‘You can’t mess around with wild mushrooms. Some of them can virtually kill you even if you look at them’.
I’m afraid to say that my own feeling about untamed fungi wasn’t far away from the quote, above, overheard on one of my own (wild plant) foraging walks. But recently I decided it was about time to dispel all this nonsense and get some proper information.
In his book ‘Outliers’, Malcolm Gladwell posits the theory that it takes 10,000 hours of practise to become an expert in a subject, on top of a natural aptitude for that subject in the first place. Well, then, there can be no better way to find out about the vast, complex subject of wild fungi than to go to someone who trod down that magic number of hours under the soles of his hiking boots long ago….a man who travels to obscure places to take part in festivals devoted to morels, for example, and who can talk about Alice in Wonderland, obscure methods of catching reindeer and why Father Christmas insist on coming down the chimney rather than simply walking through the front door….and all of this related to fungi *
Daniel Butler can accommodate a relatively limited number of keen fungi foragers during the weeks when the wild mushroom harvest is at its best; if the current mellow autumn inspires you to want to know more, contact him now (details below) but if the remaining days are all taken then don’t hesitate to book for next year. I had one of the most inspiring days ever with Dan and his partner, Helen (who is also an expert’s expert in the subject).
Like many Brits, I was a bit scared of wild mushrooms, alarmed from an early age by well-meaning parents to the point where I ALMOST believed that the poisonous ones could kill you if you so much as looked at them. Spending time on this foray, however, has shown me that mushrooms are to be respected and enjoyed for their beauty, variety and, of course, deliciousness, rather than feared.
The only slight downside is that my daily dog walks are now taking twice the time since I’m now intent in my search for porcini, hedgehog mushrooms, honey fungus, violet deceivers and, above all, the delectable, almost floral-flavoured chanterelles!
The day itself is almost ridiculously good value for money. We worked out that it would have cost us more to actually purchase the mushrooms in a shop than to find them ourselves, and as well as the fungi we also enjoyed
Expert advice from both Dan and. Helen, a walk in the magical countryside of mid Wales, a 3-course fungi- based meal at their home (including lashings of wine, home-made sourdough bread, and a scrummy fruit crumble), a demonstration on how to preserve fungi, a taste-testing of all the various types of fungi that we found, and a choice of either a pack of beautifully-produced fungi ID cards or a specialist mushroom knife. Above all, though, was the opportunity to be able to ask Dan and Helen anything at all to do with mushrooms…..
*to find out what the heck I’m on about you’ll have to make a trip to Rhayader…
Daniel holding forth about the fly agaric…a fairy-tale appearance but NOT for your risotto
Lots of honey fungus, which turns out to be a favourite at the mushroom tasting despite some initial reservations. Something this common can’t taste that good, can it? Oh yes it can!
Christina, thrilled to find tasty hedgehog mushrooms
Whoah! The sharp-eyed French Canadian foragers found a shedload of chanterelles….yum! (My personal favourite)
Sarah has a list of 50 things to do during the 2 years surrounding a big-ish birthday. Finding out about fungi is on that list…and she found the best-looking porcini!
Helen dishing up lunch…
Lessons in preserving fungi…
A small selection of what we found