Fungal forays reap rewards
WHAT I find most annoying about fungal forays is that I never have the bottle to follow them up and find fungi that I can then eat.
You would have to be a real expert to know which mushrooms and toadstools are safe to eat and chances are you would get one that didn’t really taste very nice anyway. One fungus you can eat is the wonderful shaggy ink cap. This is a tall fungus with a tall, narrow cylindrical cap which is white, shaggy and has woolly scales on its surface. This explains its other nickname, ‘the lawyer’s wig’.
Around this time of year the shaggy ink cap will appear almost out of nowhere on roadside verges and grasslands.
As I sit here, there is a spot I know just 50 yards away where one of these fungi can be found pretty much every year.
Sometimes it can be found in lines in woodland glades, as if it is queuing up for a fungal committee meeting.
Shaggy inkcaps have also been known to form fairy rings in dappled woodland after a rain shower.
This, of course. provides lots of places for fairy folk to sit and discuss the news of the day – blooming pixies coming into our woods!
The best time to look for this fungus is when turf has been disturbed, making it easier to push its way from the ground, or just after rain.
When it is young you can eat shaggy inkcap; it isn’t really appetising when it goes a bit manky anyway.
The gills are crowded, starting off white and then pink, then black dissolving from the cap’s margin until that cap is almost entirely gone. When it releases its spores it secretes a black liquid, hence the inkcap name.
Trawling the internet you will find a picture of hundreds of shaggy inkcap in a field in Preston which was a former piggery that became a meadow.
One of its Latin names, Coprinus, is translated as living on dung.
At this point I normally tell my joke about a mushroom walking into a pub and the barman saying: “You look like a fun guy.” But I wouldn’t want this column to lose its gravitas.
So, if you catch them straight after the rain, newly-formed shaggy inkcap will be a nice addition to a bit of toast.
They are not strong and have a pleasant, subtle taste.
These really are a distinctive fungus with their stately looks and distinctive wigs but, at this time of year, many of our woods are filled with wonderful, colourful and distinctive fungi.
If you can get on a fungal foray please make sure that you go out with an expert before eating anything.
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This trust is dedicated to the protection and promotion of the wildlife across Lancashire, seven boroughs of Greater Manchester and four in Merseyside.
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●● A cluster of shaggy inkcap fungi