Foraging may be a natural instinct for all of us, and many have a real fascination for fungi. Our very distant ancestors were, of course, “hunter-gatherers” in ancient times, and, when we ourselves see clusters of field mushrooms in our fields in autumn, or a large white puffball, we gratefully collect them and take them home for the pot!
This November is particularly mild and wet, and there are some very colourful fungi growing in our fields, hedges and woods. But, be warned, while they may be very beautiful, many of them are not good to eat and some are highly dangerous, and can even be fatal!
I guess the clue may lie in the names that our forebears gave to them. After all, a “toadstool” is hardly an attractive name. And it gets worse… with names like “Stinkhorn”, “Wood Hedgehog”, “Shaggy Ink-cap”, “The Sickener” and even “Death Cap”, no one can have any illusions about them!
In French markets there are often stalls selling fresh fungi: “Ceps”, “Chanterelles”, “Bolets” and, of course, Truffles. But the difference is that these have been carefully harvested by foragers who know the difference between edible mushrooms and other fungi that will make a gourmet meal, and those that will make you ill or even worse.
So, for the present, we are quite happy to walk through our woods in autumn, enjoying the sight of these exotic and beautiful fungi…….but not taking them home to eat!