Mushrooms

Here in Britain some people like to gather wild mushrooms. We can do this all through the year but the most abundance is to be found in autumn. We can get expert advice.

The best-known wild mushroom here is the meadow mushroom (Agaricus campestris). But as John Harris shows in his Mushroom Diary there are many more edible species out there.

Who could resist an early-morning walk in British countryside, gathering tasty food? Well, I can resist it. Like many British people I’m afraid of wild mushrooms because some of them can make you very ill. Phil Daoust at the Guardian says that we should go ahead and pick wild mushrooms. But as he says, it can go horribly wrong. So no fungi foraging for me.

Instead of going wild, I like to eat the cultivated mushroom (Agaricus bisporus). A. bisporus is farmed as its versatile white variety and as a more flavoursome brown variety, the chestnut mushroom. In fact there are many good kinds of cultivated mushrooms, including the oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) and the shiitake mushroom (Lentinus edodes). We can even grow our own.

The UK mushroom industry has shrunk in recent years with more imports coming in. Here’s some science about pests on cultivated mushrooms. As a school leaver in the mid 1980s, I was proud to work at one of the institutes whose scientists wrote that report, although I don’t know these particular people.

When I blog about crops, wild foods, livestock or game, my foodie tendency comes out. Cultivated mushrooms are readily available all through the year. So here are some mushroom recipes.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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6 Responses to Mushrooms

  1. EqFe says:

    I took a three day course in foraging, some years back in NY State. It was in the Fall, when grubs and fruit and wild nuts were plentiful. The instructor did not teach us anything about gathering mushrooms, mainly because he was from North Carolina. As he put it the key to safely gathering mushrooms was not just knowing which ones were safe to eat, but also knowing the poisonous ones that looked similar and how to tell the difference. That skill, he felt was base very much on local knowledge.
    That year, a Vietnamese family, recently moved to his local died after eating mushrooms that looke like the ones that they safely gathered in Vietnam.
    Like you, I have an abundant supply of a variety of locally grown (in abandoned coal mines in Pennsylvannia) mushrooms.

    • argylesock says:

      How terrible about the Vietnamese family. I think your teacher was right about needing local knowledge. Also, I think, err on the side of caution. There are other wild foods (I’m gestating a blog post) but no need to eat the ones that might be poisonous.
      How did you get on with the wild foods you did learn about? Did they become part of your regular diet?

      • Wade says:

        I’m afraid that my friend and I and the instructor spent as much time discussing record, and making sacks from birch bark to hold what we gathered than anything else the new experiences for the two of us was the abundance of grubs. Generally speaking other than some greens and berries I don’t eat wild foods that often.

      • Wade says:

        Not record. Recipes

  2. Carol Hague says:

    Yes, I’m with you on the mushroom gathering – much safer not to, I think! But I like to look for them when I’m walking in the woods, because some of them are very pretty and can make nice photographs if the light is good enough.

  3. Pingback: Wild food | Science on the Land

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