By Mark Binnersley, from Transition Stourbridge’s Wildlife and Edible Gardening Group
People are terrified of mushrooms.
From an early age, most of us are taught not
to touch wild fungus for fear of being poisoned. It’s almost a taboo subject in
the same way that death is.
For example, when I tell anyone I work with
funeral directors jokes such as ‘bet your company car’s a black estate car’ or
‘that’s a dying trade’ ensue.
Similarly, when it comes to mushrooms, jokes
about being a real fun guy (fungi) or mushrooms’ hallucinogenic qualities
There’s a name for this – mycophobia. The fear of fungus.
The truth is, mushrooms get an unfair deal.
Very few are deadly poisonous and even fewer will alter your state of mind,
As for the risk to children – most kids I know
remove the mushrooms from their pizza in disgust. The idea that they’re
suddenly going to start munching on a red and white fly agaric is ridiculous.
Besides, all children know that fairies live under fly agarics, so why would
they pick them?
I’ve been interested in fungi for some years
now and am able to identify around 20 edible species, making me an absolute
novice in the world of mushroom geeks.
But from fairy ring champignons and blushers
to beefsteak fungus and amethyst deceivers, it’s rare that a walk in the
countryside between May and December doesn’t yield something for the pot. The
flavour of many of these mushrooms is diverse and often amazing.
What’s more, collecting wild food is
incredibly satisfying if not slightly subversive – it’s a small slice of
independence from an industrial food system largely built upon land that once
belonged to the commons. Look up enclosure acts.
In the countryside around Stourbridge and
often its built-up areas, you’ll find a wide array of mushrooms. Common species
are sulphur tufts, shaggy parasols, fly agarics, mottlegills, yellow stainers,
ink caps, earthballs, puffballs, polypore fungus and russulas to name but a
few. Note, not all of these are edible.
This autumn has been a bumper season, thanks
to the mild but extremely damp conditions. And thanks to people’s mycophobia,
there are more for me to enjoy.
If you’re thinking about learning a bit more about what nature has to offer from a fungus perspective, you need to do a few things. Firstly, buy some books (more than one, so you can cross-reference). Roger Phillips’ Mushrooms is essential. Secondly, go on a foraging course with an experienced instructor. Google will lead you to someone near you.
The next thing you need to do is exercise
patience – get to know mushrooms slowly. Individual species can vary
significantly in colour and size due to their age and weather conditions.
Identification is based on a set of vital characteristics, covering the cap,
gills, pores, stem, ring, base and crucially habitat.
For example, the blusher (amanita rubescens)
is very similar to the panther cap (amanita pantherina). The blusher is edible
when cooked whilst the panther cap is seriously poisonous.
Understanding some small but important
differences ensure confusion of these two related mushrooms is avoided. The
blusher has lines on the outside of its ring, whereas the panther cap’s is
smooth. The blusher’s base is a more or less smooth bulb but the panther cap
has a clear rim at the top of a volva. And the blusher gets its name from the
red blushing that occurs when the mushroom is damaged. A diligent collector
won’t mix these two up.
Additionally, in this digital age, never make
an ID based on an internet picture or somebody’s comment on Facebook.
Once you do gain confidence and are able to
accurately identify a number of mushrooms, please pick considerately.
They provide food for all sorts of animals,
providing essential calories as we head into winter.
On top of this, mushrooms are the fruiting
bodies of mycelium, the internet of the forest that helps trees to distribute
carbon, phosphorus and nitrogen. It commands our utmost respect.
By leaving some mushrooms behind, you’ll help
them to multiply, as their spores (seed equivalents) are blown across woodland
or pasture by the wind.
Hopefully, you’re now feeling a little less
mycophobic than you did before. And if you don’t think you’ll ever be able to
bring yourself to eat a wild mushroom, you might be able to look at them with a
new-found admiration and wonder.
Some mushrooms might be magic but all of them are magical.
The film documents the search of a young couple to find a different way of living-to find community, meaning, and a way of living in harmony with the earth and raises questions about our so called ‘civilized’ ways of living and hence the title.
Refreshments will be served and we hope to generate some discussion after the film.
Entry by Donation | Refreshments | Discussion | All Welcome
Disillusioned by a story of consumption and alienation, a couple are called to action, and embark on a yearlong exploration around the UK, in search of the seeds of a different story, and with it, hope for the future.
We join Pete and Lily on an intimate and life-changing journey as they confront the stark reality of our times, and discover a hidden culture of connection and belonging.
Featuring conversations with grassroots activists alongside pioneering voices, including; Satish Kumar, Polly Higgins, Bruce Parry, Martin Shaw, and The Late Patrick Whitefield. A tale of both deep grief and inspired hope. www.wetheuncivilised.org
We have managed to get the river bank cleared of tipping at Bagley Street by contacting the owners of the adjoining business. There was quick co-operation which was wonderful.
A bird watcher has alerted us to another blockage in the river where a fallen tree is stopping a lot of rubbish at Bells Mill before the fishery. We are looking into who has riperian ownership of the river there.
This may be a good way forward for the future – tracking river rubbish and contacting and pressing riperian owners to meet their responsibilities.
All the best to everyone. Hoping for good weather and a low river level for our next event. As usual, many thanks for the support. Rosanne
A talk from forager and nutrition researcher Owen Raybould: ‘Can healthy eating save the planet?’ about: Ecological farming, Soil science, Climate change, Human health, food network and local projects.
On Sunday 5th June we saw fish swimming in the now fast flowing river, and as we were leaving we spotted a Kingfisher. It’s incredible to see nature returning to this stunning wildlife corridor we have right in the heart of Stourbridge.
If you visit be very careful as also at the moment there is Giant Hogweed growing, which contains toxic sap which can cause severe burns. And if you see any litter, please pick it up and help us keep our town Green and Tidy for us all and the wildlife. Many thanks.
Join us for a Spring Foraging Walk led by Owen Raybould. These walks have always been very interesting and informative, as well as highly enjoyable!
Date: Saturday 9th April Time: 2pm Meet: Blackstone Riverside Park free car park, meet there at 2pm, start the walk at 2:15pm. Tel number Owen: 07525261683 Cost: Donations
Please Note, very important: The location is the Blackstone Riverside Car park located on the B4194, situated just outside the town centre, (see map link below), and not the Blackstone picnic site car park which is located on the A456 Stourport Road on the other side of the river.
Directions: Coming from the Kidderminster area, enter Bewdley and cross over the bridge in the town centre. Turn left at the church down the narrow street, follow the road over a small hill and then under the bypass, the car park is then clearley signposted immediately on your left after the bypass.
We are in the midst of a global crisis of perspective and have forgotten the undeniable truth that everything is connected. A provocative and breathtaking wakeup call, a cross continental journey, exploring our cosmic origins and our future as a species. Planetary is a poetic and humbling reminder that it is time to shift our perspective. It asks us to rethink who we really are, to reconsider our relationship with ourselves, each other and the world around us.
Exploring different ways of bringing nature and wild ecology back into our food production. Including a short documentary and time for Q & A.
Owen’s talk will cover Permaculture, Re-forestation, Organics, Wildflower seeding, Herd and forest grazing, the importance of fungi in soil, and direct human involvement, such as Community Supported Agriculture.