Go Bag Yourself Some Wild Mushrooms

Go Bag Yourself Some Wild Mushrooms

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Go outdoors and get yourself a meal. Without dying.

Nicole Buckler reports.

Tired of horrible supermarkets with their bright yellow lights that burn a hole in your retina? Fed up of that trolley that gets caught up with the other trolleys like they are having a group hump? Bored of waiting in line like some sort of turkey going to the guillotine? Well then maybe it is time for you to banish yourself from the supermarket start foraging for your own food.

So what can you forage? Chips? Chocolate? Wine? No…a good place to start is mushrooms. But here’s the deal. You have to be smart about your mushroom selection process, because you could, you know, end up dead. Horribly and painfully and dementedly.

Avoid these ones, they’d be magic.

But there are people who can take you mushroom hunting who are experts and will help you to not die. One of these people is Bill O’Dea, who started the website mushroomstuff.com. O’Dea is a dedicated mycophagist (one who likes to gather and eat mushrooms).  He has studied fungi at UCD and has attended several workshops and mushroom forays in Ireland and the US. He has been collecting and eating wild mushrooms for over thirty years and still survives to tell the tale. On the hunts he is usually supported by some of Ireland’s leading experts on Fungi.

O’Dea’s wild mushroom hunts started in 1996, and they are still going. If you would like to frollick about the fields collecting mushrooms that won’t burn your liver clean out of your body, then make contact with the website and start your little fungi adventure.

Recently, people have shown a lot of interest in foraging for wild food. Not in a demented-I-am-starving-and-poor kind of way. But in a dear-God-these-supermarkets-are-damn-awful kind of way.

A recent survey conducted by Mushroomstuff.com, revealed that 86% of people in Ireland are aware of ‘foraged food’. Proving that it’s far from a recent fad, over half of the 400 people surveyed had sampled foraged food for themselves. Of those, 85% had eaten wild mushrooms, wild herbs and leaves, while an impressive 65% had eaten seaweed and samphire. Anyone who has tried samphire will know what a revelation it is. It is a salty “sea asparagus” and insanely tasty. Tossed with cherry tomatoes and olive oil, it is the salad of the Gods.

But back to the survey. 80% of the respondents had actually foraged for themselves, seeking out, picking and gathering from the wild. For almost all of those who had foraged, their chosen bounty was fruit, berries or nuts (96%) with wild mushrooms coming a close second at 76%. When asked what motivated them to forage for food, the leading answer was “Taste and quality of wild food” followed by “Enjoyment of nature” with just 40% citing “Free food/cost saving.”

Okay so you have decided to forage for mushrooms. Not in your local carpark or in the skips behind Tesco. But in the woodlands where you can hear birdsong and you might get some of that rare stuff called fresh air. So do new and freshly excited foragers know the deadly blow-your-face-off mushrooms from the sweet gorgeous edible ones? Interestingly, when asked to examine four photos of wild mushrooms and indicate the edible ones, only 3% of foragers got it badly wrong by identifying the deadly Panther (Amanita Pantherina) as edible. Most correctly identified the Cep/Porcini and the field mushroom as edible. Less than half correctly identified the less well known “cauliflower fungus” as edible. Mmm chicken of the forest.

Many of these foragers had actually been on an organised and educational mushroom hunts with experts, opting to be taught which mushrooms to eat rather than chance their arm and die horribly over their own skillet.

This may give some comfort to the food safety authority who have expressed concern in 2012 about increased poisonings from wild mushrooms.  Says Bill O’Dea of Mushroomstuff.com, “While I’m delighted at the level of interest shown in making the most of our wild resources, I can’t stress enough how careful people should be before eating anything that they’re not 100% sure of. 92% of those surveyed want to be more confident and knowledgeable about foraging.  This is great news for the future of Irish cuisine, because it demonstrates an indigenous love and appreciation for the wonderful larder of the Irish countryside.”

Truffles

If you like truffles, then there is good news for you. And you don’t even have to run around woodlands getting all dirty and covered in nature to consume this. You can buy a truffle starter kits and have gorgeous truffles all of your own in your pathetic little moss-covered excuse for a garden.

Truffle Inoculated Tree Saplings

Did you know that truffles grow wild in Ireland? Once you have tasted the flavour of fresh truffles you will never want to buy anything from a jar ever again. And you won’t have to lap dance or drive a taxi in unsociable hours to pay for them either. Now you can buy saplings inoculated with indigenous Irish truffles that have been produced without contamination to ensure success in a shorter time, with higher yield and reliability. Typically you should expect to see truffles in about three to four years from planting. The fresh truffles are harvested from June to November and are highly prized for their distinctive flavour, commanding prices as high as €600 per kilo. Yes. €600.

A typical plant should live for about 50 years and produce about 1kg of truffles per year on average after 4-6 years .The Hazelnut trees are totally hardy, native plants, suitable for any garden size as they can be pruned, and will grow in most Irish soils because they like lime. They once grew everywhere in Ireland until all the trees were cut down in the famine times and they died out. Now we have a chance to reintroduce them again. And while you are being a tree-hugging hippie, you get to enjoy the hazelnuts and the truffles. And it would be nice if we got some hazelnuts in our system in any ways other than by eating a jar of Nutella beside the TV while crying.

Have fun mushrooming (but do a mushroom course first!)

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