Tag Archives: Penny bun

Massive glut of fungi in southern England


Larch boletes, The Miller and a Penny Bun

Well, that was a while coming. Two weeks ago, for only the second time in ten years, I had to start cancelling events because of a lack of fungi. There were no ground-fruiting species at all, and not much wood-fruiting species either. Then it started raining, but not much happened. By last weekend there were Fly Agarics in some places, but very little else. On Wednesday I took a group out and in three hours we found a grand total of two Hedgehog Mushrooms and one Bay Bolete. I postponed Thursday’s session.

Then, some time between Wednesday night and Saturday morning, the fungi exploded into life. Masses of boletes, parasols and many other species, and the biggest glut of Field Mushrooms I’ve ever seen. So it seems now I have a very good measure of how long it takes for the ground-fruiting fungi to respond to a major soaking after a drought-induced mushroom famine. The answer is between 11 and 13 days.

New foraging camp at Mill Wood up and running. Extra date added.

Email: geoff@geoffdann.co.uk


Basecamp at Mill Wood, brand new kettle on the fire

We’ve spent the last couple of days setting up the basecamp for some foraging events in a new location, the first time we’ve run anything like this. If today was anything to go by, these are going to be very interesting sessions. This secluded, and rather overgrown, private woodland in East Sussex has a rather strange history, having been turned from ancient woodland into a pig farm which apparently wasn’t a success, before being left for nature to reclaim it for a few years. It was purchased by an old friend of mine last autumn, and the first thing he told me about it was that it looked really good for fungi. And it seems he was right.

Basecamp at Mill Wood, Chicken of the Woods in the foreground

Yesterday, after 3 hours of messing around with different trees and ropes, we finally managed to get an 8x6m tarpaulin set up to our satisfaction, and today we set up a smaller tarp to protect the fire in wet weather, and had a first go at using our new cooking equipment. I also spent some time looking around the woodland for fungi, and ended up finding so much within 200 metres of the base camp that I had no need (or time) to foray further afield. The area I was looking in is mainly oak, birch and hornbeam, several edible species within a few metres of the tarp, including a Penny Bun (Boletus edulis) which one us unfortunately trod on, two Chicken of the Woods, several edible Brittlegills and some other edible boletes. A large flush of Weeping Widow (Lacrymaria lacrymabunda) wasn’t much further away.

Something mysterious lurking under a log (see text).

I also came across a real oddity. I was looking around in the immediate area of the base for logs suitable to be used as seating. There are a lot of logs round there that look like stumps, because they’ve been there for so long, so anything that looks like an attached stump was worth wobbling, to see if it was loose. One of these I turned over, and to my great surprise there were some fungi fruiting underneath it. Without my reading glasses to hand, it was not at all obvious what they were, especially as this is a very strange habitat for any fungi to be fruiting in. I guessed they might be some sort of earthstar, took a photo, and continued searching for seating.


Only when I got home and looked at the hi-res photos did it become clear what they are. These are very young Blushers (Amanita rubescens), just emerging from their universal veil. You can tell this by the pink discolouration, and the veil remnants on their emerging caps. But this is still a mystery, because it is not at all clear why they’d be fruiting under a log that looked like it had been there for several years. Fungi normally fruit where the mycelium detects lights (so if you have an infected damp beam in your loft, the fungi will grow down into your bedroom rather than up into the dark loft). So why would an Amanita mycelium try to fruit under a log? If the mycelium was only under the log, and not the surrounding area, how did it get there?

Puffballs, looking very much like Meadow Puffballs (Lycoperdon pratense), although this is an unusual habitat for that species.

Amanita at this stage have been confused for puffballs in the past, and in some cases this has led to serious poisonings when the Amanita in question was a Deathcap. It is easy to see how somebody might have made such a mistake. There were some puffballs around today too,  growing on a thin layer of soil that had accumulated on what looked like hardboard covering some sort of pit. These are Soft Puffball (Lycoperdon molle).

Anyway, I am now very much looking forwards to these sessions, and I have now added a new one to the original two (see below for details). They will be approximately 4 hours long, starting at 10.30. We’ll start by exploring the area nearest the basecamp, which I’ll have scouted out beforehand. We’ll then take our finds back to the base to have a good look at them and make sure everybody knows how they were identified, and then have a wild-mushroom-based lunch. After that we will head out for a second forage, this time going further afield into areas I will have not scouted beforehand, so I won’t know what we’re going to find, or where. Finally we will return to the base, go through what we found, and we will cook up all the finds on the campfire.

These sessions are an introductory price of £45 this year (they will be £65 next year).

Fungi season 2018 is now up and running and it is looking good. Have fun and stay safe!

Lamb Shanks with Horn of Plenty recipe

Email: geoff@geoffdann.co.uk


Horn of Plenty / Black Trumpet (Craterellus cornocopioides)

As requested by several people, here’s my Horn of Plenty and Lamb Shanks recipe.


2 large or 3 small lamb shanks
Lots of Horn of Plenty (and possibly other wild mushrooms, see below)
500ml vegetable stock
250ml Côtes du Rhône red wine
1 onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
mixed herbs, salt & pepper
vegetable or olive oil for frying
optional: carrot, stick of celery, bay leaves, bouquet garni

For the mushrooms, horn of plenty is definitely recommended and works best, either on its own or mixed 50/50 with penny buns or other good quality boletes. They can be dried or fresh, and the quantity is up to you. Today I happened to use 50% horn of plenty (fresh), and 50% mixed penny bun, dark penny bun & summer bolete, and a couple of morels (all dried). You cannot overdo the wild mushrooms in this dish.

There’s two ways to cook it – a deep casserole dish in an oven, or in a slow cooker. The methods are about the same, but the slow cooker takes longer.

1. Preheat the oven to 150°C or set the slow cooker to high, and put the stock and wine in the slow cooker or the casserole dish. If using a casserole dish then put it on the hob on low.

2. Seal the lamb shanks on all sides in a frying pan with vegetable or olive oil. This takes only a couple of minutes. Add the sealed shanks to the pot.

3. Fry the chopped onion for 3 minutes, then add the garlic and continue to fry for another minute or so. Don’t let either of them burn. Add to the pot, with a large pinch of dried herbs, seasoning, and all the mushrooms. Also add the optional ingredients if so desired.

4. If using a casserole dish (now put in the oven) then check every now and then to make sure there is enough liquid (it will depend how much is escaping). The shanks should be nearly covered with liquid. If there’s not enough, add some extra water. Turn the shanks occasionally to make sure all parts get long cooking. In an oven the meat should be almost falling off the bone after 3 hours. It will take longer in the slow cooker because it can take ages to get up to temperature and start bubbling.

Lamb Shanks with Horn of Plenty

5. Carefully remove the shanks, and put on a plate, then tip the rest of the contents into a large pan and return the shanks to the cooker/casserole. The shanks can just sit there keeping warm, and maybe getting a bit crispy round the edges. Now remove the optional ingredients from the liquid if you used them (they were just there to add flavour), and turn up the heat on the pan to reduce the liquid to a thick sauce with an intense taste. There’s an optional stage here too – you can either just reduce the liquid to a sauce leaving the mushrooms as intact as they still are, or you can use a hand blender to break them into smaller pieces. The first method produces a thinner sauce with identifable bits of mushroom in, the latter a thicker sauce without. Both taste great, which to do is a matter of aesthetics. You can also add a bit of cornflour-in-water to thicken the sauce if you would like more of it with a less strong taste.

6. When the sauce is sufficiently thick and tasty, plate up the shanks with seasonal vegetable and pour loads of sauce over each shank. The sauce goes particularly well with mashed potato.

The mysterious case of the missing mushrooms, and other news…

Email: geoffdann@hotmail.com
Phone: 07964 569715


Larch Bolete (19/09/2015, south-east Sussex)

Larch Bolete (19/09/2015, south-east Sussex)

Given the length of time that mycologists and foragers have been watching fungi, you might think we would have a pretty good idea if there’s going to be a good year or a bad year and be able to predict what they are going to do. If so, you’d be wrong. This is actually part II of the mysterious case of the missing mushrooms – part I was the second half of last autumn. In that case what happened was an extended dry spell from mid-September to late October. That this led to a lack of fungi isn’t remotely mysterious; fungi need moisture or they cannot produce fruit bodies. The mystery was their total failure to recover when the rains finally came. I expected November 2015 to make up for the disappointing October, but the situation actually got worse, and by the end of November there was nothing to be found, even though the usual season-ending hard frost hadn’t happened. My most successful outing of last autumn was exactly one year ago: September 19th 2015. Today I returned to the precise locations I visted that day and I found sweet fanny adams. And it is not just some species that are missing; it’s almost everything apart from a few wood-consuming bracket fungi like Giant Polypore and Beefsteak Fungus. This is particularly strange, since last year’s poor showing might have been expected to be followed by a bumper harvest this year. A further element of strangeness is a geographical inconsistency – in the northern half of Britain there is a completely different story unfolding. Judging by the photos and the words of mouth, the start to the mushroom season in Scotland and northern England is at least average and in some places very good indeed.

Fly Agaric (19/09/2015, south-east Sussex)

Fly Agaric (19/09/2015, south-east Sussex)

I won’t pretend that I know what is going on, but my best guess is that it is a combination of temperature and soil moisture. We’ve just had the highest September temperatures for over a century, and my home territory lies just on the border of what botanists call “hardiness zone 9”. Most of the UK is in the colder zone 8, but the south west and the areas immediately adjacent to the south and west coasts of Britain are warmer. This is due to the sea acting as a temperature buffer: daytime highs are slightly lower and nighttime lows are slighty higher. The result is that while the average lows further north have fallen below the level that triggers most of the autumn fungi to fruit, in the far south the fungi still think it is summer. Although it is more complicated than that, because what I’ve been seeing over the past two weeks is one fruit body here and there – one Deathcap, one Blusher, or as today, one Scarletina Bolete (spotted from the car, growing by the side of a road). This suggests that soil moisture content is also playing a part, even though we have had a reasonable amount of rain recently. I won’t pretend that I know what is going to happen next either, but my best guess is that it is just taking a while for the fungi to respond to recent temperature falls and heavy rain, and that within a week or two there will be fungi all over the place. I certainly hope so, because I have got a busy October ahead of me.

Penny Bun / Cep (19/09/2015, south-east Sussex)

Penny Bun / Cep (19/09/2015, south-east Sussex)

Speaking of which, it is probably worth reminding people of some important dates and events which still have free spaces.

Firstly, I have just added another extra date to my fungi foraging sessions in Hemsted Forest (west Kent), due to the others being booked up. This will be on Saturday November 5th (see fungi foraging link at the top of the page).

There are still places available on the fungi foraging workshops on Sat/Sun 8th/9th of October at Bay Tree Cottage in Northamptonshire, and the fungi foraging day and chef-prepared meal on Sun 16th of October at Catthorpe Manor in Leicestershire.

There will be a book launch event (free) on Sat Oct 22nd at Bookbuster, Queen’s Road, Hastings. This will include talks at 6pm and 7.15pm, and signed copies of the new book will be on sale.

There will be another launch event on Fri Nov 4th at The Garden House in Brighton, East Sussex. The launch event will include a display of a wide variety of fungi, signed copies of the book will be available, and it is followed by a talk, a tasting session and a meal (see their website for details).

Dark Penny Bun, Take Two

Email: geoffdann@hotmail.com
Phone: 07964 569715


I have a confession to make. I had to remove my previous blog entry because it contained an error – and those can be serious in this line of business. However, there’s some lessons here. The first is that not all fungi foraging mistakes are equal – if you’re going to get something wrong then the difference between mistaking a delicacy for another delicacy and mistaking a poisonous species for a delicacy is also the difference between a tasty dinner and your last dinner. It was not good fortune that my mistake was the former rather than the latter, but the result of knowing that even if I got something in this region of fungal taxonomy wrong, I wasn’t going to end up being poisoned. It was a mistake nonetheless, and so this blog post will retrace the steps that led me astray.

I’ve long been aware of the existence of three mushrooms very similar to a penny bun (Boletus edulis, cep, porcino). All three are much rarer, at least in southern England, and all of them highly prized – at least as much as their more famous relative, and one case even more so. The three in question are the Summer Bolete (B. reticulatus), the Dark Penny Bun (or Dark Cep, B. aereus) and the Pine Bolete (B. pinophilus). As the years marched on and I continued to never find any of them, I started to wonder whether maybe I’d seen them many times and had been mistaking them for a Penny Bun. I mean…exactly how similar where they?

Penny Bun (Boletus edulis)

Penny Bun (Boletus edulis)

Then two things led to my first mistake. The Summer Bolete does not always fruit in the summer, and its name comes from the reticulations on its stem – a network of raised lines. I came across a couple of pictures on the internet claiming to be B. reticulatus, showing a clear, white network of lines on a mushroom that otherwise looked exactly like a bog-standard penny bun. “Ah”, I thought, “so I’ve been picking these up and just not realising what they were. Now I know what a Summer Bolete is.” Except I didn’t. My picture (left) is not of B. reticulatus. It’s just a penny bun with a particularly noticeable network of reticulations on its stem.

And when you’re working by a process of elimination – which is sometimes a legitimate strategy when identifying fungi – then one mistake can lead to another. When, two weeks ago, I found a mushroom with a light brown, suede-like cap, and white pores, I ended up concluding that it had to be B. aereus – it didn’t look dark enough, but then again some of the pictures I could find of that species had caps as light, especially when they were quite small. So I blogged about Dark Penny Buns.

Summer Bolete (Boletus reticulatus)

Summer Bolete (Boletus reticulatus)

Then a few days later I found lots more of them – outside a pub where the landlord had taken a dislike and dumped a load of earth on them, in a futile attempt to stop them popping up on his land. At this point, with more specimens as examples, it dawned on me what had happened. These couldn’t be B. aereus because they were the wrong colour. Dark Penny Buns have to be Dark. So they had to be B. reticulatus, and what I’d thought was that species were Penny Buns. The network on their stems is much finer, and brown rather white.

Dark Penny Bun, or Dark Cep (Boletus aereus)

Dark Penny Bun, or Dark Cep (Boletus aereus)

Then, in a twist so typical of mushroom foraging, something else turned up. Yesterday I visited a site where hedgehog fungi grow in great profusion every year, collecting for two foraging workshops in Northamptonshire. They were there as usual, but this time they had a friend – a solitary, dark-capped mushroom that otherwise looked remarkably like a penny bun. And by now you will have guessed where this story is going: this really was a dark penny bun. And it really was delicious.

As for the fourth member of this quartet – the Pine Bolete? That remains on the “to find” list, but the way this autumn is going, I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns up next week.

27/11/2015: UPDATE

The fourth member of the quartet has turned up. Where? On the banner at the top of my main page, of course! I’ve been mistaking Pine Boletes for Penny Buns, it seems.


The Penny Bun Storm Hits

Email: geoffdann@hotmail.com
Phone: 07964 569715


Penny Bun (Boletus edulis, Porcino, Cep)

Penny Bun (Boletus edulis, Porcino, Cep)

Re: my last blog post: OK, I was wrong, the pundits were right this time and the much-anticipated “penny bun storm” appears to have arrived.  It’s perhaps a little later than expected (although the mushrooms rarely do what people expect them to do), but there is now no doubt that 2013 is going to go down as a very good year for Boletus edulis, otherwise known as a Porcino or Cep, and the most important commercially collected species in the world. I have in the last week seen numerous pictures posted from all over the UK of large collections of this species, mostly in excellent condition.  And in those places where other people haven’t already been out picking, I’m finding plenty myself.

Lurid Bolete (Boletus luridus)

Lurid Bolete (Boletus luridus)

It is also looking like a pretty good year for most of the good edible species.  I’m finding more chanterelles (Cantherellus cibarius) than usual, very abundant fruitings of Parasol Mushrooms (Macrolepiota procera), Giant Puffballs (Calvatia gigantea), Hedgehog Mushrooms (Hydnum repandum) and also a wide selection of other boletes, especially the Penny Bun’s “poor relation” the Bay Bolete (Boletus badius).  This morning I also found a lovely collection of what are arguably the most beautiful of the pored mushrooms, the Lurid Bolete (Boletus luridus).  They almost look too pretty to eat.  Be careful if collecting, because there are some poisonous red-pored boletes – this is not the easiest branch of the family as far as safe collecting is concerned.  An important identifying feature of this particular species is the persistent red line just above the tubes when cut. Also note that they are poisonous raw, and need to be well cooked.

All things considered, 2013 is shaping up to be a bumper year for fungi (a claim that is made every year in some quarters…this year is actually true). The season is likely to peak over the next three weeks so get ready for what is likely to be a glorious October for fungiphiles!


Welcome to my new website

Posted 23/03/2013.

Peak of the mushroom season 2011:

Late November 2011, as the mushroom season peaked.  Normally its earlier, but October 2011 was far too hot and dry for fungi.

Late November 2011, as the mushroom season peaked. Normally it’s earlier, but October 2011 was far too hot and dry for fungi.

These fungi, all of which are edible, were all collected in one afternoon at various locations throughout Sussex.  It’s not a normal day’s haul, either in terms of variety or quantity.  Days like this only come around once in a couple of years, when the conditions are just right.  It also helped that the peak of the season was late in 2011, and I already knew where to go to find a lot of this stuff.  I also ought to admit that some of them were picked more for their aesthetic qualities (I wanted a good picture!) than their desirability for eating.  I should also assure people that I did not strip the locations concerned of all the edible fungi.  No more than 50% of the fruting bodies were taken.  There just happened to be fungi all over the place that day, and the situation was also helped by the fact that the peak was late that year, and that many would-be foragers had given up on the mushrooms that year after the worst October for fungi that I can remember.

Roughly left-to-right, and top-to-bottom:

Parasol mushroom (Macrolepiota procera)
Cauliflower fungus (Sparassis crispa)
Trooping funnel (Clitocybe geotropa)
Boletus luridiformis
Penny bun (Boletus edulis)
Shaggy inkcap (Coprinus comatus)
Common puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum)
Macrolepiota konradii
Slippery jack (Suillus luteus)
Jersey cow colete (Suillus bovinus)
Wood blewit (Clitocybe nuda)
Porcelain fungus (Oudemansiella mucida)
Meadow puffball (Lycoperdon pratense)
Amethyst deceiver (Laccaria amethystea)
The miller (Clitopilus prunulus)
Peppery bolete (Chalciporus piperatus)
Brown birch bolete (Leccinum scabrum)
Tawny funnel (Clitocybe flaccida)
Field mushroom (Agaricus campestris)
Clitocybe sordida
Agaricus lanipes