It’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.