September is a great month for fungi foragers. If you were out walking through woodlands at the weekend you might have noticed an array of different types of fungi along the way. However, to take advantage of this free and nutritious ingredient you need to have confidence in your identification skills, or at least know someone who does.
Rozites Caperatus, a highly regarded edible species
Some edible fungi are fairly easy to identify, others are more difficult and of course if you get it wrong the consequences can be very unpleasant, sometimes deadly. If in any doubt at all, don’t eat it without first consulting an experienced mycologist.
Hygrocybe punicea (aka scarlet waxcap), regarded as edible but probably best avoided as there have been reports that some people have been significantly ill after eating.
Some people can even be allergic to edible species. So if you are trying a fungus for the first time, whether you collected it yourself and are certain of its identification, or if you bought it from a commercial supplier, we recommend that you try a small amount first to see how your body reacts.
Polyporus squamosus (aka dryad’s saddle), edible in so much as it’s not poisonous, but rubbery and not a good one for the pot.
When starting out as a fungi collector, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with one species at a time. The fruit bodies (the bit we can see and might eat) of a species can look quite different from a picture in a book, depending on their maturity and weather conditions. Once you are confident of the potential variations of a species you’ll be ready to move on and learn about another.
Amanita muscaria (aka fly agaric), do not eat! Rarely deadly but will make you ill. Also has hallucinogenic properties. Is a food source for some fly larvae, hence its common name.
A safe and sociable way to develop your identification skills is to join an organised fungi foray. These are led by experienced foragers with a passion for fungi and who are always more than happy to see new faces. Scotland currently has four Fungus Groups which regularly organise forays. These groups are either free, or at most £5 per year to join.
Hygrocybe intermedia, edible but also rare so we would not recommend collecting this species.
Scotland’s Countryside Rangers also organise Fungal Forays which you can join for just a few pounds and our National Nature Reserve staff hold free fungi forays from time to time. So, chances are there will be a foray taking place near you sometime soon.
Cantharellus cibarius, (aka chanterelle), one of nature’s finest delicacies, enjoyed around the world.
For the latest information on fungi happenings across Scotland you can follow Scottish Fungi on Facebook and Twitter.
Some upcoming fungi forays
Sunday 21st September, Templeton Woods (Dundee), 1pm, £3.50
Saturday 20th September, Don View (Grampian Fungus Group), 10.30am – 3.30pm, £5 (year’s membership)
Saturday 27th September, Calder Wood (West Lothian), Fungus Group of South East Scotland, 11am – 3pm, £5 (year’s membership)
Saturday 20th September, Sornbank Wood (E Ayrshire), Clyde & Argyll Fungus Group, Free
Sunday 21st September, Strone Hill Wood, Clyde & Argyll Fungus Group, Free
Saturday 27th September, Ardgowan (Renfrewshire), Clyde & Argyll Fungus Group, Free
Sunday 28th September, Craigengillan Estate, (E Ayrshire), Clyde & Argyll Fungus Group, Free
Sunday 28th September, Haddo Country Park (Grampion Fungus Group), 10.30am – 3.30pm, £5 (year’s membership)
Saturday 28th September, Loch Leven NNR, 2pm – 4pm, Free
Saturday 20th September, Craigievar (Grampian Fungus Group), 10.30am – 3.30pm, £5 (year’s membership)
Saturday 4th & Sunday 5th October, Tollcross Park (Glasgow) Fungi Fry Up, 10am –noon, Free
Saturday 4th October,Spier’s Fungal Foray, Beith (Ayrshire), 2pm start, Free
Sunday 5th October, Lauder Common (nr Galashiels), Fungus Group of South East Scotland, 11am – 3pm, £5 (year’s membership)
Sunday 14th October, Glamis Castle (nr Forfar), 11am start
Sunday 19th October, Templeton Woods (Dundee), 1pm – 3-pm, £3.50
All images copyright Lorne Gill/SNH
Young mycologists with a Countryside Ranger. Fungi forays can be a family activity.