Tag Archives: “the blusher”

Large boletes are out in force, it’s mushroom time!

Email: geoff@geoffdann.co.uk

28/08/2018

I love this time of year. The oppressive hot weather has gone, and nature is at its most abundant for a forager. Best of all, it has been 9 months since mushroom season ended and I don’t have many foraging clients, so I actually get to remember what my hobby was like before it became my job. And because every year is different, it’s never boring.

Oak Bolete

The opening of mushroom season 2018 is quite selective – a lot of things aren’t fruiting at all – but the things that are fruiting are doing so very abundantly. Most predominant of all are the large boletes. This morning I found the biggest flush of Oak Boletes (Butyriboletus appendiculatus) I have seen in many years, and finally got a photo that eluded me while collecting photos for my book (the photo of this species in the book is one of the few that aren’t my own). This is an absolutely first class edible – my wife Cathy ranked it higher than a Penny Bun (Boletus edulis), and I’m tempted to agree with her. Our six month old daughter Dorothy was also impressed. They are sweet, and almost crunchy even when cooked. Do be careful

Rooting Bolete

though – there were some very similar-looking mushrooms under the next tree, no more than ten metres away, but these were the poisonous and bitter Rooting Bolete (Caloboletus radicans).  Apart from the taste, the most obvious differences are slight differences in the colour scheme, and the patterning on the stem (compare photos).

I actually spotted these Oak Boletes yesterday and went back to photograph them this morning, and their abundance prompted me to spend the afternoon seeing what else I could find.  The result was a very wide selection of large boletes, including Summer Boletes (B. reticulatus), Penny Buns, Lurid Boletes (Suillelus luridus),

Clockwise from top left: Lurid Bolete, Summer Bolete, Penny Bun, Oak Bolete, Bay Bolete, Scarletina Bolete

Scarletina Boletes (Neoboletus luridiformis) a couple of Bay Boletes (Imleria badia), as well as handful of smaller species. Dark Penny Buns (B. aereus) are also fruiting in south-east England, but I didn’t see any today. These species typically do well after a long, hot summer, so this is not unexpected.

Another edible species that is really going for it is The Blusher (Amanita rubescens), which is having its best year in a long time.  There’s a decent amount of various members of the Agaricaceae about (Agaricus species, Parasols and Shaggy Parasols, Giant Puffballs), and I found a big fruiting of one of my absolute favourites – Poplar Fieldcap (Cyclocybe cylindracea).

Poplar Fieldcap

Some things are missing though, including some boletes: I haven’t seen a single Leccinum, nor a Suillus. There are a few brittlegills (Russula) about, but nothing like what you’d expect in a good year for this group. I haven’t seen any chanterelles or any of their relatives either, and I’m expecting a quiet year for these after they fruited so prolifically last year. No sign of the rest of the Amanitas either, apart from a couple of False Blushers (Amanita spissa) – no Deathcaps (A. phalloides).

All things considered, it’s looking pretty good for this year’s mushroom season. I expect the things that are missing will start turning up in the next two or three weeks.

Finally, it is also looking like an exceptional year for sloes.

Sloes

Good luck and stay safe!

Geoff

Dorothy Dann samples an Oak Bolete

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

Email: geoff@geoffdann.co.uk

22/08/2018

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.

Blushers

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!

Drought over, and the late summer fungi are out

Email: geoff@geoffdann.co.uk

13/08/2018

Just a quick update on the weather and fungi conditions.

The last couple of days have seen another generous helping of rain in south-east England, and the first clear evidence that the fungi are back. And in fact the omens are positive, and right now I’d tentatively guess we’re in for a good autumn as far as fungi are concerned. This afternoon I visited a location I’ll be running some new events at this autumn. Details are available via the link at the top of this page, the area is called “Mill Wood”, and it is the site of a woodland pig farm that has been reclaimed by nature for the last four years, plus some adjacent land. We found plenty of Brittlegills (mainly Charcoal Burners), a Blusher, some boletes, a couple of very young Chicken of the Woods, a large flush of Common Puffballs just coming through and a lot of White-laced Shanks (all edible). There were also a few other, inedible bits a pieces. That’s not bad at all for August 13th after an extended spell of extremely hot and dry weather.

Three Serious English Poisonous Mushroom Incidents in 3 weeks

Email: geoff@geoffdann.co.uk

01/09/2017

Deadly Webcap (Cortinarius rubellus)

There has been a spate of poisonings and near-poisonings involving wild fungi in England this August. That they happened in August is itself unusual – in many years the toxic species involved haven’t even started fruiting by now. This year the main fungi season has started early, and some species have been fruiting very abundantly, and this includes some of the most dangerous poisonous species. Combined with the ever-increasing number of people foraging for fungi in the UK, a spate of incidents involving poisonous varieties was probably inevitable. However, these incidents expose a persistent myth – a hangover from our long-standing mycophobia. The impression given is that fungi foraging is a dangerous pastime and even “experts” can get into serious trouble. This is simply not true, as anybody who really does know what they are doing will confirm.

The first case involved some fungi picked on Dartmoor about three weeks ago. It has not, to my knowledge, been reported in the national media, but the victim’s friend’s sister notified the

Wood Blewit (Lepista nuda)

foraging community via social media. She told us that the victim “knows his mushrooms”, and that he had offered his friend some too, but she had rejected them because they were too infested with insect grubs. The insect grubs wouldn’t have harmed her, but had she eaten the fungi then she might have died. The victim is currently in hospital, on dialysis, suffering from kidney failure and in need of a transplant. Within a couple of days, confirmation emerged of the species involved: the victim had mistaken a Deadly Webcap (Cortinarius rubellus) for a Wood Blewit (Lepista nuda). The discussion on social media immediately turned to how this could possibly have happened. How could somebody who “knows his mushrooms” have made this particular mistake? The answer is that this is simply not possible. Blewits are blueish-purple-grey, and while there are plenty of Webcaps which are a similar colour, one or two of which are indeed easily mistaken for Blewits, Deadly Webcaps are red-orange. The two fungi also have very different gills and grow at different times of the year – you wouldn’t expect to find a Wood Blewit in England before October, even in a year where everything is early. In short, this is precisely the sort of mistake a novice would make, not an experienced shroomer.

Thai Death Soup (photo by Stephanie Jayne Thomas)

The second case involved absolute beginners: two Thai ladies who had never been mushroom foraging before. They had encountered a local forager who’d been picking Blushers (Amanita rubescens), and they decided to pick some for themselves. What they didn’t know was that beginners and Blushers don’t mix well, because it is far too easy to mistake a Panthercap (Amanita pantherina) for a Blusher, and Panthercaps are dangerously poisonous. These two ladies were lucky enough to run into some people from Glamorgan Fungi Group, who, having noticed their bucket full of Blushers, asked them what they were doing. They offered to go through the collection, and check to see whether any Panthercaps had crept in by mistake. No Panthercaps turned up, but something far worse did. In amongst the Blushers were some Deathcaps. More than enough to kill not only these two Thai ladies, but most of their families as well, had they got home and made the wild mushroom soup they had planned. No experienced forager would have made this mistake either. (And I’m not even going to start on the state of this pile of mushrooms, ruined by dirt even without the lurking Deathcaps – what a pointless waste).

A third case emerged yesterday, reported in a local newspaper in Essex. Details are scarce, but what we do know is that an “experienced mushroom picker” who lives in Southend has eaten a Deathcap and has been “hospitalised for several days with severe illness”. It might be true that this was an experienced forager, but I simply don’t believe it. These stories get reported like this, both by the traditional media and on social media, by people who do not understand the risks associated with fungi foraging. Yes, it can be dangerous, but only if you are over-confident, foolish or complacent. “Experienced foragers” do not make these sorts of mistakes – only people who themselves do not know much about fungi make the claim that “even experienced foragers can easily make fatal mistakes”, and this includes both journalists and friends of victims.

Deathcap (Amanita phalloides), deadly but does not really look like either The Blusher or a Panthercap, regardless of being related.

Foraging for fungi is perfectly safe provided you take the time to educate yourself about the risks. The two species of fungi involved in these incidents are very well known, and have been responsible for countless previous poisonings worldwide. For any particular edible species, we know what you are likely to confuse them with, and how to tell them apart. The people who end up poisoning themselves (and their friends and families) are nearly always either beginners who didn’t understand the risks, people who are foraging in foreign lands with unfamiliar fungi, or people who made a very stupid mistake that could easily have been avoided. The truth is that people who do take their time, make a bit of effort to learn about fungi and then take a reasonable amount of care, do not end up eating any poisonous wild fungi.

If you want to learn more about safely foraging for fungi then there’s two things you need to two. The first is to buy a good book (mine came out last year, and is the most comprehensive and up-to-date book on fungi foraging in northern Europe).  For details see the link at the top of this page, or reviews on Amazon . The second is to go on a forage (for food) or a foray (just about mushrooms) with somebody who really does know what they are doing, because this greatly accelerates the rate at which you can learn.

Below are some photos of the fungi involved in the recent incidents, and some other of the “usual suspects”  and I’ll leave you with one other comment posted on social media a couple of days ago:

“Has anyone ever eaten a poisonous mushroom? I know they all have varying effects but is the worse that can happen sickness and or diarrhoea? I’m more up for trying mushrooms but my other half is really adamant unless we can know 100% what it is which I find hard as a lot have poisonous look alikes”.

The Blusher (Amanita rubescens), edible but looks like a Panthercap.

Panthercap (Amanita pantherina), poisonous but looks like The Blusher.

Fool’s Funnel (Clitocybe rivulosa), another well-known seriously toxic species, though rarely deadly.

Livid Pinkgill (Entoloma sinuatum), just about as dangerous as a mushroom gets without actually being deadly.

Deadly Fibrecap (Inocybe erubescens) (photo by Andrea Kunze)

 

Autumn arrives in Britain – It’s Mushroomtime…

07/09/2013

As anyone in rural areas of the north will not need to be told, yesterday autumn arrived in Britain, with a splash. The temperature dropped by about ten degrees in most places, and nearly everywhere had a very welcome downpour. We’ve just had the best summer since 2006, but it does now look as if it’s over. Hopefully (from my point of view anyway) there will be no repeats of the misplaced October heatwave we were subjected to in 2011.

7th September 2013, Sussex.

7th September 2013, Sussex.

It’s also perfect timing in terms of fungi. The first big flush of autumn species had just started poking their heads above ground in the last few days, and the change in the weather means they won’t get dried out and with a bit of luck they will start fruiting in abundance. Today was my first (advertised as) peak session with a group of foraging students, and it produced my first decent basketful of English wild mushrooms of 2013 (we are about 3 or 4 weeks behind northern Scotland down here on the south coast).

We found in excess of forty species altogether, and if I include a couple I found before the session officially started, the list of edible species found today is as follows:

Parasol mushroom (Macrolepiota procera), ruby bolete (Xerocomus rubellus), larch bolete (Suillus grevellei), bay bolete (Boletus badius), the blusher (Amanita rubescens), tawny grisette (Amanita fulva), brown birch bolete (Leccinum scabrum), blackening russula (Russula nigricans), rooting shank (Oudemansiella radicata), orange oak bolete (Leccinum aurantiacum), velvet russula (Russula violiepes), the miller (Clitopilus prunulus), blushing wood mushroom (Agaricus silvaticus), honey fungus (Armillaria mellea) and chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus).

Now is the time to book if you want to go mushrooming with an expert this autumn! 🙂

Geoff

 

Blushers abound, but beware the lurking panther

25/08/2013

The mushroom season sometimes starts slowly, and sometimes bursts into life in a flash. The main action can start any time between the end of August and the start of October, but 2013 is shaping up to be a good one and an early starter. I held my first public session of the year yesterday afternoon (in Kent), and the results were very promising for such an early date. It was also very wet, which isn’t so brilliant from a picking point of view, but bodes well for the immediate future: yesterday’s deluge is likely to be the starting pistol for the bulk of the autumn species.

We did not find a vast selection of different groups of fungi. Instead there was a useful selection of many different species belonging to two groups: russula and amanita. This is actually quite helpful from a learning point of view, because it allows people to familiarise themselves with a particular subset of fungi rather than being overwhelmed with all sorts of unrelated and very different types. There were large amounts of one good edible species belonging to each group.  We also found a nice selection of other edible bits and pieces, including chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus), pale oysters (Pleurotus pulmonarius) and common inkcaps (Coprinellus atramentaria). The good edible russula that turned up in quantity was the charcoal burner (Russula cyanoxantha), but since my last post was partly about an edible russula, I will dedicate this one to the other group.

The Blusher ([em]Amanita rubescens[/em])

The Blusher (Amanita rubescens)

Amanita is not a genus for foraging beginners. It contains the two deadliest species in the world (the death cap (A. phalloides) and destroying angel (A. virosa)), as well as the infamous, but beautiful and enchanting fly agaric (A. muscaria), which is both hallucinogenic and nauseating. The good edible amanita we found large numbers of yesterday is a close relative of the fly agaric. It is called “the blusher”, and it’s a substantial, common and very tasty fungus. It also contains toxins, but they are broken down by cooking. All parts of the mushroom must be heated to above 80 degrees for this to happen. I find this puts some people off, but it’s really no different to cooking chicken. The picture on the left wasn’t taken yesterday, but last week in southern Scotland on my way back down to Sussex, of blushers growing in the grounds of a service station by the M74 motorway. The name refers to the tendency of this mushroom to turn slowly pink, especially when the flesh is exposed to the air. This is one of the important distinguishing features, which is very important if you are thinking of eating it, because this species is all too easily mixed up with several other members of its genus, one of which is particularly similar and particularly nasty.

panthercap

Panthercap (Amanita pantherina)

And right on cue, the nasty lookalike appeared in the middle of yesterday’s session in Kent. The panther cap (Amanita pantherina) is another close relative of the fly agaric and blusher, and it contains similar toxins to the former, except considerably more of them. Panther caps are right on the border of being fatally poisonous – eat one or two and you are probably just going to have a very unpleasant experience, eat an unhealthy plateful of them and you might just die.

So how do you tell them apart? Panthercaps (left) do not “blush” like the blusher, and have more spiky and pronounced veil-remnants (spots) on the cap, and these are white rather than pinky-grey. They also have a different sort of stem base – the blusher has a bulb (volva) which merges neatly into the stem, whereas the panther cap has a “step” or rim around what is left of the volva. My advice is to do what I did: do not collect blushers for the pot until you’ve found and identified a panther cap.

Blackberries fruiting in profusion, end of August 2013.

Blackberries fruiting in profusion, end of August 2013.

Having had such a successful day yesterday, I decided to go out early this afternoon in the sunshine and explore some local bits of countryside in my new home town of Hastings. I ended up not quite where I intended to go, walking out on a wooden walkway that led to a viewing platform (a dead end) in the middle of a very large reed bed. On my way back to the woodland I’d intended to visit, I stumbled upon enough blackberries to keep me busy for the whole afternoon. It seems 2013 is going to be a bumper year for certain types of fruit. It is reportedly the best year in several for apples (and the tree at the bottom of my garden would appear to confirm this), and if this lot is anything to go by then it is also going to be a storming year for blackberries.

Watch out for those mushrooms – it is all about to kick off.

Geoff