Toadstools or Mushrooms?

IMG_3451It’s easy to understand why myths and legends were woven around the nature of toadstools when they appear so suddenly and so very substantially as if out of nowhere.   Where do the spoors come from?  How do they grow so quickly?

This reluctant gardener only noticed them when they had grown in some abundance on the damp mossy grass of the lawn. Knocking them over and pulling them up, they had an unpleasant solidity to them.  I’ve no idea what they are (yet another growing thing for which this statement is true).

This thought reminded me of visiting a local pharmacy in a mountain village in France where it was possible to take in your forest harvest and consult wall charts, and the pharmacist himself, if you were uncertain if what you had picked was edible or not.  There were three broad classifications: Good to Eat, Edible but not particularly nice, and Poisonous.   I’m not sure I would ever have trusted my ability to distinguish between the appearance of some of the Good to Eat and the Poisonous, which in some cases looked remarkably similar on the charts.

I’ve always erred on the side of caution and bought my mushrooms at the supermarket, but collecting mushrooms in the woods was something that my Russian teacher in Moscow was always talking to me about, leading to a knowledge of fungus vocabulary I have never been able to fully display.  Once, when he and his family invited me to visit their dacha we went searching in the woods with a disappointing lack of success.  On the drive back to Moscow however, we had to stop each time we passed someone offering a basket of mushrooms for sale by the road.  At each stop, my teacher got out of the car, inspected the merchandise, and then told the seller why his produce was not of the appropriate quality to be worth buying.  So I never did taste any mushrooms from a Russian wood.

……. Nor from a Scottish garden.

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  1. Even when you picture them sliced and gently fried with some fresh garlic and butter, even when you are salivating….it’s best to be cautious. Last year a UCT professor of botany collected some mushrooms in Newlands Forest, served them up for supper, and they weren’t the right kind. Sad story. Even the professionals can get it wrong!

    • I’m trying to remember the name of the well known author(!) who managed to poison himself and his friends cooking the wrong sort…. There’s no way you could persuade me to try something you’d picked in the forest. There’s something fundamentally disturbing about them.

  2. I once lured a sea captain from his ship in Southampton to a Hampshire woodland & served him wild fungi soup. He was my father.
    I began to salavate seeing your picture, and desperately wanted to pick & study a specimen. Definately a type of Boletus, but not the “King of Mushrooms” Boletus Edulus…the only one I eat.
    Could be Boletus Scaber, annoyingly renamed Leccinum scabrum…? Will definately have little “pores” rather than gills.

    • Sorry – I didn’t pause to see if they had pores or gills. Fascinating how our perspectives differ so markedly. I don’t find them appealing in any way. I’m fascinated by how they grow so quickly and in such inauspicious surroundings, but didn’t hesitate in binning them.

      It did remind me of the stories people used to tell at school of finding msgic mushrooms in Glen Fruin – I didn’t believe them then, largely on the basis of wondering how they knew what one would look like in the first place….but who knows?

      • They definately grow in the remote and sinister Glen Douglas…but I was more interested in viewing the bomb silos and deer.
        I took a very reluctant friend on a foray with local Micological Society in Bucklebury, and we found many interesting specimens, but we made the local paper when it was mentioned we found Psilocybe semilanceata in a woody glade…(will dig this old chestnut up up when said friend takes his turn as Mayor of Newbury).

      • It’s good to have ‘history’ on local worthies. It should stop them becoming too grand!

  3. I used to love foraging for mushrooms when I was growing up, though I’d rarely eat my finds. My most memorable discovery was a basketball-sized giant puffball. I took it home, cooked it, and made my parents share the feast. The flavour was incredible compared to the insipid supermarket-mushroom! Jx

    • I think I’m just too scared of making a mistake to eat something I’d found in the forest – even if it might taste delicious. I suppose I perceive the downside risk as too great, so I admire the adventure of those who just get on and try it.

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