Two go ‘shrooming

October 7, 2006

Wild mushrooms

Maths chick and I have just got back from an afternoon foraging expedition. According to the Sunday glossies, foraging is the new gardening, which was the new cooking, which was the new sex (they obviously don’t know yet that receiving veg boxes is the new foraging, which was the new gardening, which was etc etc).

Now, I’m no expert mycologist. I normally stick to the few wild mushrooms I’ve picked, eaten and survived – parasols, ceps, shaggy ink caps and the common field ‘shroom. But today, armed with a sharp kitchen knife and Collins’ ‘How to Identify Edible Mushrooms’, we were feeling funghally adventurous.

Despite the recent rain our funghal friends were surprisingly thin on the ground. Perhaps the Islington fashionista had been out early in their Birkenstocks, scouring Hampstead Heath for a breakfast of Chanterelles and Penny Buns. More likely the prime ‘shroom season has been delayed by the unusually dry summer.

We searched the glades, open grassland, and rotting stumps of the Heath and Highgate Wood in search of our elusive treasures. Eventually, we got lucky and brought home a fine Beefsteak Fungus, a few small brackets of Chicken of the Wood, and two Wood Mushrooms. At least, that’s what we think they are. Or were – because I’ve just chopped ’em up, fried ’em in oil, garlic and loads of pepper and, nervously, eaten them.

The Beefsteak was tasteless and exuded a disturbing blood-like liquid. Before cooking, it looked and felt like a fat, slimey cow’s tongue. The Chicken of the Wood tasted like… er… chicken. Nice, if a little dry and stringy. I decided not to eat the Wood Mushrooms in the end, as apparently they are all too easily confused with the deadly poisonous Death Cap. Fortunately, this little sweetie is not as potent as it used to be – apparently these days eating one of these is only fatal in 20% of cases. In other words, only slightly more dangerous than playing Russian Roulette.

I realise now I’m too cowardly and paranoid to be a dedicated forager. My heart started racing, my cheeks started tingling, even before I’d tried the first mouthful of our little funghal feast. I am now utterly convinced I’m going to die at some stage this evening. Hopefully there’s still time for a last game of Scrabble.

Oh, and by the way, we made a couple of 1/4lb burgers out of the beef mince that came with the meat box the other day. And all I can say is those Well Hung Meat boys really know their business. Two superlative slabs of beefy meatiness. Even Maths chick was lost for words in the face of such burgal perfection. And that’s a first.

Now I’m starting to feel a bit odd. If this turns out to be the last post of this blog, you’ll know why, and I’d just like to say it’s been a pleasure knowing y’all.

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6 Responses to “Two go ‘shrooming”


  1. Oh Dear… It has gone awfully quiet… And I only discovered you on Thursday. Post something just to let us know you haven’t been slain by a Destroying Angel!

    Although its too big to take on a foray, I always rely on Roger Philips’s excellent Mushrooms book. If I can’t identify the fungus with that I don’t even think about eating it. The thought of a slow agonising death does rather dampen the appetite.

    Excellent Blog.

  2. crzy_rgntnn Says:

    Toaster, not sure whether these mushrooms will cause you death, but they do seem to produce a delirious effect on you… Are you sure you didn’t find them in Camden Town, instead of Hampstead Heath?

  3. gastropunk Says:

    phantom staple remover (so it’s you, is it?), thank you for your concern. as you can see i survived. i think i need to invest in a better ‘shroom book – the one you suggest sounds like just the ticket. i see it’s got photos in it – my current one only has a few dodgy watercolour paintings, from which it’s really hard to identify exactly what they are. thanks for the tip!

  4. gastropunk Says:

    crzy, one of the principles i live by is NEVER eat (smoke, stuff up your nose etc) anything someone is trying to sell you on the streets of Camden. and that includes those harmless-looking falafels they offer in the market. not everyone in Camden is trying to poison you, but it’s safest to behave like they are.

  5. Matt Says:

    Rather off topic but I was wondering where you got your plates from?

  6. gastropunk Says:

    matt, me mum bought them for maths chick for crimbo last year, pretty sure they were from habitat.


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