Booking for our mushroom foraging courses are now live on Suffolk Market Events Foraging page. Held at Tiger Hill, a Local Nature Reserve, in the beautiful tranquility of deepest Suffolk. With over 250 species recorded at Tiger Hill, if you want to get to grips with the world of fungi, this is the course for you. From exquisite edibles and miraculous medicines to terrible toxics, the wide variety of fungi is there to discover.
It’s been a cold wet start to the year but at long last the ground is warming up and the birds are singing again. So I took myself off to the woods for the first serious foraging this spring. In early Spring after lots of rain you can always rely on Wood Ear mushrooms to pop out of the elders and they didn’t let me down.
Wood Ears, Auricularia auricula-judae, are a really good edible mushroom, popular in most South East Asian countries. With their crunchy texture and savoury flavour they are great in soups, stews, sauces and stir fries. They also make great jelly sweets. Soak them in fruit juice or your favourite liqueur then coat them in chocolate or candy them. Studies have shown Wood Ears to be beneficial to the enzyme activity of the pancreas and to glycogen metabolism in the liver. This leads to better control of hypoglycaemia and diabetes. It has strong anti-bacterial properties and was used traditionally in Scotland in a decoction to treat sore throats.
I was pleasantly surprised to find fresh growth of another much sought after medicinal mushroom, Many-zoned Polypore aka Turkey Tails, Trametes versicolor. There were three fallen trees covered in this, a sycamore, a pine and an ash.
Many-zoned Polypore is not generally considered a culinary mushroom. In North America it has traditionally been used as a kind of chewing gum. Fresh young brackets when chewed have a sweetish mushroom flavour that gets stronger as you chew it. Made as a decoction it makes a similar tasting tea. Many-zoned Polypore has been shown to have strong anti-cancer properties. Several drugs are made from extracts of the mushroom in China and Japan, under the names PSP and PSK, and used alongside chemo- and radio-therapy to improve patients recovery.
Wet weather favours the jelly fungi so it was no surprise to see Witches Butter, Exidia glandulosa, and it’s close relative Exidia nucleata. These were growing on the same ash twig.
As well as the mushrooms there were signs of woodland flowers. Primroses were in full bloom, but a little battered by the rain. Primroses are a pleasant spring vegetable. The young leaves can be used raw in salads along with the flowers. Older leaves can be cooked like spinach. The flowers are used to make a traditional country wine.
A speciality of damp woods is the easily overlooked Moschatel. This is just forming the flower buds that give the plant it’s other name Town Hall Clock. it is also edible and probably best used as a salad herb. It has a pleasant but mild taste.
Care should be taken not to muddle Moschatel with the Wood Anemone which grows in the same habitat and bears a passing resemblance to it. As part of the Buttercup family Wood Anemones are toxic.
In drier areas there were plenty of the more common edibles to forage, young Nettle tops, Chickweed, Red Dead-nettles, Cleavers, Cow Parsley and the first Hogweed shoots.
In the coming weeks Spring is going to race ahead. We will soon see an abundance of good edible plants and some choice mushrooms too.
If you would like to discover more about foraging why not join us on one of our Spring Foraging workshops
We are running our first mushroom growing course this summer. Details now on our website.
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.
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 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/
Started picking the first of this years crop of reishi today. Always a very beautiful mushroom. The latin name is Ganoderma lucidum. Ganoderma means shiny skin and lucidum means bright. As you can see from the picture it lives up to its name.
Reishi commonly known as the mushroom of immortality has been revered for their medicinal properties for thousands of years. In traditional Chinese medicine they are regarded as cure all and have been shown to have beneficial effects on immune dysfunction, sugar regulation, liver ailments, fatigue and more. The Chinese name is Ling Zhi.
We will be harvesting reishi over the next few months, it is a slow growing. The next step is to dry them and then they should be ready for our farmers markets from August onwards.