Winter Foraging

Before Christmas most foraging would have required a pick axe and x-ray vision - everything was frozen solid and, mostly, hidden by snow. A winter forage is hard at the best of times, but these were the worst.

The snow and extreme cold are behind us, for the present, to be replaced by grey skies and rain. I am preparing my accounts at the moment, a much dreaded annual chore of mind numbing tedium compounded by the endless frustration of missing bank statements and receipts. Having had enough of spreadsheets (actually I am an Excel addict whose proudest boast is to have entered a 255 character formula into a cell) I decided to go for a walk to lift my spirits. Almost no fungi can survive the cold of recent weeks but I soon came across the X-Man of the fungus world - the Velvet Shank. This bright orange mushroom can stand prolonged freezing temperatures, restarting its growth when the temperature rises. It grows on hardwood - ash and elm being its favourite timber - and is edible. The surface is slimy/sticky in the extreme but washing and cooking will remove the worst. The taste is good, not quite a Penny Bun but better than a Porcelain Fungus (what isn't?).

I have seen a few other fungi around such as Clitocybe flaccida (Tawny Funnel Cap) and Cantharellula cyathiformis (the Goblet), both cold weather fungi, though not as hardy as the Velvet Shank. Soon February will be upon us and I will be taking my new and terrible expensive camera (Canon 5d MII for fellow anoraks) to photograph the extraordinarily beautiful Scarlet Elf Cup (Sarcoscypha austriaca).








Velvet Shank - Flammulina velutipes

John Wright: 6th Jan 2011 10:00:00

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