The Great Mushroom Hunt 2011

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!

Penny Bun 2011

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.

Penny Bun 2010

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 -

Death Cap 2010

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).

Death Cap 2011

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.


tlchang said...

Glad you *did* survive. :-) I so love mushroom hunting - it's fascinating seeing the varieties you're stumbling upon there. Some the same, or similar, and some entirely new and mysterious from the ones I've seen here.

Hope your felting fingers are surviving!


Charlotte said...

If you are ever able to, get yourself to Scandanavia: Chanterelles pepper the floor of the forests like little golden cups; We have had some gorgeous breakfasts of canterellii.

What a wonderful haul and the Cotswold woods look glorious this time of year.

Anonymous said...

Few things I like more than photographing mushrooms :) The spindle was a nice bonus - I haven't seen one for a long time. I must also compliment your handwarmers; I have a very similar pair - we must have used the same wool :D

Dartford Warbler said...

I love your mushroom photographs. The Red Agarics are doing well in our woods too.

Trailshome said...

What a wonderful bounty! It made my mouth water just looking at the pictures. We never find so many different edible kinds. There are a few good ones, but most inedibles. Still, they're an excuse to walk in the woods, and we occasionally get rewarded with a generous haul of good ones. Thanks again for sharing that wonderful experience with us.

Frances said...

Gretel, I'd been hoping that you all would find time for a mushroom gathering and observing walk. It surely looks as if this 2011 afternoon was exceptionally fruitful, if a mushroom hunt can be fruitful.

All those close up photos are so good, allowing ignorant viewers like me to actually see how a particular mushroom's name is a perfect fit.

The November 21 issue of The New Yorker magazine is designated its Food issue. There are lots of interesting articles, including The Food at Our Feet, by Jane Kramer about foraging around Europe and Ringo's Gold by Louise Erdrich about ... mushrooms.

Perhaps you'll be able to access these on line. I think you'd like this issue's other articles, too. xo

Nancy said...

Oh thank you for the Mushroom hunt photos. How wonderful When younger I would tramp through all sorts of woods looking for anything. Our family weren't mushroom eaters so I grew up avoiding them except to enjoy their forms, textures and colors. Today is a rainy day here in Austin (at last!) so I'm wondering if we will find any in our yard. Sometimes we do but nothing so exotic as what you have found. Thank you!

Made.by.Fay said...

Oooo! I love the "red ones with white spots!" Thank you for sharing your afternoon adventure. Hope your dinner was lovely.

rachel said...

Well that's a relief. I don't know how you dare - I'm so scared of 'real' mushrooms that I just couldn't eat them. Silly, I know, but....

carol said...

I've never dared eat any of the mushrooms collected on our mushroom hunts. When the children were little we used to get up early and head to the woods to collect funghi, then we'd come home and make spore prints.

Claire said...

hey Gretel, I am amazed at the variety of mushrooms you found on your outing.

My mouth was watering at the thought of them cooked up with bacon and eggs and bread to mop up the juices. It really doesn't get any better, me thinks.........

I'm sure you would've felt revitalised and your creativity replenished after an outing to the woods. That first photo is stunning and I bet the pic doesn't really do it justice either.

I have been out picking berries this morning they are fruiting their heads off after3 inches of rain since Friday.

Want to swap mushrooms for berries? Yum.......

Claire :]

Twiglet said...

Beautiful photos Gretel. We used to pick field mushrooms as a child but I wouldn't risk eating anything without the knowledge of an expert like yourself these days. x Jo

Anonymous said...

I content myself with taking photos - unless I had an expert with me, I wouldn't be brave enough to pick them!

Acornmoon said...

Those Fly Agarics are very Gretel and will no doubt feature in many a new needle felted creation.

Well done you for creating so many lovelies for your shop, flying off the shelves too!

BumbleVee said...

Oh, whew....I was a tad worried ...I know I'd be too 'fraidy cat to give 'em a try.

But, what fun just trying to identify them and finding them.... that I would like to do...and the photos.... absolutely amazing.

Tonia said...

Blimey: am going to have to gather up my courage and try mushroom foraging for myself one day! A friend of mine found giant puffballs last year and passed one on to me. Delicious fried in butter with thyme and then eaten with toast.
Ooh hungry now!

Gemma Mortlock said...

wow im amazed you go girl! I have always wanted to forage fpr mushroom but always been too scared ill drop down dead instantly coz i picked a bad one.
You have such a variety on your doorstep..i hopw they tasted as good as they look :)

Janet Metzger, Artist said...

And happy I am that you have survived
So have you needlefelted one of those spotted specimens yet??

Lovely mushroom tutorial...thank you and I enjoyed the misty stroll through your woods.

Janet xox

Soozcat said...

I love fly agarics. Have you ever seen the yellow-capped variety?

Smiled over this description of the fly agaric, from Fischer & Bessette's Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America (from the "Mushroom Poisoning" section):

"This is the North American equivalent of the vision-inducing Fly Agaric of Siberia. Our varieties, however, are more poisonous than hallucinogenic. They typically cause delirium and profuse sweating, sometimes accompanied by violent muscle spasms instead of the psychedelic visions some experimenters expect. While there have been some reports that some North American specimens have induced altered depth perception and a craving for intense physical activity, typically followed by a very deep sleep (with or without visions), in others these effects were consistently accompanied by the universally undesirable ones. Nausea and vomiting are also a frequent part of this "magical" experience.

We strongly urge adventurous mushroom hunters who may be looking for a mood-altering fungal experience to try the Golden Chanterelle -- with a nice white wine."

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous fungi! I remember the first time I had some fried puff ball - so delicious. I have never seen a spindleberry - would love to.