I finally got out and did some mushroom foraging! Well, it was more a bonus of the walk, but boy was it a big bonus. Chatelherault is a lovely country park in the the Clyde valley, much of it is woodlands with the Clyde running through the middle. It’s beautiful, and well worth a visit, even at this time of year. And who’d have thought there would be mushrooms at this bleak time of year!? But they were there, and we had a handy pocket identification book and took only what we needed, making sure to leave plenty there to proliferate.
Sidenote: all the mushroom identifications were confirmed by others online and spore prints.
Scarlet Elfcup Sarcoscypha coccinea
The little red ones in the middle, you can see how they got their name. They don’t have a huge flavour, but are very pretty and add a different texture to dishes such as soups or risottos.
They used to be used medicinally by tribes of the Iroquois Six Nations ground up and applied to babies’ belly buttons that weren’t healing well and on wounds under bandages.
Velvet Shank Flammulina velutipes
We found plenty of these meaty, slimy little mushrooms! Very tasty and made a beautiful spore print (see below). Wipe the slime off the top and brush clean – using water will make them slimier – or leave them in the fridge a day or two to dry out. They have a sweet, meaty taste and are delicious in stews, soup, risotto or fried in a little cream and garlic on toast.
Interestingly, they’re genetically identical to cultivated enokitake (aka enoki).
Tests are looking hopeful for their use in cancer immunotherapy and vaccines.
Oyster Mushroom Pleurotus ostreatus
A monster oyster! Oyster mushrooms are pretty popular and well known these days, but the cultivated variety doesn’t hold a candle to the wild. It has a mild taste but has a robust, dense texture that stands up well in many dishes. It can be served on it’s own as the main event, or used in anything from stir fry to stew to risotto.
Spore prints are handy for identification (although I messed with filters and stuff to try and make them more visible in the picture) and personally I just think they look really cool. It’s also a good way to keep a record of things you’ve found, even if some leave better spore prints than others.
I would recommend anybody foraging mushrooms gets a second opinion on everything they have before eating it, and do a spore print to rule out lookalike species. Using a reputable book is a good idea, Collin gem so a handy pocket size guide called Mushrooms.
Make sure to forage sustainably – only take what you need, and leave plenty where they are, especially little baby ones. Always try a new mushroom in a small quantity, cooked, in case your tummy has a wee reaction. Get more advice from experts (not me!) if you plan to go out, but I do encourage you do it because it was good fun, and the mushroom risotto I made with all those mushrooms was the best risotto I’ve ever had in my life – it could only have been improved by cooking and eating it out in the woods.