Monday, September 6, 2010

Loveli Fungi

I went on my first London foray yesterday in Hampstead Heath, led by Andy Overall of A Fungi To Be With, London's longest standing fungus group.  It started around the end of punk, a good time to shake off the noise put your nose to the still and silent ground and start foraging.
Like anything good and fun, this foray started at the car boot
Telling the edibles from the toxic
Andy is a wealth of information about these clever little colonists, with 20+ years of research under his belt.  As an enthusiast and ranger at Kenwood House estate, he's cataloged hundreds of species in the Heath over the years, and even with that, we managed o find a couple of fungi that stumped him!  Foraging for mushrooms has been a London pre-occupation for a very long, most notably since the second world war and the many european communities who settled here, so there's competition for harvesting in good spots. Still, I managed to come home with enough to show for my not-so-hard work!

My first edible Russula!
A lovely Penny Bun, probably only a day old.  It will mature in 3 days.
I was lucky enough to have found some great things- a couple of edible Russulas, a few Penny Bun Cepes and a couple of Blushers.  The Russulas were right next to a stand of sloes so I did my first picking of London's favorite foraged fruit right there.  The cepes were a bit more tricky, hiding under the fallen seed pods of a very happy Hornbeam tree.

This Bolete oxidizes to a lovely azure blue when cut or bruised
Andy offers a packed schedule of guided forays and even a breakfast foray that includes eating a hearty breakfast at the end of a tour hour search.

The fungal booty.  Caution: Mushrooms with brittle
 gills will crumble in flat bag.
I learned that some of these fungi people (from the good old days and from now) have a good sense of humor, too.  Smell is important in identification and while most smelled of almond or cleaning agent or "normal" things, one of the olfactory terms is "spermatic" as in, smells like sperm.  Yes, that sperm.  Ick.  Then there was the species named for hemorrhoids, the charcoal burner, etc etc and other names that would scare the pants on any unknowing diners.  Also, there's a definite sense of danger in this kind of foraging.  Andy wove tales of what happens when you get the wrong mushroom, blood being cleaned through liquid charcoal, full body tranfusions, kidney transplants... so beware!

I'm waiting for my husband to return from Helsinki to eat them.  Although I've been assured that they are all edible by the pro, just to be safe, we'll dine on them together.  And watch for symptoms...

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