I can’t believe that just a month ago the weather was mild, the leaves were golden and crisp, and we were out in a city park hunting for mushrooms. Led by local forager and medical herbalist Jesper Launder(www.jesperlaunder.com), a group of us were diving into bushes (much to the amusement of dog walkers and families out for a walk) and grubbing about in the undergrowth, all for the love of edible wild mushrooms.
I find that once I get my eyes tuned in, as it were, to seeing mushrooms then I see them everywhere. But I wasn’t having any luck this particular weekend. Waist-deep in brambles, surrounded by knee-high nettles, looking in all the inhospitable, unreachable spots that I thought a mushroom would just love to grow in…but nothing. As a fairly competitive person, I was a bit miffed at other people’s finds, even if they were often inedible.
Then I came across this…yes, the big white mushroom in the middle.
I finally got my mushroom-vision sorted, and they just started popping up everywhere. I seem to have a knack for finding hidden treasures on the ground, my mother always told me off for picking up ‘rubbish’ from the floor (although once it was a £20!). Anyway, the ‘big white mushroom in the middle’ is an Asphalt Mushroom, similar to the cultivated mushrooms we find at the supermarket, and so-called because it is often found pushing through tarmac in the most mundane areas of urban sprawl. Mine (I was very protective of it) was found half buried in soil, hence its rather grubby appearance, and I had to excavate around it in order to remove it.
As you can see we ended our walk with a couple of basketfuls of some fantastic wild mushrooms – including some Shaggy Ink Caps (which N found) and were delicious fried in butter until golden and crisping round the edges.
What I love about Jesper’s mushroom walk (it’s not the first we’ve been on) is at the end, he sets up some burners and cooks up all the edible mushrooms we’ve foraged with a lot (a lot!) of butter and we all get to taste them. It’s always a delight to see kids eating things you’re sure under different circumstances they’d turned their nose up at. But as the most avid hunters and foragers, they forget and just want their share of the prize.