Thursday, 5 November 2009

time for a fungi foray

The sandy soils of Sherwood Forest are covered in autumn leaves. And studding the woodland floor is a range of fungi - including this common puffball.

Other European cultures celebrate their fruiting fungi and have an expertise in collecting and using them. We use commercially produced field mushrooms and disdain the free food at our feet.

This may be to do with our longer industrial and urban history than at of many of our European partners. Or it may reflect, once again, the sad fact that we do not have a 'food culture' to speak of in Britain. Or the two may be linked.

Whatever the reason, I know of no one who does as our dear Chocha used to do. She was our neighbour when we moved into our first marital home and we became adopted into her large, Polish family. 'Chocha' is Polish for aunty.

Chocha would travel up to the area where we now live in the early morning and take along her wicker basket. She would browse around the forests and footpaths collecting fungi to eat at home.

There were many different species of fungi fruiting when we walked last week. They all looked tempting - but whilst I know that 90% of mushrooms are harmless, I would need strong assurance that the ones I was picking and eating were safe before I used them.

Sadly, we lost Chocha some years ago and miss her still. How I wish she were around now, to teach me how to forage for fungi.

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