Country mouse goes mushrooming

Following our recent article on the vast quantities of truffles lying undiscovered across southern England (October 10) and news that my mother has so many field mushrooms that she’s making soup with them in industrial quantities, I was expecting to find a bonanza of ceps and chanterelles during my fungi forage in the New Forest.

John Wright, a rare British expert on the subject, met me in a car park, but the news wasn’t good. The summer has been too cool for the fungi. This is the sort of comment I tend to get from ghillies, who usually inform me that I should have been there last week when the fish were in the mood. Still, we set off with hope and, once we got our eye in, we started to pounce on all sorts of fungi. Many were exquisitely beautiful, but, sadly for lunch, most were poisonous.

We did gather an impressive, oozy beefsteak fungus high in a beech tree, but although technically edible, it’s not the sort to excite a chef. What was special was the forest itself. The ancient trees were plastered in livid green mosses which, set against the rusty coloured leaf litter, were beautiful. After two hours, we’d found 35 different types of funghi. I now appreciate mushrooms in a different way and hopefully, one day, will return with something to eat.

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