Ceps and chanterelles
Ceps and chanterelles
I knew it was beginning when I saw the large dirty yellow bolete beside our neighbour’s gate. You can find fungi at most times of the year, but Autumn is definitely the best. The family was staying over Bank Holiday and planned a walk in Strid Wood, so I asked them to keep a lookout for interesting specimens – perhaps a photograph or two? They returned with several, including a rather startling one of a tree stump dotted with shiny black discs, rather like Pomfret cakes and about the same size. I consulted a knowledgeable friend and she identified these as Black Bulgar, a not uncommon species of jelly fungus, but impressive in their pristine newness.
The following week I made my own foray into Middleton Woods. Rather too dry and cool but I did find five species including some newly-sprung Sulphur-tufts beside an oak tree. They huddle together in clumps and these, being small and young, looked rather like masses of beige frog spawn though they would soon grow and ripen to a rich yellow. On old elder branches, I found some fine Jelly Ear – soft, pinky-red and curling forward just like a human ear. This has a relative – Hare’s Ear – where the soft tissue flares out in a flame shape. My last find was tiny, but seemed to glow against the dark woodland floor: a club fungus forming a brilliant yellow fringe a couple of centimetres long among the leaf litter. A modest collection – but in their size, colour and forms – so varied and strange.
That weekend, my stepson in Wales reported that they were already feasting on some of the edible species that appear in their Snowdonia woods. He mentioned Chicken-in-the-woods – a bracket that grows very quickly in layers of sumptuous yellow and is delicious if caught young. Like all bracket fungi it rapidly hardens and becomes leathery. Also on the menu were Penny Buns (Ceps) and Chanterelles – real gourmet stuff this!
As a child, I was an ace mushroomer: I could spot a Field Mushroom over a wall at fifty yards. But I was brought up to believe that anything except a Field Mushroom was a toadstool and would kill you horribly. I now know better but, until the time when we can take our collection of fungi to the Pharmacy to be checked like in France, I’ll stick to admiring and photographing our wild fungi harvest.