While I always encourage people to take an interest in fungi for their scientific and aesthetic merits I know that most people who look for wild fungi are looking for something to eat. This is perfectly safe if done with great care (I have eaten over 120 species and never suffered so much as hiccups), but with at least 20 species known to be deadly, a hasty decision could easily be your last. Every year I talk to people who have managed to poison themselves and it is always through lack of knowledge and lack of care.
So, before you eat anything you find here is some advice.
1. Never eat any fungus if you are not absolutely sure of it name.
2. Never take any notice of old wives tales about silver spoons, or whether or not you can peel it, or if it grows on wood it’s OK and so on. These are all complete rubbish.
3. Familiarize yourself with the poisonous species such as the Death Cap and the Yellow Stainer.
4. Use your books carefully, making sure that the descriptions and the photographs (and the key, if it has one) all agree with each other.
5. Always use more than one book.
6. Always gently lever unknown mushrooms out of the ground and handle them with care. This will preserve important characters for identification.
6. Always try a little of a fungus the first time you eat it to check if it agrees with you.
7. In general you should cook wild fungi as some are quite poisonous raw.
8. Don’t mix up your known edible finds with your unknowns in the same basket.
9. As with fireworks on 5th November, only one person in any kitchen should be in charge of which mushrooms are cooked - free-for-alls or committees can be disastrous.
Latin names - frequently unpronounceable, all too often wrong and always a tiny puzzle to unravel - have been annoying the layman since they first became formalised as scientific terms in the eighteenth century. Why on earth has the entirely land-loving Eastern Mole been named Scalopus aquaticus, or the Oxford Ragwort been called Senecio squalid...
In the first of an exciting new River Cottage Handbook series, mycologist John Wright explains the ins and outs of collecting, including relevant UK laws, conservation notes, practical tips and identification techniques. He takes us through the 72 species we are most likely to come across during forays in Britain’s forests and clearings: ...
In the fifth of the River Cottage Handbook series, John Wright reveals the rich pickings to be had on the seashore – and the team at River Cottage explain how to cook them to perfection. For the forager, the seashore holds surprising culinary potential. In this authoritative, witty book John Wright takes us on a trip to the seaside. But be...
Hedgerows, moors, meadows and woods – these hold a veritable feast for the forager. In this hugely informative and witty handbook, John Wright reveals how to spot the free and delicious ingredients to be found in the British countryside, and then how to prepare and cook them. First John touches on the basics for the hedgerow forager, with ...
What could possibly beat a cool pint of beer down the pub or a lazy glass of wine at your favourite bar? The answer is: home-brewed beer or your very own brand of wine. With this, the twelfth in the River Cottage Handbook series, the inimitable John Wright shows exactly how easy it is to get started. You don't need masses of space to make alcoh...
Come and book on one of my own forays. Other forays will be posted elsewhere with links to the organisation running the day.
I knew something was rumbling in the undergrowth and in late July 2015, a journalist from the Bournemouth local paper asked me to respond to some surprising words delivered by my friend, Sarah Cadbury, to the Verderers of the New Forest. I duly responded. A day or two later, a journalist from the Times asked if I would write a 300 word rebuttal. On Saturday 25th I did a Google search on the story and found myself in the Daily Mail, The Times, The Telegraph and The Guardian. And not in a good way. The Verders were bystanders in this but I thought I owed them a letter. Here it is. The Verderer’s Court of the New Forest I am writing both to the Court and to the Forestry Commission on the subject of wild mushroom hunting in the Forest. It is my intention to copy this letter to othe...
This is the second part of what will now be a three part treatment of conservation and foraging. On this page I have adapted the section on conservation from my River Cottage Hedgerow Handbook. The third part will deal with the fungi. People can become very disquieted over the matter of conservation and foraging. Surely, they argue, we should not be taking things from the wild for our own purposes; surely nature has been injured by us enough without this further imposition. This is not an argument with which I have a great deal of sympathy. It is, of course, perfectly possible to forage in a manner that is damaging to the natural world, but it is not actually all that easy. Many of our native species are under threat but it is not from the forager. Invasive species take a toll of habit...