Tuesday, 20 September 2011

What is it with us and fungi?







All over Europe at this time of the year people go out on fungus forays and come back with baskets loaded with various kinds of edible fungi which they cook up into delicious- sounding meals.

What do we do here in the UK? Well, I would hazard a guess that most of you, like me, eat ordinary field mushrooms, maybe chestnut mushrooms - and at a push ceps or maybe a packet of those dried mushrooms which reconstitute pretty well providing all you are going to do is add them to some dish or other.

My mother cooked field mushrooms with liver and bacon and thick brown gravy - and it was delicious. But suggest trying anything other than that and she would quickly point out that they were 'all poisonous'.

Why, I wonder, are we so scared of them? I photographed one or two on my walk this afternoon and I must say they all look pretty poisonous to me. But I have no way of knowing whether they are or not.

Kent cob nuts appeared on our market stall last Friday. They looked absolutely lovely but I really would not know what to do with them - and they didn't look ripe by any means. The farmer brought in a handful of hazel nuts from the hedge yesterday - they look lovely too but I have never sctually tasted one.

So there we are - good food going to waste because we have never been educated to select the good from the bad, the edible from the poisonous. Or maybe, on second thoughts, it is not going to waste. Some squirrel somewhere is saying, thank goodness they don't know just how good these hazelnuts are!

On a completely different topic, I watched an interesting thing from the bathroom window yesterday. I'm sorry that it is such a rotten photograph but it had to be taken against the light and the bird box is some distance away. This year tree sparrows successfully reared two broods in this box. As I watched, a woodpecker began to peck at the hole. It pecked and pecked, and kept trying the hole for size until suddenly it could squeeze through. Then it proceeded to throw out all the nesting material, as though it were cleaning the whole thing out for use next year. It will be interesting to see if a woodpecker tries nesting in the box come the Spring, won't it?

19 comments:

Towanda said...

I think the problem with mushrooms in the field is it is difficult to tell the poisonous because they can look so much like some of the non-poisonous type. Yes, it will be interesting to see who takes up the box nest come spring.

Heather said...

I remember picking field mushrooms when I was a child, but we didn't try any others. I think you need to have an expert on hand for some safe foraging. Hazel nuts are delicious - this year I have noticed several trees shedding theirs before they were ripe.
That woodpecker is an opportunist - very clever to just make the nestbox hole larger, rather than do all that hard work pecking out a fresh nest space. I hope you will keep us posted.

Dartford Warbler said...

How interesting about the nest hole. This morning I found a fox hole where all the bedding had been pulled out and left at the entrance. Such a strong smell of fox and lots of interwoven foxy hair in the bedding "mattress". Just when I didn`t have my camera with me.

Doohie said...

I remember picking field mushrooms at an aunt's farm in the lake district when I was a young girl. They were huge and delicious, but I wouldn't have the confidence to identify even them now. I would eat the hazel nuts though.

H said...

We used to pick mushrooms on my uncle's farm, and hazelnuts from the hedge alongside the footpath near my Nanna's but, like you, I'm not very confident with the fungi!

Tom Stephenson said...

Red Russulas on the top left - poisonous; some sort of Milk-Cap on the other side - sometimes poisonous, sometimes not; some sort of Roll Rim on the other side - usually poisonous - not actually deadly, but you would regret eating them for about 5 days, if not longer.

Stick to the Ceps, Weave, despite so many Russulas, many of which are very good - IF you know what you are eating! Happy autumn. X

Cloudia said...

interesting Autumn post!




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alison said...

Great minds think alike - I have just written about our French Fungus Foray! The good thing here is that you can take your basketful of 'mushrooms' to the local pharmacist who can usually identify them.

Mary said...

Oh yes, I recall picking field mushrooms with my mum very early in the morning before the cows came out and trampled them! We never got sick so guess they were the safe ones, thankfully! They were so fresh and delicious for breakfast.

I use hazel nuts quite often in baking - even in veggie nut loaves. Love them toasted and then crushed with a rolling pin and sprinkled over cakes.

Hildred and Charles said...

I have a passion for mushrooms, and also for hazelnuts, Pat. Brought in thirty nuts from the tree in our new garden, - our second son tells us that they bear large crops every other year, so I will look forward to using lots of hazelnuts next year in my baking.

MorningAJ said...

Speak for yourself! I've been out gathering for weeks now and using anything I can find.

acornmoon said...

My farmer friend used to deliver bags of field mushrooms by my front door, I trusted his knowledge so cooked and ate these gifts. I am not so brave now he has sadly passed away.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I've never learned which mushrooms to pick either. Perhaps it is not as dangerous as we were all warned.

But I do enjoy trying the different kinds I find at the market.

Elizabeth said...

Well, yes, mushrooms.
I'm with your mother on this one --quite terrified.
I love to see them in old-fashioned children's fairy book illustrations --all red and spotted and wonderful.

Rachel said...

We ignore the mushrooms because if you pick the wrong ones you can end up on dialysis for the rest of your life as some people in Scotland found out a couple of years ago. When I was a child some girl guides died after eating mushrooms at a picnic. I have been terrified ever since and get mine from Waitrose in a cellophane covered tray. Boring, but safe.

The Weaver of Grass said...

General opinion seems to be 'don't eat any mushrooms - buy them from Tesco!' Thanks for the advice.

Kristi in the Western Reserve said...

Yes, well, my grandmother's sister did die from mushroom poisoning...Her guests became ill, but apparently she'd been tasting a lot as she cooked. And she had been cooking gathered mushrooms for years with no problem.........And so, my mother worried about, not mushrooms so much, but mayonnaise, as a possible poison...

When we lived in Hungary there were government inspectors who verified that wild gathered mushrooms were safe one before they could be sold.

I don't comment much, but greatly enjoy your blog.

Arija said...

Having learnt to discriminate between edible and the other at my grandmother's knee, I am an avid hunter/gatherer. Hazel nuts, Chestnuts Beech nuts, berries of many kinds, wild herbs and various edible wayside 'weeds'. In the northern hemisphere, I could probably survive of quite a long time if lost in the woods. In Australia the bush foods are totally different and, although I have no traditional knowledge in my bones, I have learnt a thing or two about 'bush tucker'.

Maybe you have all had it too easy to have to learn these things.

Sorry I have not been visiting Pat, as you know things are difficult and on top of that we are all worried sick about my sister. I may have to drive the 700miles to Melbourne to be with her. We are the last two who shared the terrors of flight, war, famine and migration. She has been my mentor all my life and a rock for the whole family, her congregation and well beyond that. All I can now do is pray.

Gerry Snape said...

they just look so gorgeous I think!