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PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 2:39 am    Post subject: Fungi Reply with quote

"Hurry-up Ian." Ruth is urging me outside. "Don't forget the carrier bag." I am putting my wellies on as quickly as I can. Ruth is very spontaneous and can get a bit impatient when she gets a notion. She is visiting us for a few days and has recently been on a "Fungi Spotting" course. So we have planned a forage in the local woods to provide some tasty treats for dinner. I follow her outside and into the crisp autumnal day. It is dry and sunny- perfect conditions for mushroom picking. As we walk down the muddy path into the woods, a rich earthy smell greets us. The decomposing leaves underfoot are shades of yellows and brown and there is a beauty in the decaying year.

"So how do you know which ones to eat?" I ask her as I attempt to keep up.

"I don't know them all," she replies, "but this guy took us out every Sunday morning for a month and we had great fun gathering the mushrooms and frying them up for lunch."

She stops and kneels down by a clump of trees. "These ones are tasty," she hands me a white, fluffy puffball for the bag."

"Where is the best place to find wild fungi?" I ask carefully placing the small white ball into the bag.

"There are a lot of edible types growing near beech trees and pine trees". Ruth answers. "Most natural woodland has a good selection of fungi if you know where to look."

"What mushrooms will we find round here?"

"Let us see what we find. Don't worry" she says as she looks at my face. Visions of being rushed to Letterkenny with an acute case of poisoning must be showing on my face. "I will only pick the ones I know."

We tramp on through glade. "Which ones taste good?" I ask her. "Well, " she replies "I love the taste of the hedgehog fungus, they have white spikes sticking out of the base. Then there are Chantelles, which are funnel shaped and orange. They have a lovely hot taste. Here's another one that is quite common". Ruth picks up a tiny brown mushroom "This one is an amethyst deceiver, it is delicious fried up on its own and eaten with wholewheat bread and a slice of wild smoked salmon." We add a couple to the bag. "There are other ones like the horn of plenty, but unlike the name, you don't see them very often, it's a treat when you do".

"Ooh" Ruth stops abruptly, and pounces on another treasure. She hands me a white mushroom that looks like one of Mr Spock's ears. "That's an oyster mushroom, it's delicious fried up." In the bag it goes.

Ruth pulls a pair of blue surgical gloves out of her pocket; I am a bit concerned "What are they for?

"I always carry these around when I'm picking fungi. There was a woman in Rathmullan who picked some hallucinogenic mushrooms by mistake and ended up in a right state, not because she ate them but because the chemicals were absorbed through the skin on her fingers. You can never be too careful, especially if you have children with you, they should wear gloves too".

We are heading back up to the house ready to start cooking tea. "Do you think more people will turn to the woodlands to feed themselves with the credit crunch going on".

"I don't know" Ruth replies, "Hand picking mushroom has always been popular for people with an interest". Their distinctive flavours are heightened by the thrill of collecting them.... and they are free. The current trend for foraging is not a threat to the future of fungi. But trampling and the picking of rare species is. The increasingly lucrative nature of fungi, sought after by top restaurants which pay up to €120 a kilo, increases the pressure. In China, there are more than 10 million people working in the fungi industry. Shiitake and oyster mushrooms, two of their major crops, have become relatively common in the UK and Irish supermarkets and delicatessens..."

We walk in through the back door, take off our boots and spill the contents of the bag onto the kitchen table. There are some good, bad and very ugly ones to choose from. " Here are chanterelles, boletes, wood hedgehogs, puffballs and the beautiful amethyst deceivers" Ruth points out the ones she knows. "I think these are boletus "I'll get my book, it's sometimes as important to know what not to eat as well as what to eat" Ruth had a reference book for identyfying edible species. "I wouldn't be without this book". She says showing me the compact, fit in the pocket edition of the Collins Mushrooms and Toadstools of Britain and Europe book. "Even experts get it wrong sometimes and I don't want to be giving you a dicky tummy."

"Is it worth the risk?" I ask as I get the frying pan out.

Ruth gets on a favourite soap box and starts a diatribe of the endemic health and safety culture. "Don't get me started, " she starts. "There are risks in all walks of life but if we practice personal resposibility and take the rnecessary precautions, we'll be fine. The current health and safety stuff makes me so mad, Do you know that traditional Christmas puddings are to go on sale with sixpence coins attached separately because they are a choking hazard. Children at a primary school have been banned from making daisy chains in case they pick up germs from the flowers. Handstands, tag, conkers, yo-yos and even skipping and running have been banned in schools in England. A district council felled a line of conker trees to stop youngsters injuring themselves. A union-produced guide advised work managers not to put up any mistletoe in case it encouraged sexual harassment at office parties. Oh and don't have balloons at the party in case it sets off a latex allergy....".

"Yes Ruth, shall I get the salt and pepper?"

Ruth's tips for delicious wild mushrooms
· Cut them from the base, don't pull them up as they wont re-grow.
· Don't peel them. The nutrition is in the skin.
· Don't wash them. They absorb water.
· Add them to any dish or fry them up on their own. If you are new to the taste try making chicken volevonts.
· Never pick or taste anything that you are not 100% sure of.



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PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 6:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is interesting.

We moved recently to a cottage amid neglected trees. The driveway is sunken and lind with trees and there are so many kinds of fungus.

One we identified as the horn of plenty; dramatic looking thing. Others we are less sure of - but we have made the decision not to eat any of them. Better careful than poisoned:)

And they can be very hard to identify. One that is very common is slimy to touch and repulsive. yukk
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