Autumn is the optimal time to go foraging for mushrooms as this is when there is the largest overlap of growing seasons. Weather can play a big part however. If we are unfortunate to have a cooler, wetter summer then you may find species popping up a month early, but if there is a dry start to the autumn then there may be a delay, but as long as you know this then you should be ok. There are around 15,000 varieties of fungi in the UK so it can be a daunting yet rewarding challenge to successfully find and identify different species for the kitchen. As you all know there are many poisonous specimens so the absolute best place to start would be to purchase a field guide; actually it is recommended that you purchase more than one to ensure you have a comprehensive reference. It is also recommended (if you plan on doing this yearly) to keep a diary of when, where and what as mushrooms tend to grow in the same places each year.
Because of the risks involved it is recommended that you start small by sticking to the common species that are easy to identify; if you know somebody who can impart their knowledge, that would be ideal. There are actually commercial courses you can attend that will teach you everything you need to know and there are even some local foraging groups about if you know where to look. If there is nothing like this near you then just make sure you don’t get too ambitious; walk slowly, remembering that when you find and identify an edible mushroom that their will more than likely be more nearby. Avoid any young and especially old mushrooms as these can make you ill, and it is also not advisable to forage in any built up or polluted areas as fungi can absorb lots of nasties, so play it safe and stick to the woods!
You should always have a good field guide with you, and if you’re not quite sure of the species you can still always pick it to examine more closely when you get home; exercise caution though by keeping these varieties separated from your identified ones. When you return home you should double check your yield against an additional guide as some books may shed different details which could be crucial to a correct identification. If you are trying a new species for the first time, even if you are 100% sure, you may want to keep a specimen aside just in case you need hospital treatment.
There are a few legal issues that apply to foraging for mushrooms, the first being trespassing; some mushroom hotspots may be on private land and while you probably won’t face any problems with this you should still be aware, heeding any request to vacate the land by the landowner. While you may get asked to leave, any mushrooms you have picked however, belong to you and cannot be taken by the landowner. If however you are found to have a commercial or profiting agenda then this will become illegal.
The possession of certain species of mushroom is illegal of course and you can be prosecuted, so you may find it useful to perhaps familiarize yourself with these varieties. Collectively known as magic mushrooms, they are considered a class A drug and if taken can lead to hallucination and even death. Perhaps the most infamous of these is the Amanita Muscaria (aka Fly Agaric) which is a vision of the fairy tale toadstool you will have seen in countless films, paintings, games and books. It was apparently put into milk as a deterrent for flies.
We did have lots of fun hunting for mushrooms, but we cannot confirm nor deny whether the mushrooms featured are actually edible; although we’re fairly certain that the mushroom in the last image is NOT edible. If mushroom hunting is not for you then perhaps you can just play it safe with our resin mushroom ornaments instead!
It sounds a bit scary doesn’t it? Don’t let that put you off though, as there are some truly tasty treats out there in the wild that are begging to be cooked into a delicious supper. Have fun! Here are just a few more mushrooms/fungi we found.
Thanks for reading.
Love Monty x