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.
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.