It wouldn’t be too bold to suggest that the main lure into the mystical world of mycology for many is the promise of finding something tasty to eat. However, my own reckoning is that a large proportion of would-be wild food gourmands soon move on to pastures new after discovering that the number of commonly found fungi that are actually edible, readily identifiable or even particularly tasty is relatively low.
Moreover, as those who do know what they are looking for soon discover, you have to get out there pretty early and possess particularly keen eyes to stay ahead of the competition - be this from the new generation of food-for-free fanatics whose heads have been turned ground-wards over the past decade or so by TV foragers such as Ray Mears or Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, or from those members of the woodland ecosystem more reliant on the fruits of the forest, such as squirrels, slugs, grubs, bugs and, yes, even other fungi. Read more...
Some years back, the blog talked about a 5000 year old ‘mummy’ - called Otzi. Otzi was a Neolithic man, and was found frozen, high in the mountains between Austria and Italy. Careful examination of his body, clothing and possessions gives us some insights into his daily life and diet. Otzi and, we presume, his contemporaries made good use of the plants and natural materials around them. Thus,
- His bow was made from Yew
- Ash provided his dagger handle
- Woven grass and bast for his cloak (bast is made from the fibres of the linden tree)
- goats hide for his leggings and jerkin,
- bear skin for his cap
- deer skin for shoes
- arrows from a wayfaring tree and dogwood
Members of the kingdom of the fungi can essentially be divided into the two basic categories of basidiomycetes and ascomycetes. The basidiomycetes form and release their spores on specialised cells called basidia, which can be found on the underside gills of our more familiar mushroom and toadstool-shaped types, or within the pores of boletes and brackets and suchlike.
Ascomycetes, however, produce their spores in the elongated cells known as asci that cover their spore releasing surface. Each individual ascus can contain usually around 8 spores, like snooker balls in a sock, which then get released out of the end when ready: the word is derived from the Greek for wineskin or sac. Typically we might think of cup fungi, such as the various members of the Peziza genus, like the Blistered Cup (Peziza vesiculosa) depicted here, whose favoured substrates of well-rotted manure or compost heaps lends has led to its alternate common name of the Common Dung Cup. Read more...
After last month’s epic two-parter on the Elder Whitewash fungus, I’m reining in my focus to something more traditionally mushroom-looking this month. The recent combination of generally warmer temperatures coupled with the odd cooling cloudburst and resulting humidity has prompted the appearance of a number of mushroom sproutings in recent weeks, and one of my recent sightings has been the Deer Shield Mushroom (Pluteus Cervinus), which Roger Phillips’ Mushrooms and other Fungi of Great Britain & Europe says can be found from “early summer to late autumn, but also sporadically throughout the year.” I found specimens of this elegant looking species from October to mid-December last year and early May this year, so they are pretty prevalent throughout the seasons. Read more...
In the last post [see related posts to the side], I broadly introduced the Elder Whitewash as an example of a resupinate crust fungus that is typically found growing on elder. At first glance, this particular species might not seem the most obvious candidate from these regular Monthly Mushroom posts to be split into a one-off two-part focus, save for the fact that is so regularly seen yet little remarked upon.
No doubt we’ve all seen it and probably passed it by. Hugill and Lucas in The Resupinates of Hampshire (2019 edition) describe it as “surface rough, waxy when fresh, somewhat fissured when dry. Pure white to greyish white. Very common.” Michael Jordan in The Encyclopedia of Fungi of Britain and Europe writes of its “white, chalky fruiting body tightly attached to substrate, looking like matt emulsion paint or distemper… resupinate with irregular margin, the hymenial (upper) surface having a chalky consistency.” Read more...
They are among the first of our trees to burst into leaf, and any moment now they should be yielding up their perfumed blossoms for cordials, champagnes, fritters or whatever your fancy is. There are those, however, who believe our native Black Elder, Sambucus nigra, to be something of a mixed blessing, best confined to the hedgerow rather than the woodlands. Fast growing, spindly and brittle branched, they spring up in unsightly shrub-like tangles in those nitrogen-loaded hotspots left uncolonised by more majestic species. The featured image is the Elder Whitewash - a crust fungus regularly found on elder .
As John Lewis-Stempel poetically writes in The Wood: The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood (2018), Read more...
These monthly posts have endeavoured, as much as possible, to focus on a particular mushroom, toadstool or other fungal organism of interest that might be in season around the time they appear online. This means we have now reached a potentially tricky time of year. “March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb”, as the saying goes.
A few weeks ago, when it was still cold and wet, I had considered looking at a number of jelly fungi that I was still finding oozing from damp stumps and fallen trunks, or maybe one of the brackets still hanging on from Winter. Then after the incongruously meekly-named Storm Kevin brought a hail of dead twigs and branches down to ground level for closer inspection, I thought about zooming in to meditate more fully on some of the resupinate crust fungi that I found attached to them. Read more...
There are not many signs of mushrooms about at the moment, as we transition to a time of emergent Spring greens and Monty Don back on telly. Resupinates continue to flourish in the dank places beneath logs, while the remnants of certain brackets persist on trunks and stumps. Nevertheless, aside from a few notable exceptions, like St. George’s Mushrooms or Morels, there won’t be many of the more obviously mushroom-shaped fungi around over the coming few months.