Mushroom Foraging May 2017

This week we had the first proper rain of the year and what a difference it has made. The last time we had any fungi in the woods was back in February.  This is what I found today.

Wood Ears, Auricularia auricula-judae, was the most abundant. They react quickly to heavy rain. Wood Ears are a very good edible mushroom with a subtle peppery taste that adds a savouriness to dishes and a crunchy texture like slice of cucumber. They are popular in Chinese cuisine as they are good for the digestion and act as a probiotic in the gut. They are most common on old Elder bushes, Sambucus nigra.but they were also growing on  Holly, Ilex europea, which is a first for meand on Ash, Fraxinus excelsior.On the same Ash tree, on the other side of the trunk, was some White Brain, Exidia thuretiana.I found a close relative of the Wood Ears, Tripe Fungus, Auricular mesenterica, growing on a dead Alder trunk, Alnus glutinosus. This is also a good edible though not as common as the Wood Ears but can be used in the same sort of dishes.On a fallen Oak branch, Quercus rober, was a fresh flush of Many-zoned Polypore, Coriolus versicolor, known as Turkey Tails in North America. This is a medicinal mushroom. A number of drugs used in cancer treatment are made from extracts of this mushroom. In North America the native Americans used fresh Turkey Tails as a chewing gum.One of the reasons I went out today was to see how this Chicken of the Woods had developed. Five days ago it looked like this.With the rain over the last few days, it has turned into this.Chicken of the Woods, Laetiporus sulphureus, is another popular edible mushroom. It has a very meaty texture like succulent chicken breast with a lemony flavour. It can be used in any recipe as a substitute for chicken breast.

On an Elder were the small orangey dots of Coral Spot Fungus, Nectria peziza. Walking through the woods the distinct smell of rotting flesh brought this Stinkhorn, Phallus impudicus, to my attention. This mushroom imitates this smell to attract houseflies and bluebottles which it uses to disperse it’s spores in the same way as plants use insects to disperse pollen.Finally I returned to the tree where I had seen the slime mould back in February, which looked like this then as it munched it’s way through some Toothed Crust.

Today, four months later the same slime mould has completely devoured the Toothed Crust, Basidioradulum radula, and has started  to sporulate and looks like this.It is most likely a Badhamia species with it’s fruit bodies hanging like bunches of grapes.This is what is left of the Toothed Crust.I didn’t expect to see this slime mould still developing on the same oak branch after all this time.

Mushroom Foraging dates 2017

The dates for this autumns Mushroom Foraging courses are now on our page http://wp.me/P7neDj-ag and you can book places by following the link to Suffolk Market Events – Foragers Feast on Fatsoma

Cricklade North Meadow

Found myself in Wiltshire last weekend at the perfect time to see the fritillaries at this nationally important nature reserve. This meadow has 80% of the UK’s population of snakes head fritillaries. I have known about this meadow for a long time but this is the first time I have been to visit. It is quite a spectacle. Obviously the main attraction are the fritillaries.

Snake’s Head Fritillary
White Snake’s Head Fritillary

Because this site has always been managed as a traditional hay meadow there are lots of other plants amongst the fritillaries that are no longer common in the rest of the UK. I was particularly interested in the number of different plants looking like they were in the Apiaceae family (carrot family) Among the true Apiaceae there were the familiar Cow Parsley and Common Hogweed. The deadly poisonous Hemlock Water Dropwort looking remarkably like it’s relative Wild Celery.

Hemlock Water Dropwort
Hemlock Water Dropwort
Hemlock Water Dropwort

With out a distinct smell, and definitely no celery smell this was not Wild Celery. The Hemlock Water Dropwort can be seen along the banks or the River Churn and River Thames that define the boundaries of the meadow.

Also on the banks of the Thames were a few plants of Wild Angelica.

Wild Angelica

Another member of the Apiaceae that I found there was, I suspect, Pepper Saxifrage. This plant looks very like wild carrot but is hairless. The field guides seem to pay little attention to the shape of the leaves of this family of plants and it is a long way from flowering so difficult to reach a conclusive identification.

Pepper Saxifrage
Pepper Saxifrage
Pepper Saxifrage

There were a number of plants that, before they flower, look like members of the carrot family. One is Meadow Rue which forms large dark green patches across the meadow.

Common Meadow Rue
Common Meadow Rue

The pinnate leaf and bract wrapping round the stem at the base of the leaf stalk are typical carrot family features also found in the rue family. These feature are also found in the buttercup family and there was plenty of meadow buttercups doing carrot impressions before they flowered. The palmate divided leaves give it away as a buttercup.

Meadow Buttercup
Meadow Buttercup

Lastly there was both Meadowsweet along the banks of the river

Meadowsweet

and the closely related Dropwort after which the Water Dropworts are named.

Dropwort
Dropwort

Both Meadowsweet and Dropwort are in the Rose Family and have sweet smelling flowers used in the past to flavour drinks. The name Meadowsweet is actually a corruption of Mead Sweet and it was used to flavour mead. These two plants are also a rich source of salicylic acid and were the original source for the drug Aspirin which gives the leaves a bitter taste.

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

Health News: Magic Mushrooms show potential to relieve depression

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

http://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lanpsy/PIIS2215-0366(16)30065-7.pdf

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: 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

http://www.foragers-association.org.uk

 

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

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4975141/

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 http://www.mushroomtable.com/wild-mushrooms/honey-fungus/

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. http://www.mushroomtable.com/recipes-2/honey-fungus-and-potato-pancake/

Foraging updates on mushroom table.com

started a new series on foraging habitats with Saltings http://wp.me/P7neDj-7z  guide to what and how to forage in this unique habitat. For those who aren’t near the coast I have added an introduction to Brittlegills http://wp.me/P7neDj-7G to guide you through this large group of wild mushrooms.

Chicken of the Woods in season now

Added some new pages to our website about wild mushrooms in season now, Chicken of the  Woods and Fairy Ring Mushrooms

http://wp.me/P7neDj-6W and http://wp.me/P7neDj-6G

Where have all the mushrooms gone?

We are at the peak of the Saint George’s Mushroom season here in Essex. We have had perfect weather for them this year with lots of April showers and in the last week or so warm sunny days too. But take a look at these  two baskets of mushrooms.

Saint George's mushroom baskets
A tale of two baskets

The basket on the left has the mushrooms I foraged from about 40 Saint George’s Mushroom rings on the village green while the basket on the right was foraged from 2 small rings on the verge of a quiet lane a mile away. The 2 rings on the verge have produced over 5 times as many mushrooms as the entire village green!

What could possibly be the reason for this I hear you cry? Are there hordes of immigrants scouring our English village greens and removing every mushroom? Are the villagers keen wild mushroom foragers? No! There are no mushrooms on the village green because they have been mown down. The green was mown 10 days before Saint George’s day which was luckily just before the mushrooms started into growth. There were just under a kilo of mushrooms big enough to pick for Saint George’s Day and 2.5 kilo a week later. The second cut was eight days ago on the 3rd May and the battered 200g in the basket is all that has grown since.  The 2 rings in the lane had one mushroom for Saint George’s Day and 250g the week after. Today there was 1.1 kilos in the lane. The village green should have produced at least 11 kilos this week, instead of 200g,  as the conditions have been perfect for them. There won’t be any mushrooms on the green next week  either as the mower was beginning it’s next cut as I left this morning. The verge in the lane has not been cut yet but with the cow parsley coming into flower it won’t be long before the mowers come out along the roads and lanes to make it safe for the poor defenceless motorists in their armour plated boxes.

The reason we don’t see masses of mushrooms popping up in fields and greens is we are obsessed with tidiness. Wild flowers and mushrooms are not given a chance if they dare to grow higher than an couple of centimetres. The relentless whirring blades of the mower slice them into a thousand pieces and scatter them to the four winds. The man/woman operating the mower is oblivious to the destruction they are causing so intent are they on getting the perfect cut. And people consent to this destruction and even complain when it is not done. It looks untidy, it spoils the view, it a danger to motoring.

Mowing is nothing less than habitat destruction. Every time a mower cuts a patch of grass it is creating a sudden change in the microclimate. Allowing the sun and the wind to suck moisture from the soil. Contrary to popular belief mushrooms don’t pop up over night. The whole process takes at least a week. Mushroom formation is triggered by subtle changes in a range of environmental factors: humidity, light, oxygen, temperature. When the grass is cut all of these factors change instantly and the mushrooms are unable to react fast enough. If they are still very small they shrivel and die from lack of moisture. If they are too big they are ripped from the ground and devoured by the mower. With mowers cutting every fortnight or every week in Summer the mushrooms don’t stand a chance. (Did I mention that cutting grass stimulates it to grow more so it needs more mowing).

That is where all the mushrooms have gone.