the browner cap was already blushing. I cannot emphasise enough that you should check, check and check again when identifying mushrooms to eat. I always do, even though this has been my hobby since I was 10. I will eat nothing if in doubt; use a guide to see early fruiting stages, read about the habitat, whether it is rare, what it can be confused with. Google image search is a very good way of seeing various specimens and finding useful websites.
I am pleased to relate that the blewits, puffballs and parasoles provided an excellent lunch, with no side effects.


tlchang said...

Ah, wonderful! There is no better 'treasure hunt' than to search for mushrooms. Always seems magical (and delicious!) to me.

Anonymous said...

A super post - I could almost smell mushrooms cooking gently in butter!!

Frances Tyrrell said...

Intrepid mushroom hunter! What do puffballs taste like? I am such a child of suburbia that it feels adventurous to eat fruit from my own garden.
Isn't there a book idea stirring in all those pretty mushrooms?

Twiglet said...

A brilliant blog - we used to pick field mushrooms when we were children. I would never dare now just in case I picked a "baddie"!
Griselda is wonderful.

rachel said...

Well, what an exciting walk in the woods, and with no risk whatsoever to the reader! I'm relieved you found the precious knife too.

PussDaddy said...

I would ask WearTheFox you find mushrooms Hat, but we actually have them here too.


Unknown said...

Thanks for the excellent fungus foray! I think I need a copy of that book - it looks really helpful. I've been photographing fungi but not picking any, so far!

d. moll, l.ac. said...

I got so nervous when you lost the knife.....we are hoping for some Chanterelles or even Black Morelles after the promised precipitation.

Jackie said...

I wouldn't dare..but I wish I could.
I think you've invented a new game..spot the knife..I couldn't.

Frances Tyrrell said...

Mushrooms and toadstools - it's been tickling my memory all day - Beatrix Potter's The Fairy Caravan, the chapter in which Paddy the Pig discovers delicious but dangerous tartlets (toadstools) in the bluebell woods.
One of my favorite books, and now I have seen the tartlets in your post!

Frances said...

Well done, I am so impressed by your knowlege of the mushroom world! Well done also on recovering that precious little knife. It is a beauty.

I love your writing about visiting familiar spots to check on various mushroom families, so to speak.

Best wishes. xo

crazyjane said...

Oh what a wonderful post, I love fungi, but have not a clue. I've got some photos , from today walk on my blog, of some fungi, but I havn't a clue what they are, maybe you could identify them?

fabulous photos as always

tut-tut said...

weren't you lucky to find that Waldo of a knife!

Pen Wilcock said...

I have so enjoyed reading this post! In one period of my life we used to walk our dogs on a golf course, and found puff balls growing there. It was very funny beg=cause they looked so like golf balls!

Jess said...

Gretel, I admire your fungussy knowledge! I wouldn't feel safe picking one and eating it, preferring my greengrocer to do the safe choosiing for me. I need a Pocket Gretel to take with me when I'm next in the woods!xx

Suze said...

Phew!! I can imagine how your heart sank when you discovered there was no knife! I'm so glad you found such a precious item.
I enjoyed my fungi walk with you, if only through your wonderful photos...I wouldn't have clue about which were safe or not, but know I'm in safe hands here....and I'm making mushroom and onion marmalade tarts for tea tonight. So, perfect timing.

Caroline B said...

I envy you your knowledge - I wouldn't trust myself not to pick & eat something lethal! You were so lucky to find that camouflaged knife!
That last photo is gorgeous, very ethereal!

Acornmoon said...

I like the idea of cooking fungi but I would not trust my own judgement. I wonder if you have been watching Autumn Watch on the telly? They have just done a feature on this very topic.

By a strange coincidence the word verification that I am being asked for is spells toxical.

Sarah said...

yum yum yum...I adore autumn and fungus foraying! Lovely post G

Rowan said...

What a brilliant and interesting post! I'm too nervous to pick fungi, I just don't know enough about them. I do enjoy looking for them when I'm out walking though. They don't seem to be as prolific in my area as they sometimes are, I've only seen one single fly agaric in the woods up to now. I'm so glad you managed to retrieve that beautiful knife, it certainly blended well into the dead leaves.

Nan and =^..^= said...

How wonderful to experience mushroom hunting with you...I was so captivated by it and so very glad you found Andy's knife!...it blended in perfectly! Maybe it needs a little band of a bright ribbon tied around it in case such a thing should happen again!

moonandhare said...

I didn't know you could eat puffballs--always thought they were poisonous. As a child, I loved jumping up and down on them.

janicebotterill said...

have been capturing some mushrooms myself over at projectforty. Am too scared to actually chop them up and eat them - would have no clue in relation to poisonousness. Bet they're delicious though...

Anonymous said...

Yummy yummy! Freshly picked mushrooms and they taste even better when they're free and foraged by your own efforts.

We are very partial to harvesting mussels at low tide, and gently cooking them in garlic and butter. Another good reason to get moved closer to the sea!

Great photos, as ever.

Elizabeth Rhiannon said...

You're pictures are always amazing. You have such a good eye, have you ever considered taking some just to sell, they're great! And so many varieties of mushrooms! Something I never thought about. Stay well :)

Soozcat said...

Oh, the strain of hobbit in my blood is craving to join you in a feast of mushrooms. They look so good.

Alina said...

I love your photos and comments. I always have had a "thing" for mushrooms:)they make me imagine all kind of wonderful fairy games!

auntpearl said...

Oh my that is hard work. I can just imagine me picking the wrong one...I will leave it up to experts like you.
Hope everything is going well.

carolyn said...

it's raining here right now, there are lots of funghi in the orchard and I really do fancy mushroom on toast but I just daren't risk it not even with the aid of several books I've purchased over the years.

Yarrow said...

Wonderful, yummy mushrooms :)

There's an award for you on my blog, if you get the chance, that is :)