Edible wild mushrooms in the UK.

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Foraging in Foreign Lands

I’m holidaying in Cornwall this year, one of my favourite UK destinations, where I also like to keep my eye out for any summer mushrooms that may be about – when time permits of course.

Hopefully in the not too distant future, I would also like to venture abroad and enjoy a summer/autumn break to take in the sights and go on a little foray or two. As it happens, a recent email from Ian Holbrook & Hazel Ellis who run a hotel in Bulgaria caught my eye, and fuelled my interest. Apart from the usual and interesting holiday excursions, this destination also offers beautiful natural surroundings, with a wealth of mushrooms and fungi as well as other interesting flora and fauna. What better way to combine a holiday with foraging I thought – my kind of relaxation!

Foraging Abroad

Ideally located between the Pirin and Rila mountains (hence it’s name) in the village of Dolno Draglishte, Bulgaria.

It might be a while before I visit there (due to several factors beyond my control – boo!), but I’d thought I’d pass on the information to you, my audience, and see what you think. Holiday season is more or less upon us too. Here’s what Ian had to say…

“By way of introduction, my partner Hazel and I run walking and activity holidays in Bulgaria and as a self obsessed (but beginner) Shroomy, I came across your website whilst rambling the web recently. I saw you mentioned that finding a Jack O’ Lantern would be a good excuse for a holiday in Southern Europe and this gave me the idea to ‘pen’ this note to you (although out of the Chanterelle-like shrooms I couldn’t swear that we have the Jack…but I’m now going to be looking out for it this year!). We have a huge array of fungi growing in the valley, hills and mountains around us and collecting edibles in the season is a major pastime of the villagers life and there is of course, like France, great competition over the collecting of Boletus and Chanterelles! So the reason I write is to make you aware of Pirila Hotel and for your future consideration as a destination for one of your Foreign Forays! The hotel is ideally located between the Pirin and Rila mountains (hence it’s name) in the village of Dolno Draglishte near the ski resort of Bansko (1.5hr from the Greek border). It doesn’t take long to get to either mountain area, however Puff Balls, Field and many other species grow prolifically behind the hotel and the slopes leading into the forest, so you just need to don boots and get walking!

The hotel normally operates as an all inclusive tour, meaning, airport transfers, walk and tour transfers, guides (we also have access to a local fungi expert), translation (very important here!), en-suite twin room accommodation, breakfast, packed lunch, 3 course evening meal – all alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks whilst in the hotel, private pool, internet etc. flights however are not included. The normal rate is £550 per person based on two sharing and for a large group (14 up to 20) you can have sole use and define your own itinerary (eg. include several winery tours etc. – the wine here is excellent and great value Smile emoticon). Of course there would be a significant party leader discount available!!

I have attached some pictures of just a few of the fungi that were around last year (the beginning of September is the normally the height of season, or mid June) and a few pics of the hotel although more info can be found at www.hotelpirila.com. Whilst we are fully booked during August and from 12th Sept to end of season, the week commencing 5th Sept currently has availability (as of 1 May, 2015).

If there is anything further you wish to know then please don’t hesitate to call or message us and please feel free to share this with any friends, associates, or on any forums!”

Thanks for getting in touch Ian & Hazel. Good luck for the main mushroom season. Enjoy the bounty!

Foraging Abroad

Local Market with local mushrooms, stunning views, local fungi. Kindly supplied by Ian Holbrook & Hazel Ellis, Hotel Pirilia, Bulgaria.

Field Mushrooms again… Keep ‘em coming

I know the Field mushroom is common, I know there are more exotic mushroom finds out there and I know also that you can never have enough of the great Field Mushroom. I love it so…

The Field Mushroom (Agaricus campestris) is often found in small groups or even rings (though not always, as in this case) but is found commonly in older pasture land and grassland in general, but nowhere near trees of any kind (at least 20 metres from the tree line anyway).

I just wanted to point out and exaggerate the identification tips of this beautifully edible UK mushroom. As well as the typical large white ‘mushroom look’, I’ve shown in the pictures the distinctive pink gills of the younger mushroom (these mature to dark brown), and the ring zone two thirds up the stem, which is very small, sometimes indistinct! So this helps in identification, as the Yellow Stainer mushroom; a sinister (but not deadly) looalike has a much larger, floppy ring zone. See my post on the Yellow Stainer mushroom.

Field Mushroom - Common UK Mushroom

Younger and older examples of the Field Mushroom. Notice the slightly scaly white cap.

Clouded judgement – The Clouded Agaric

This post is placed in two categories; setting it in ‘Tales of Toadstools’ and ‘Woodland Treats’ due to its mixed acceptance in edibility, so it may not be much of a ‘woodland treat’ for everyone out there.

Clouded Agaric (Clitocybe nebularis)It’s one of those ‘they’re everywhere’ mushrooms in autumn, definitely around Leicestershire anyway. Their appearance can be really quite dull, but depending on their age, the Clouded Agaric (Clitocybe nebularis) can vary in medium to very large in size (up to 20cm) and often grow in huge rings or groups in deciduous or conifer woodland. They’ve always have a place in my heart because they were my first mushroom hunting discovery and ID case. Just shows how ‘common as muck’ they are! Very common that is, from late summer to late autumn.

The common name comes from the appearnce of the cloudy white/grey coloured cap (sometimes with a hint of light brown) which is always darker at the centre. The shape of the cap is initially domed, then flattened and later with a depressed centre. The margin can be smooth and round or even wavy and irregular. The whitish stem is often quite tall with a thick bulbous base, covered in fine white mycelium where woodland floor debris likes to cling to.

Being one of the Clitocybe genus (Funnels) the crowded whitish gills are always decurrent, that is, running down the stem, sometimes only slightly so.

Edibility-wise, they are recommended to be avoided, which I’m having a problem with. It seems such a waste. They’re large, juicy looking with loads of them about. The main reason being is that they can ‘disagree’ with some people and cause some bad stomach upset. Somebody must have tried to eat them, and what do they taste like? Was it worth it?

After a little net surfing I came across a great blog article covering this very subject. ‘Risky Eating’ was the title by the author Becky. She decided to take a chance and sample a small amount. Having no reaction after 24hours, she cooked up a lot of fungus and found it to be ‘really really tasty’ with a ‘strong flavour’. (See the full article here)

So, come Autumn again this year, I think I’ll have a taster and see if I’m OK with it. Because if I am, then wow, I’ll be spoilt for pickings. Here’s hoping!

Clouded Agaric Toadstool

The cloudy whiet/grey agaric often grows in rings or large groups in woodland. They are often quite large (15 – 20 cm diametre cap). Note the decurrent gills (left).

QUICK ID TABLE: CLOUDED AGARIC / CLOUDED FUNNEL Clitocybe nebularis

CAP / FLESH

8 – 20cm White/Grey sometimes with light brown hue. Initially convex, matures to flat and dip in centre. Inrolled margin. Margin sometimes wavy & irregular. Flesh is thick & white with strong sweetish smell.

STEM

5 – 12cm x 2 – 3 cm. Paler than cap. Swollen, thicker base. Woodland floor debris sticks to white mycellium at base. Becomes hollow and breaks easily.

GILLS / SPORE PRINT

White, crowded & decurrent. When older the colour has a yellowish hue.
Spore Print: Cream (see how to take a spore print here).

HABITAT / SEASON

In deciduous and coniferous woodland on the floor amongst leaf and needle litter. In large groups or rings. Late summer – late autumn. Very common.

EDIBILITY

Edible. OK. May cause gastric upset. Cook a little first and test.

The Genus CLITOCYBE (Funnels): Characteristics to look out for:

• Caps are often ‘funnel’ shaped; sometimes with a central bump (umbo).
• Gills are decurrent; sometimes very deep down the stem.
• Possess strong; often distinctive smells such meal (fresh flour/grain or slightly cucumber-like) or aniseed.

Update (September 2010): Autumn came around again pretty sharpish and I harvested a few of these beauties. After I fried and tasted a small sample, I waited a good 12 – 24 hours and I was fine. No gastric upset (as this is all this mushroom can do at it’s worst!). My God, what a lovely flavour. I consider this to be the ‘poor mans’ Field Mushroom’ – it’s not as splendid in overall flavour and consistency, but by golly, it’s damn close. I tucked into a few with my usual Saturday morning fry-up. They are really nice. I shouldn’t be telling you this because you may get out there and harvest my crop!

But seriously – well worth a go, and if you find a good patch in a wood in a ring – you will be spoilt senseless. Just cut open the stem to check for any maggot infestation – unfortunately they love it also!

See my latest pictures below. Some are younger and perfectly formed. As they grow older they get a ‘wavy’ margin (edge of cap).

Clouded Agaric pictures