Saturday, December 05, 2009


Driving past the field, it was spotted and twinkling with big round flat mushrooms.  I got back home, and came straight out with the basket, but on closer examination they were not edibles.  It's said there are bold mushroom hunters and old mushroom hunters, I am aiming to be one of the latter. 

I met the gentle handicapped ladies from Bel Orient.

'No, not good, those ones.  Be careful your dog doesn't eat them!'

Molly enjoys finding me mushrooms when she knows we're looking, but, as I reassured them, never eats them.  So we went on the the ones I'd spotted the afternoon before in the bank.  I know these, I pick them most years, and I reckon the hedgebanks are quite healthy places - they aren't sprayed or grazed and there's not much traffic.  After the heavy rains of the previous night, they were rather waterlogged, but worth having.

We had them most of them for lunch with eggs and bacon, the rest were chopped finely and softened with some leek in duck fat for duxelles.  Most recipes call for butter, but I've a surfeit of duck fat, and it preserves better anyway.

Here are some more fungi I didn't eat.  Taking photos somewhat curbs my urges to forage, I take pictures home with me instead.

Honey fungus, a parasite of tree roots.  Supposedly edible but strong tasting.  I've never fancied it.

This is obviously another tree root parasite.  It killed a fine beech tree at the watermill, which was taken down.  The fungus still erupts around the cut stump.  I certainly wouldn't eat this.

These are some of the most frequently occurring around here.  They are very large, and emerge out of the banks and verges quite late in the season.  They last a long time, and are now curling up into rather menacing livid shapes, looking like rather repulsive grey wax.  No way I'm touching these.

And some nameless little woodland chaps, companions of the leaf litter.  Again, I leave them alone.

And parasols.  They're OK, I have eaten them, they aren't all that interesting, and I had no means of carrying them anyway.

There are whole articles devoted to techniques of photographing mushrooms; it is difficult, I find, to convey the sense of tiny worlds within worlds which they contain.

I had a rather fine fly agaric from a month or so ago, but it seems to have disappeared, a casualty of the clearout and probably somewhere on the external drive now.  They're the picture book toadstools, shiny red with white spots.  The Laplanders used to eat them in measured amounts to induce hallucinations, that they were perhaps flying through the air, dressed in red and white to match the mushrooms, pulled along by magic reindeer.  So it's said.  It's consumption has been replaced in recent times by that of vodka, which kind of seems a shame.  Perhaps it's safer, but it  seems to me the slow degeneration of vodka dependency may not be any better tha taking shamanic risks with fairy mushrooms.  But that's probably romanticism.


The romantic query letter and the happy-ever-after said...

I love the photos but I get all my exotic mushrooms from a reputable dealer no hunting in the woods for me. I love this post.
You take care.

Dale said...

Wonderful photos! The last two are eerily like human nipples -- the same fractal equations playing out in wildly different stuff, I guess.

Roderick Robinson said...

You and Plutarch discouraged me some months ago when a crop of... (What would you say? They looked like uncooked pastry) thingies developed right in front of Chez Bonden and I posted photographs. I was grateful but teenily disappointed. The potential frisson attracted me; I would have liked to have joined the tiny elite that eats such freebies with confidence, though it isn't an attraction I would risked my life for. Eaten with eggs and bacon, the perfect accompaniment. When my mother was terribly poor (the money was going on my father's mistress) we could only afford mushroom stalks and never fried: too profligate, they shrivelled. Always in a white sauce. You know, Proust was right.

Pam said...

One feels Noddy and Big Ears ought to be hiding behind some of those.

herhimnbryn said...

I think you must be part Hobbit, for they love mushrooms too.

Rouchswalwe said...

Your fellow hobbit has delighted in this post! A pasta sauce with some amazing Crimini has recently scored points with my friends!

Granny J said...

In my working year, I periodically spent time in print shops, which were usually populated by citisens of Bohemian and Polish descent. In season, conversation was about the hobies they collected from their secret locations in the Illinois/Indiana woods.

Lucy said...

Thank you.

RQHEA - what a long name you have! Be assured I am very careful. Parasols, and shaggy ink caps, which I seldom bother with anyway, are unmistakeable. otherwide it's nothing that doesn't have proper field mushroom pink brown gills. I've been collecting for years and haven't tried anything new for a very long time, even the odd cep I've come across I've been inclined to leave alone because there is the odd cep-type spongy gilled mushroom which isn't nice. If I wanted to try something but wasn't certain I'd get it checked with the pharmacists; they are all trained to identify fungi, but I might not even take their word for it.

Dale - they do a bit! I think one of the fascnations of fungi is that the texture and colour of their flesh and skin, even their forms,have something rather human about them, more so than most plants or even many animals.

BB - If in doubt, don't. Tom actually prefers the stalks,and has the lion's share of them, which is fine because I like the caps - the Jack Spratt syndrome at work once a gain. But your story is of a sad and potentially embittering kind. Yet, without unkindness to your mother, there was something of the cutting off of the family's nose to spite its face, as often happens, in the matter of the white sauce. Would it really have been so feckless and impossible to fry the stalks in the butter or margarine used to make the roux, and let you have the milk hot with a spoonful of sugar or cocoa? But misery is like that; it kills imagination and goes to other misery. And mushroom stalks in white sauce sounds like a miserable, wan, pale grey thing. I'm reminded a little too of Proust's society bucks, all competing furiously for a few rich heiresses, so they can marry money and keep fine mistresses, like running fast cars. I wonder if the expensive mistress still exists in any but the richest circles? Have you observed that the Proustian moment is alive in modern advertising, notably in the TV ad for Richmond pork sausages? (I know I know, involuntary memory is only part of the story...)

Isabelle - You should have seen the red and white spotty one!

HHB - I too have a tendency to hairy toes too...

R - I don't know crimini. Pasta is a great vehicle for mushrooms, a shaving of cheese on top... mmm.

GJ - If anyone round here knows where the ceps are, you can't get it out of them. The central Europeans are truly the great mushroom hunters. All the enormously expensive ceps, girolles, trompettes de morts and pieds de moutons in the supermarkets here are from that part of the world.

Lucy said...

Sorry about all the awful typos in that, I really should read the preview. I was also going to say - anything with the right pink-brown gills that doesn't stain yellow when cut.

(And - I do have hairy toes too...)

Roderick Robinson said...

I appreciate the lengthy reply and don't want to choke up the drains of your blog with my personal stuff. I don't blame my mother, she really was poor. The story has a sinusoidal ending. My mother and father should never have married. When divorced he went on to marry the whipper-in of the local beagles (Many have urged me to incorporate that in some form of fiction) whereas my mother was now free to write good poetry which was published and novels that weren't. Alas the whipper-in died and forced my father to marry a barmaid to comfort his old age and I've told you about my 96-year-old grannie who prevented my mother from writing poetry and novels when she came to live with us. Tom and mushroom stalks - a sterling fellow!

MyMaracas said...

I love the photos, and envy you all those tasty wild mushrooms. The only ones I'm confident of identifying correctly are the morrel mushrooms we have here in the spring. Not sure I spelled them correctly, but they are wonderful. There is something so satisfying about finding wild food, there for the taking. It's like being a part of nature in a way we have mostly forgotten.

leslee said...

The second to last one would make a lovely silver pendant (Dale's comment aside).