Every season brings it's own unique gifts to the farm and one season that is full of abundance and beauty is Autumn. When we move out of the heat of summer and the rain starts to fall, the mycelial networks under the meadows and forest floors prepare to fruit.
Mushrooms thrive in areas that are natural, being free from artificial fertilisers and pesticides. It can take up to 40 years for a ploughed field to re-build it's mycelial networks. It's similar in forests and woodlands where the mushrooms prefer a floor that has had minimal felling, grazing and footfall.
It can take many trips and endless walking to find mushroom hotspots. When you do find them you have to be lucky still to find edible mushrooms that are worthy of harvesting. It's no surprise then that mushroom foragers often have their own secret patches that they keep to themselves...for obvious reasons!
Here's some not-so-secret top tips for finding edible mushrooms:
- Head to an old conifer woodland (over 20 years old) that's spacious enough to walk under the lower branches. Look for surrounding deciduous trees like Beech and Birch - these are fantastic as they restore the surrounding soil with nutrients, enhancing the prospect of mushroom growth.
- Get a copy of Rodger Philips' mushroom guide- it's a very well put together reference book and the only guide you'll need to start picking your own mushrooms safely!
- Go for woodland walks regularly, particularly after periods of rainfall. At this time of year, keen foragers will be out several times a week!
This year has been interesting in terms of yields and weather. We had a very wet August which was fantastic for the ceps and boletes. We then went into a particularly dry September which didn't bode well for fruiting. Since then we've had few heavy downpours which we were hoping would flush a big second wave of ceps but alas we're still yet to see this happen.
It's no overstatement to say that mushrooms boggle the mind. Some are delicious and edible, others will kill you in obscure ways, whilst the majority are flavourless and just interesting to look at. If you are going to get into mushrooms foraging, please be careful and try to go with somebody who has at least a basic understanding of mushroom identification. A great saying that a wise person once said to me was 'never munch on a hunch'!
Here are some photos from a recent mushroom walk: Salmon Salad (very rare), Panther Cap (deadly), Cep (edible), Coral Fungus (not worth eating), Southern Bracket (medicinal), Parasol (edible).