It’s autumn, and that means that our Facebook and Twitter pages are inundated with all of the fabulous fungi that you’ve been foraging for. Chris Wood from the Friends of Oakley Wood group guides us through some of the edible mushrooms that can be found in Oakley Wood, near Leamington. This post originally appeared on the Friends of Oakley Wood website.
At the end of the post Chris gives a health warning about the dangers of not knowing what you’re doing when foraging for mushrooms. Please take note of this, especially is you’re aiming to eat them. As Chris says, if you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do it at all.
It’s a disappointing autumn for mushrooms in the wood. The exceptionally dry September (and before) means that the ground is bone-dry, and that’s not great for most mushrooms which, like ourselves, are mostly water. Mushrooms have also been the losers in recent years – some of the best areas were destroyed by the thinning operations and others have become overgrown with brambles.
There are some around however.
The most common mushroom in the wood is probably the Common Yellow Russula and these can often be seen on the path edges. Stinkhorns are also quite common at this time of the year; they live up to their name – they do smell disgusting and their latin binomial, Phallus impudicus, gives a good idea what they look like!
While it would be nice to identify all the mushrooms you come across (I certainly can’t), my real interest is in ones you can eat. Sadly, the very best edible mushrooms don’t occur in Oakley Wood. False Chanterelle are quite common, but the real ones aren’t to be found. The king of mushrooms, the Penny Bun (aka Cep or Porcini), is also missing from the wood. However, there are still some that are worth eating.
The Shaggy Parasol (Chlorophyllum rhacodes) can be found in the wood. To many people it probably looks like an archetypical “toadstool” and not something to be eaten, particularly after seeing that when you cut it, it stains red! However, it is good to eat and remains firm when cooked. Apparently some people can have stomach upsets from it, so if trying it for the first time, just have a small piece (good advice for any new mushroom). I’ve fed it to a number of people with no adverse reaction.
You can also find Wood Blewits (Lepista nuda). These are quite distinctive looking mushrooms—tan/brown on the cap and lilac gills and stem, and have a distinct perfumed/fruity smell.
There are some boletes to be found – relatives of the Penny Bun. I’ve found the occasional Bay Bolete and Red-Cracked (or Red-Cracking) Bolete. Both are edible, the Bay Bolete the better. The Red-Cracked Bolete goes mushy when cooked and is only really suitable for drying and used in sauces. Boletes are different from most mushrooms in that they have pores rather than radial gills under the cap. This makes them look a bit like a sponge. Both of these boletes have the rather alarming feature of their pores turning blue when bruised!
I think drying is the best way of using any of these mushrooms. The process intensifies the flavour and they keep for years.
And this is what it’s all about: a mushroom sauce I made for steak last week – from a dried mixture of Shaggy Parasol, Bay Bolete, Wood Blewit and Oyster. Yummy!
I’m sure everyone is aware of the potential dangers of eating wild mushrooms. If you’re not certain you know what you’re doing, don’t. Even if you do, a good piece of advice is to keep back a sample of what you’re eating, just in case. Then if you’ve made a mistake hopefully someone can identify what is really was! But there is so much information and photos out their on the internet, so use it.
Many thanks to Chris for allowing us to re-blog this post. Make sure that you keep an eye on our What’s On page and the Friends of Oakley Wood website for events at Oakley; images from the latest fungi foray held there can be found here.