An Edible Woodland Adventure: Fungi Foray!

For a very long time now, I have been wanting to go on a guided mushrooming walk.  One of my favorite things in the world is finding wild food.  I love being able to identify plants, and I have a keen eye for gleanable fruit and herbs on our family walks, wherever we may be.  But mushrooms are something you don’t just mess around with.  Sure, you could find something tasty.  Or, you could die.  I wasn’t even willing to give it a shot with a good book– I needed an expert if I was even going to try anything I found in the woods.

Experts, it turns out, can charge a whole lot of money to take you mushrooming.  I had looked up a bunch of guided walks, but it was going to be somewhere between £50 and £100 for the three of us.  I kept looking, and more urgently so as I realized that this is prime fungus season.  And then I found the Suffolk Wildlife Trust!  This is an awesome organization dedicated to not only preserving the beautiful lands on the many nature preserves in our area, but also developing education and recreational programs to help people learn about and enjoy their surroundings.  And guess what?  There was an afternoon Fungi Foray with a mycology expert on Sunday, for free!

All three of us were so excited, that it was hard for me not to get worried that our hopes for the event might be too high.  The preserve (Knettishall Heath) was just half an hour away from our home, and the day was dreamily foggy, but not too cold.

There was a group of about a dozen people, mostly a generation older than Jeff and me. Some were fungi enthusiasts, while others seemed to know as little as we did.  Although the outings was intended for families, there were only two children there, including Amelia.
This year was lousy for gardens, but it has apparently been very, very good for mushrooms!  Our expert told us that they did this last year, and only found four varieties, and three of them were growing on trees rather than on the ground. It took no time at all for us to find our first fungus: the Puffball Mushroom.

This one was very small, but they can actually get surprisingly large.  I saw one in a TV show that was about the size of a football!  These are pure white and kind of spongy inside, and although very edible, they’re still pretty bland.
Soon, we found the non-edible look-alike, the Earthball:

It looks the same on the outside, but when you cut it open, it’s full of dark grey spores, and smells of burnt rubber.

Most mushrooms had a distinct smell, and so we all did lots of sniffing.
Next up, someone found one of the more choice edibles in our area, the Bay Boletus:

The underside looks like sponge, instead of defined gills.  This one made it home with us!
It didn’t take long to find one of the scarier ‘shrooms,  Fly Agaric:

Pretty though, right?
Speaking of pretty, have you ever had purple mushrooms?  I had never seen these before: Amethyst Deceivers.  They are apparently very good for eating.

OK, so I’m not going to show you every single piece of fungus we found!  But here are some of the pictures I took as we tromped through forest and heathland.
Also, I really need to tell you that the land we covered was amazing, unlike anything I have ever seen before.  The forest was really like a fairytale forest, the ground covered in soft pine needles and tree bark, sprouting big sword ferns, and of course littered with colorful mushrooms.  The heath was mossy and covered with heather and more ferns.  You guys, we had to wait to go into that part because there were wild ponies chasing each other, galloping in circles in the picture on the lower right.  They finished their game and watched us through the trees in the forest, as we gathered more fungi.  It was an extremely pleasant 2.5 hours.
At the end of our foray, we put all of the mushrooms on the table for further identification and examination.  We had collected about 50 varieties!  Most of them were non-edible, but we did get some key pointers on good edibles we might find in the future.

Then we got the chilling lesson on Death Cap mushrooms.  The cap below has enough toxins to kill three adults. (We all shuddered. )

Unfortunately, this is one of the most common fungi in our forests.  On that sobering note, we all packed up and said our goodbyes.

We brought home a small Puffball, a Bay Bolete and Amethyst Deceivers for an omelette dinner that evening.

How very satisfying!  We will be looking for more fungi forays to join this month, taking advantage of the good mushroom weather.

Do you ever go mushroom foraging?  What other wild food is available in your area?

By the way, I’ll be posting some extra mushroom pictures on the And Here We Are Facebook page, if you’d like to see more!  Also, you can read about how this lesson paid off– we hit the jackpot in a beech forest just a week or so later.

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Fungi Foray! And Edible Woodland Adventure...(This post was shared at Mostly Homemade Mondays, Fat Tuesday, Friday Sustainable Living LinkupFill Those Jars Fridays, Fight Back Friday, Sunday School, Wildcrafting Wednesday,  Farm Girl Blog Fest, Party Wave Wednesday and Family Table Tuesdays.)

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33 Responses to An Edible Woodland Adventure: Fungi Foray!

  1. Kristen October 9, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    Mushrooms, magical forests and frolicking ponies?! Sounds so dreamy! I really enjoyed this post – thanks for sharing :) I’ve never hunted for mushrooms but I absolutely love to eat them. I bet the omelets were yummy.

    -Kristen

    • Ariana Mullins October 10, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

      Yes, Kristen, it was pretty dreamy! It is so nice that all three of us could enjoy the outing equally, and it was just so peaceful, too. (Sigh…) I am still timid about looking for mushrooms on my own, but I’ve never met one on a plate that I didn’t love.

    • Kristen October 11, 2012 at 6:17 pm #

      I would be timid too! Especially after that scary mushroom you learned about!

  2. Liene October 9, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

    It seems that every time I start getting a handle on the local mushrooms, we move :/ However, your idea to look into not-for-profits that do guided walks is excellent, I’ll have to check out our area!

    • Ariana Mullins October 10, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

      Yes, I’ll bet they have someone where you are. I’m sure there are some common ones between countries you can identify, but that’s also how some people get into trouble, unfortunately!

  3. Hazel October 10, 2012 at 5:53 am #

    I love foraging for food, but I tend to stick to flowers, fruits, nuts and greens. I have picked and eaten a melon-sized puffball, but other than that I’m very wary of mushrooms.
    In the UK I think most local Wildlife Trusts will offer those walks- have to confess I haven’t been on the one near us yet. I went on one organised by another group, but we found very little edible (although I got the impression the expert thought we were all going to go off poisoning ourselves if she identified anything tasty, so I think she may have down played the edibility of some!)

    The area you were hunting in looks beautiful- reminds me of the New Forest. That’s full of horses, cows and deer. And pigs!

    • Ariana Mullins October 10, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

      I think you are very smart to be wary of mushrooms in the wild. I mean, it’s not worth it to find something interesting to try, if it could cause liver failure, or wipe your family out! I would love to learn more, though, and just get comfortable with a few clearly identifiable mushrooms in my area. I have heard a lot of really nice things about New Forest– we will definitely have to check it out!

    • Hazel October 11, 2012 at 5:52 am #

      I mentioned to my mum that I’d love to be able to identify wild fungus and that we had what I was 99.9% sure was a shaggy ink cap in our garden. She sent me a newspaper cutting about a mushroom expert who gave his family permanent kidney failure.
      I’m sticking to puffballs!

    • Ariana Mullins October 11, 2012 at 8:59 am #

      Yikes!! That is exactly the sort of thing that I’m afraid of. How horrible. Yes, we heard lots of similar stories on our walk…

  4. Amanda October 10, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    Haha, I love how the guy giving the tour is wearing a mushroom shirt. Too cute.

    That forest does look like a fairytale landscape! Wild ponies?? Do those even exist? :)

    There are some very huge and scary-looking orange mushrooms growing in my apartment complex at the moment. I think the landscapers leave them there on purpose. They are quite impressive but I’m pretty sure they’re super poisonous. Gigantic, six or eight inches wide, bright, flat, orangey-red caps and white stalks?

    • Ariana Mullins October 10, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

      Amanda, about the T-shirt, I know… I couldn’t help whispering to Jeff right away that he looked like a really “fun guy.” Har har.

      Yes, wild ponies exist! They are beautiful! It was ridiculously fairy-tale like, I think I need to go back there and check that it was real.

      And those mushrooms do sound like some kind of Agaric fungus– you might look that up and see if it’s a match.

  5. designgratis October 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

    What a very cool thing to do! Alas I live in London, so I wont be embarking on any mushroom walks…unless this goes ahead! – http://www.architizer.com/en_us/blog/dyn/54821/fletcher-priest-architects-wins-london-high-line-competition/

    • Ariana Mullins October 11, 2012 at 9:01 am #

      Oh, what a cool project!! Thanks for sharing the article, I’m reposting on my FB page.

  6. Scott Kustes October 11, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    Hey Ariana,
    Foraging for food sounds super cool. I met some people in Fairbanks that spend a weekend with their friends foraging for mushrooms and end up with about $300 worth of fungus…which is A LOT of mushrooms. Sounds pretty lucrative if you know what you’re doing.

    Funny enough, I was asked to review a mushroom foraging app for the iPhone/Android. If you’re wanting to get more into it, this might be helpful. http://www.realfooduniversity.com/iphone-app-mushrooms-pro/

    Cheers
    Scott
    Real Food University

    • Ariana Mullins October 14, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

      Thanks, Scott! I checked it out, and it looks promising! Today on a visit to a farm, I am awfully sure that I found a whole bunch of edible boletes… But we didn’t take any home. There were SO many, and I knew probably no one else would take them, either… But I’m still a little timid about possibly poisoning my family. :)

  7. Kathy Shea Mormino November 5, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

    Hello! I’m stopping in to invite you to join us at the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week!
    http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/11/clever-chicks-blog-hop-7-country-craft.html

    I hope to see you there!
    Cheers!
    Kathy
    The Chicken Chick

  8. folkhaven November 8, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this experience and linking it up. I so enjoyed reading about your adventure. It sounds like such a memory making day. How cool to be able to eat mushrooms you gathered yourself and without worry because you did so with an expert!

  9. Aubrey @ Homegrown and Healthy November 27, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

    I can’t wait to start foraging mushrooms! Not dying would be a pleasant bonus, as would not spending a fortune. I’m thinking about buying a mushroom growing kit so we can avoid those two unfortunate setbacks.

  10. Jasanna Czellar December 12, 2012 at 1:22 am #

    I’ve been wanting to do this for any wild edibles, but your mushroom foray looks like so much fun! I’m in Iowa, in the US, and there’s not much offered around here, but maybe I’m not looking in the right places..

  11. The Mini Mes and Me January 19, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    A lovely fun yet educational trip! Scary to think that one mushroom can kill 3 adults – eek! x

  12. Sarahmumof3 January 19, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

    wow what a lovely trip so many beautiful mushrooms!

  13. Coombe Mill January 20, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

    What a wonderful post. I remember mushroom picking as a child with my Dad, but much as I love the idea I wouldn’t have the confidence now to distinguish mushroom from toadstool. An organised trip like this looks perfect and I bet they were delicious!Thank you for sharing on Country Kids

  14. Leyla Brooke January 22, 2013 at 12:29 am #

    What a great thing to do

    Thisdayilove

  15. lifeloveandlivingwithboys January 22, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    That sounds really interesting and I wouldn’t trust myself going from a book so this is a brilliant idea and looks like a fun afternoon out. (popping over from Country Kids)

  16. Damson Lane January 24, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

    Now that I know that the most poisonous mushroom is one of the most common I won’t be going foraging without an expert eye! The variety of mushrooms you found is amazing. Just popping over from Country Kids x

  17. Emma wright March 3, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

    what a great idea, so glad you enjoyed it x

  18. Andi Houston March 25, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    I am amazed and awed that we have several of the same mushrooms here in Gainesville, Florida that you have there. Those tiny mushrooms that looks like cups with pebbles in them? My herb garden was covered in those in November.

    The world is an amazing place.

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