We’re going on a mushroom hunt.
We’re going to catch a BIG one.
What a slightly overcast day…
We’re not scared!
We decided to go for a walk in the woods in Eaglesham today. We were there anyway picking up the kids from the babysitters/grandfolks, having been out celebrating a friend’s 40th last night (incidentally heralding the first evening invite I’ve ever received with the immortal words ‘bring a bottle, and your wellies’).
It’s a good time of year for a woodland mushroom walk, and so it was decided; fresh air and exercise for the wee ones, fresh air – second only to Irn Bru in its restorative qualities – for the party-goers. In common with the titular hunters, we were not scared – primarily because if and when we found any mushrooms, no matter how delicious they looked, we had no intention of eating them.*
I don’t have any objection, per se, to foraging for mushrooms with the intention of consuming them. In fact, I’ve not only done it myself (in the company of a mushroom-expert friend) but, with the same friend’s help I once picked the ingredients for a wild mushroom soup for a meal/interview. The soup was good, and I got the job – as a cook on a yacht. (Although I have my suspicions that I may have been given the job because the interviewers had their eye on a nice, quiet girl like me as a potential girlfriend for their wayward son.)
And, I would certainly forage again, with the appropriate expertise on-hand. There are expert-lead mushrooms walks pretty much wherever there are mushrooms. In Scotland most seem to be organised by local countryside rangers, and the ones I’ve been on have been enjoyable and informative. Walk-goers are sometimes even encouraged to bring a basket in anticipation of cooking up a fungal supper later, though suitable warnings are always given about not foraging without someone in the know.
Scotland only has one or two mushrooms that could kill you, but other ones can have some, lets say, pretty unpleasant side-effects. However, the country plays host to a profusion of scrumptious fungi, and there are a number of professional foragers who supply delis, restaurants and retailers with the genuine wild product.
As it was, we didn’t find many mushrooms, or fungi of any variety. There were slugs in great abundance and soggy, colourful leaves littered the ground. We found beech seeds aplenty but alas no conkers. It was nonetheless a beautiful walk along the bank of the White Cart Water, which was swollen by the recent torrents – resulting in some picturesque waterfalls.
I was a wee bit sad about the scarcity of mushrooms. Presumably the bizarre weather this year had been a factor. We hadn’t managed a decent brambling session this year either, and other crops (including elderberry) seemed similarly poor. That said, on two recent walks at Culzean and Lochwinnoch there had been fungus covering almost every sq. foot of rotting tree trunkage.
At the end of half-term, we have a weekend booked in Pitlochry, home of the best mushroom walk I have ever been on. It’s also still the time of year that salmon swim upstream to spawn, so if we fail fungally we’ll hopefully have more luck spotting some hefty fish at one of Perthshire’s famous salmon leaps.
*Also, there have never been any recorded bear sightings in Eaglesham. Or eagle sightings.
- Want to Know About That Mushroom? Just Ask (cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com)