Forage and Feast Blog - September

Despite a rather dry Autumn so far, Dave has three species for you to find this month, including an under appreciated edible fruit.

As we march further in to Autumn, the peak of the mushrooms season, the one thing we need is rain, and  despite a few days of it raining for short periods we have not had much (for months now). This will have a big knock on effect as to which species fruit and how many fruiting bodies they produce.

It feels like for a number of years now I have been saying it is not a great mushroom season, because of weird weather, too dry, too hot or the alternative of very wet and flooding, our fungi are a bit like Goldilocks, they want it wet, but not flooding, not too hot, not too cold.

However, even in what is starting out as a very quiet season, there are still species to find and discover and this month I want you to go out and just enjoy the world of mushrooms and other fungi on your adventures out in to your green spaces.

So I have three species for you to find this month - I have an edible fruit which is really delicious and under appreciated in my opinion. I also have two species of fungi for you to find, though one certainly won’t make the dinner plate and other, whilst technically edible, you probably won’t want to it…I shall explain later.

Chinese Bramble (Rubus tricolor)

This is an introduced species from China, and is often planted in urban areas that are landscaped as it creates an evergreen ground cover. For a Rubus, this species is easy to identify, it is a fury not thorny Bramble, with shiny green leaves, white flowers and produces lovely red fruit, which you can use like raspberry or blackberry.

The fruit can be a little seedy, so the jam I make with these fruits I spend the next 15 minutes after having my toast getting the seeds out of my teeth, but I think it is worth it. They go really well in smoothies and also make a fab cordial (again just find any raspberry/blackberry recipe and replace with these).

In my native Manchester it has crept in to the ‘wild’ at a number of locations, and in some woodlands has carpeted the woodland floor, a plant that we may need to keep in check in the future if it gets too out of hand. For now it is a novelty with a delicious perk, but I do love it when I get jam and keep on top of non-native species at the same time.

It is well worth keeping an eye out for especially in parks, gardens, cemeteries, house developments and landscaped car parks.

Stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus)

I have included this species as it is iconic, a species that will still fruit in dry conditions (perfect for this month) and a species you can smell long before you see it.

It smells of death. On purpose, the idea is that the smell of rotting flesh attracts flies and the flies then carry the spores elsewhere for them to spread it. The smell can drift for some distance, so you need to work out which way the wind is blowing to know which way to look once you smell it.

Hopefully many of you will not know what rotting flesh smells like, but once you smell a stinkhorn and know what the smell of stinkhorn is, then you will be surprised at how often you have probably walked passed these weird fungi and not noticed.

The start in an ‘egg’, which we call a Witches Egg, for weeks the stinkhorn will be getting ready and then in the course of a few hours it irrupts from the eggs and forms it phallic shape, covered in a greenish cap which is the spores, within hours it will lose all that green and the cap will be like a white honeycomb structure as the flies disperse the spores quickly.

At the ‘egg’ stage though it does not smell, only once it has emerged does it whiff. It is surprisingly common, though it does seem to prefer drier, more acid soils, it loves Bracken and Rhododendron areas.

It is said to be edible, and referred to as an aphrodisiac (can’t imagine why), but once you smell it you will not want to try it, even at the egg stage when it is considered more edible - just don’t its revolting.

Rosy Bonnet (Mycena rosea)

The last species this month to seek out is the Rosy Bonnet, a very attractive species that also does not mind it being too dry in my experience.

This delightful little mushroom was part of a complex of mushrooms but was made its own species being pinker and bigger than its very close relation (Lilac Bonnet, Mycena pura).

It is poisonous and therefore should not be consumed, but that does not mean you should not look for the very pretty species. The fact that this species smells strongly of radish does not mean it is edible, a number of mushrooms have a radish smell and smell does not indicate edibility.

Poisonous mushrooms are safe to touch, just not ingest, there are no mushrooms in the UK that can poison you from touch alone.

Beech woods or area where beech trees are present are the best places to look for the Rosy Bonnet, don’t think a bright pink mushroom would be very easy to spot, you would be surprised at how well they blend in to leaf litter.

The cap can vary in colour, when it dries out it can become pale in the centre, darker towards the edges, but the overall pink colour, strong smell of radish and hollow stem should indicate you have this species.

There you are three species to look for this month, as always if you plan on eating anything from the wild then always consult a good field guide and only ever eat something from the wild that YOU know 100% you know what it is.