As the business grew, the couple soon realised that it wasn’t only the product people were interested in but also the experience. ‘We meet loads of people on our walks who say they used to go out with their grandparents and forage, but it’s all gone, like a missed generation,’ says Deb.
Bengt decided to take a Swedish qualification to be a so called ‘mushroom consultant’. Unlike mycologists, who are mostly concerned with classification, the role of the mushroom consultant is a lightweight practical approach to mushrooms. ‘It’s driven by the need to inform the public about mushrooms and encourage them to get out and about,’ says Bengt. With an emphasis on taking away the fear of picking mushrooms and giving people the tools to do it themselves e.g. cooking, preparation and preservation.’
Whilst studying, Bengt noticed the differences in culture between the UK and Sweden and soon set about teaching people the way he was taught. ‘It was when I was writing my essay for my mushroom consultancy course that I looked at the differences in approach to funghi in Sweden and England. I noticed that in England people are put off because of health and safety. They are told to completely avoid picking any mushrooms and there’s a lot of bad advice around, which scares people off quite a lot,’ says Bengt.
The two soon set up foraging walks where the aim is to teach people the way Bengt was taught, starting with identifying beginner’s mushrooms that are completely safe to eat. ‘We try to give them two or three characteristics in the mushrooms they come across that they can then recognise themselves. In the course of the walk we will look at the characteristics that differentiate the Cep family from other families, for example,’ says Deb.
‘When we take people out on the forays some of them are really worried,’ adds Bengt. I tell them to relax because we will teach them keys to identify wild mushrooms, and that includes how to avoid the really nasty