Posted 22nd Nov 2013
...Look out for a mushroom surprise! That's right it's mushroom season and to find out more about the many fascinating fungi varieties, LandLove's Natalie Mason headed out foraging with mushroom expert and Shropshire Wildlife Trust Development Manager, John Hughes
Though we're coming to the end of mushroom season there's still a lot about, but it's tough to know what you're looking for, and most importantly what's safe to eat, without expert knowledge. We met up with keen mushroom forager John Hughes to sweep Weston Park's Temple Wood for the last crop of fungi.
There are around 4,000 species of fungi in the UK, with only 200 known to be edible, though not all taste good. Drawn to mushrooms from a lifelong interest in botany, John has studied and foraged for mushrooms for over 30 years, though recommends several years of study before foraging for mushrooms alone. With guided walks on offer throughout the season from the likes of The Wildlife Trusts and Weston Park, it is always best to go with an expert in the know.
After setting off into the woodland it didn't take us long to find our first delicious mushroom, a cloud cap - aptly named for its colour rather like a cloudy sky (pictured left).
"There are lots of ways to help identify what type of fungi you have found," John explains. "The first thing is to acknowledge where it's growing."
Many mushrooms grow in a ring, which can tell you a lot about its variety, and of course most can be found near a tree which, when identified, can prove very helpful in determining the type of mushroom you've found. The key to picking a mushroom is to pick all of it, using a widger, pen knife or your fingers to get right to the base of the stem. When you've picked your mushroom take note of its colour, though this is the most variable feature so don't rely solely on this detail. Turn the mushroom upside down to look at its gills too, look for anything interesting about them. Are there lots of gills? What colour are they? How do they meet the stem?
The stem itself is also useful as it may have a pattern or rings on it that will help bring you closer to your identification. Next, look at the feel of the mushroom, is it sticky, greasy, rough or smooth? Then smell it, this is the most important part of the mushroom-picking process - does it have a faint or strong smell? Once you have looked carefully at all of these characteristics, you should be able to determine what variety of mushroom you have and if it's edible - though of course always seek expert advice before consuming.
Here are some of the mushroom varieties we found:
Wood blewit - large mushroom with blue tinted gills. Edible.
Butter cap - greasy to touch, though it doesn't come off on your fingers. The stem bends rather than breaks. Edible.
Cloud cap - edible though slightly bitter, best mixed in with other mushrooms.
Fairies bonnet - tiny mushrooms that grow on wood. Not edible.
To find out more about Weston Park (pictured below) and their fantastic Flavours of Autumn weekends and many other events visit www.weston-park.com, or for more information from the Shropshire Wildlife Trust visit www.shropshirewildlifetrust.org.uk.