Mushroom Foraging and Foraying February 2017

A time of jellies and crusts.

We had some wet days in the last few weeks in north Essex so it was a good time to go to the woods to get some woods ears. They always flush after heavy rain and I have a few local woods with lots of old elder bushes which are the wood ears favourite tree.

Wood ears, Auricularia auricula-judae

Mature wood ears on an elder

There were plenty about in all stages of development. Here are some very young ones erupting from an elder branch with a velvety bloom

Young wood ears popping out of an elder

Here is a picture gallery to the other fungi that were out and about.

There were lots of other jelly fungi too such as this leafy brain, Tremella foliacea, a fresh young one below and older drier one above.

a jelly fungus parasitic on Stereum sp.

and yellow brain, Tremella mesenterica

a jelly fungus parasitic on Postia sp.

or this white jelly, Tremella globispora.

A small jelly fungus parasitic on Stereum sp.

There was also plenty of Witches Butter, Exidia glandulosa

a jelly fungus on birch
A jelly fungus found on oak branches

One of the smallest common jelly fungi is Coral Spot, Nectria peziza, looking more orange than coral in these pictures

very small jelly fungus on elder

As well as all these jellies there were lots of crusts, fungi that are attached to the host tree like a sticking plaster sometimes forming small brackets. There were crusts with soft rubbery teeth like this Toothed Crust, Basidioradulum radula

a crust fungus with soft rubbery teeth
a crust fungus with soft rubbery teeth on oak

or this white white crust with teeth

There was this soft rubbery crust with a warty lower surface Merulius tremellosus?

A crust fungus with a soft rubbery feel
A crust fungus with a rubbery feel showing the lumpy pore surface

There were tough leathery crusts such as the Bleeding Oak Crust, Stereum gausepatum, which bruises red

patches of bleeding oak crust
bleeding oak crust showing bleeding when bruised

and the Hairy Curtain Crust, Stereum hirsutum which doesn’t

spore surface of hairy curtain crust
hairy upper surface of hairy curtain crust

and this creamy coloured crust, Peniophora rufromarginata?, looking like paint peeling off the trunk

crust probably on an alder

there was a black cushion like crust, Hypoxylon sp.

black crust on birch

and a purple cushion like crust with a dark margin

growing on a sweet chestnut or alder branch
growing on a sweet chestnut or alder branch

and last of all a yellow slime mould spreading over a patch of Wrinkled Crust, Phlebia radiata

a tooth fungus with soft rubbery teeth on oak
a yellow slime mould swarming across toothed crust

and forming sporangia nearby

yellow slime mould forming sporangia

Foraging New Years Day 2017

For the past six years the BSBI (Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland have encouraged people to go out at the start of the New Year and spend an hour hunting for all the wild flowers they can find. As a forager I like to go out and see what there is to forage. Here is an account of how the walk went.

We set off down Colchester Road from the mushroom farm. Most of our route, although along tarmac roads, actually followed ancient drove ways which have been in use since the bronze age. Along the first section the verges are closely managed in front of the various houses. The very short grass had the usual lawn weeds, dandelion, daisy, yarrow but also chickweed, common sorrel, smooth sow thistle and tormentil. Across the road from the houses where the verge is less heavily managed was the first mushroom, Agaricus depauperatus. This is a relative of the field mushroom, growing amongst the grass and leaf litter. A little further was a ring of Butter Caps, a very variable species, one of the tough shanks. You can see some of the variation in the photo. These are not the most exciting mushrooms to eat and confusing to try and identify but by early winter most of the look alikes have stopped growing.

At the cross roads we went onto Carrington’s Road. There are fewer houses here so the verges and hedges are a bit wilder. There were nettle shoots, young dock leaves and wild chervil shoots amongst the grass. Some of last years hogweed still standing with ripe seeds and in the hedge some ripe rose hips on the dog roses.

A short way along Carrington’s Road we turned onto Back Lane. This is another heavily managed stretch of lane where the householders tend both sides of the road in front of their properties. The gappy hedge had some gorse in flower. The coconut scented flowers can be added to salads of infused into honey for flavouring dessert and drinks.

We turned off Back Lane onto a wide footpath. You can clearly see the structure of the old drove ways on this path. The way is 6 or 7 metres wide with with a shallow ditch either side and then hedges of mostly oak pollards and coppiced holly on a low bank. This has created a long strip of undisturbed woodland that can be good for fungi. We were hoping for some wood blewits which can be prolific along this path but not this year. There were a few scattered fungi, mostly crusts on dead branches but there was a solitary Tawny Funnel which usually grows in large rings.

and a small group of Blushing Wood Mushrooms, another Field mushroom relative with a slightly acidic smell and which bruises reddish brown.

There was also a Wood Ear on a willow. This is an unusual habitat for Wood Ears which are most commonly found on elder.

We left the footpath and turned onto Waterhouse Lane. This is lined by tall hawthorn hedges with oak trees that shade the lane. There is a vigorous colony of wild chervil along here as well as stinging nettles, dead-nettles, cleavers and ground ivy. This is where we came upon the first good patch of haws. It has been a very good year for haws, better than most of the other hedgerows fruits which had very short seasons.

We would have seen a lot more haws and rose hips but modern hedgerow management dictates otherwise.

It was along here that we found a good edible mushroom, a Shaggy Inkcap. It has been a good year for these. They have been coming up on and of since September. Shaggy Inkcaps must be cooked soon after picking  before they deliquesce into black ink. They have a subtle but delicious flavour so best cooked simply in butter and enjoyed on their own.

From Waterhouse Lane we crossed over to Park Road. This is more open with a hedge only on the west side of it. Yarrow and the only young Hogweed shoot grew under the protection of the hedge, in the sun. Further on is more wooded either side and we came upon a small clump of Velvet Shank flaming in the hedge. A proper winter mushroom and a good edible too, with a crunchy texture and fruity apricot taste.

We once again joined Colchester Road and headed back towards the mushroom farm. Through a gap in the hedge (more vigorous management) we spotted some mushrooms on a willow across a pond. Turning down the footpath beside the pond to investigate we came across this old poplar trunk covered in oyster mushrooms.

When this tree came down a few years ago it was covered in Velvet Shank for a couple of seasons. Now there was no Velvet Shank but several kilos of oyster mushrooms. This tree is across open fields to the north of the mushroom farm. The prevailing wind is from the south so we suspect this has grown from spores from our own oyster mushrooms, it’s rewilded itself. In addition to the oyster mushrooms was a small clump of Poplar Fieldcap. This has arrived here without any help from us. This is a very popular mushroom in Italy where it is known as Piopino. It has a sweet nutty flavour and firm nutty texture when young.

All in all quite a fruitful walk. Here is the complete list of what we found to eat. By the way there were only 10 plants in flower.

New Year Edible Plant List – 35 species

Daisy leaves
Dandelion roots, leaves, flowers
Yarrow leaves
Smooth Sow Thistle leaves
Mayweed leaves
Coltsfoot leaves
Bristly Oxtongue leaves
Spear Thistle root, leaves
Hogweed shoots, seeds
Wild Chervil shoots, leaves
Alexanders shoots, leaves
Fool’s Watercress shoots, leaves
Common Sorrel leaves
Curled Dock leaves
Ribwort Plantain leaves
Buck’shorn Plantain leaves
Common Chickweed leaves
Greater Stitchwort shoots, buds
Willow herb leaves
Wood Sage leaves
White Dead-nettle leaves, flowers
Red Dead-nettle leaves
Ground Ivy leaves
Common Hemp-nettle leaves, flowers
Tormentil leaves
Cleavers shoots, leaves
Common Mallow leaves
Hedgerow Crane’sbill leaves
Herb Robert leaves
Stinging Nettles shoots, leaves
Bramble leaves, fruit
Dog Rose hips
Hawthorn haws
Oak acorns
Pine needles

New Year Edible Mushroom List – 10 species

Agaricus depauperatus
Blushing Wood Mushroom Agaricus sylvaticus
Shaggy Inkcap Coprinus comatus
Butter Cap Collybia butyracea
Velvet Shank Flammulina velutipes
Tawny Funnel Lepista flaccida
Poplar Fieldcap Agrocybe aegerita
Oyster Mushroom Pleurotus pulmonarius
Wood Ear Auricularia auricula-judae
Many-zoned Polypore Coriolus versicolor

New Year Plant Hunt 2017 Flowering Plants (not all edible)

Dandelion Taraxacum agg
Groundsel Senecio vulgaris
White Dead-nettle Lamium album
Common Hemp-nettle Galeopsis tetrahit
Ivy Hedera helix
Common Chickweed Stellaria media
Greater Stitchwort Stellaria holistea
Gorse Ulex europea
Petty Spurge Euphorbia peplus
Germander Speedwell Veronica chamaedrys


Seasons Greetings 2016

This weekend will be the last Mushroom Tables   at Farmers Markets for 2016 as we take our Christmas and New Year break. We will be at Growing Communities Stoke Newington Farmers Market on Saturday 17th December and London Farmers Marylebone Farmers Market on Sunday 18th December.

We would like to wish all our customers a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. See you all again in 2017 when we return to markets on 14th January 2017

Health News: Magic Mushrooms show potential to relieve depression

A study published by The Lancet investigates the use of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression.

This study provides preliminary support for the safety and efficacy of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression and motivates further trials, with more rigorous designs, to better examine the therapeutic potential of this approach.

This is the first investigation of the safety and efficacy of psilocybin as a treatment for major depression.
The findings imply that psilocybin might have value as a treatment option in the management of treatment-resistant depression. Single oral administrations of 10 mg (safety dose) and 25 mg (treatment dose) psilocybin were well tolerated and led to enduring reductions in symptom severity after the two sessions.

Mushroom News: Ants use mushrooms to protect their young

A team from the University of Copenhagen and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute have discovered that leaf cutting ants don’t just grow mushrooms for food but also for medicine.

Mystery solved? Ants Protect Young From Infection By Cocooning Them in Fungus

Mushroom News: Fungi Picking Ban “unscientific” say fungi experts

A number of newspaper have reported that the Forestry Commission plan to introduce a complete ban on fungi picking in the New Forest. This appears to be a gut reaction to the poor mushroom season last year and is based on no known scientific evidence. In fact there are a number of long term scientific studies that show foraging has no detrimental effect on fungi and may even have a positive effect.

AoF Fungi Ban Press Release

The link is a press release from the Association of Foragers about this proposed ban. The  Association of Foragers is an international association of nearly 100 foraging tutors and suppliers who teach and practice sustainable foraging and rewilding.

For more factual information see The Association of Foragers website


Health News: Honey Fungus extract kills cancer cells

A group of Taiwanese researchers led by Yu-Jen Chen have been investigating the anti-cancer properties of Honey Fungus Armillaria mellea, the common parasitic fungus feared by gardeners and foresters the world over but also a delicious edible mushroom. Their research shows that extracts of Honey Fungus, Armillarikin and Armillaridin are cytotoxic and induce apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells of Leukemia and Malignant Hepatoma. You can read their recent paper here

Honey Fungus can form some of the biggest organisms in the world covering many square miles of forest in North America. They are chiefly regarded as parasitic on trees but can also live as saprophytes growing on dead wood and probably also as mycorrhizal partners with some trees. They are themselves parasitised by orchid species such as the the Lady Orchid in the UK.

See my Wild Mushroom Guide

They are rarely a problem in native woodland, where there is a healthy mycorrhizal community of fungi, only affecting very weak or stressed trees. In gardens however, where most of the shrubs and trees are non-native, the mycorrhizal fungi are less well established and the plants are looking for mycorrhizal partners. This is where Honey Fungus can take hold before other mycorrhizal fungi can partner with the new plants and protect them.

Honey Fungus are a delicious edible mushroom which can be harvested in prolific quantities. In the UK they are usually in season in mid-October. They are an excellent choice for preserving and pickling, as well as cooking and eating.

Mushroom News: Recycling lithium and cobalt from batteries

A team of researchers from University of South Florida led by Jeffrey Cunningham are developing a method for recovering the metals from scrapped rechargeable batteries using fungi. Cunningham presented his paper to the 252nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society this week.

Many mushrooms are known to be bio-accummulators of metals and have been used for bioremediation on polluted land. Cunningham and his team are using the fungi to recover the metals before they reach the landfill.

Mushroom News: Vegan leather Muskin

Italian company Life Materials are producing a vegan leather-like material from mushrooms called Muskin. It has the texture and feel of soft suede. They make Muskin from the cap of a conk of Phellinus sp. This is the same group of mushrooms that have traditionally been used to make hats, belts and small leather items in Romania. One of these Romanian hats is famously sported by the American mycologist Paul Stamets. More about Muskin here