Will's Wild Food Diary

 Wild food diary

Fresh, organic and free! Of all things bushcrafty, nothing gets me more excited than a foraging adventure.

From time to time, I update this page with a different wild food that is in season –  gradually building up a seasonal diary of some of the foraging delights available to us.

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Disclaimer: there's lots of good wild stuff to eat, and much of it is fairly easy to identify. Unfortunately, there are also some plants and fungi that can make you seriously ill or worse. This diary is a brief overview intended to inspire and not a substitute for an in-depth field guide and/or skilled teacher. I will endeavour to point out any obvious poisionous look alikes, but ultimately foraging is the individual's responsibility. Unless you are 100 per cent confident you know what something is, leave it alone! Also, please be aware that, as with any food, different people can have different reactions. It is wise to try just a small amount first.

Parasol paradise

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I’ve been running around the fields of Dorset in a slightly manic frenzy the last couple of weeks. Parasol baloo

It's probably alarmed a few countryside users, but to a sufferer of WFOD (wild food obsessive disorder) a field of parasol mushrooms (Macrolepiota procera) is an intoxicating sight – and this year seems particularly good.

Those of you who get my Facebook posts may have caught a recent short movie filmed near Corfe castle. I drove past a nearby field a few days later and found even more – 100 at a conservative guess, although I was very good and left plenty to spread their spores.

parasol matureAnd yes, they make great eating – perhaps even approaching gourmet status, with a rich mushroomy taste and a succulent, slightly chewy texture even after cooking (mushroom expert John Wright of River cottage fame compares them to roasted chicken thigh).

My favourite way of dealing with most wild mushrooms usually involves a frying pan and bit of olive oil and garlic. However, with such a glut, I have also been busy drying, freezing and, of course, giving away – I reckon it’s good to practice wild food karma; share the abundance and it always comes back one way or another.

Foraging considerations:

There’s a lot of fear around wild mushrooms in this country – yet go to the continent and they are a celebrated part of rural culture. There are some species that are tricky to identify. However there are also plenty that, with a bit of dedication, can be easily recognised – the parasol is one of those.

This blog is intended as a basic introduction, so please do some reading around the subject. However, there are a number of key points that are regularly used for most mushroom identification. To simplify it, I will list them here with reference to the parasol:

Habitat: open grassland and heath – it seems to prefer fairly acidic soils.

Cap: (see first pic and a rather confused Baloo the dog). Between 15-30 cm in width, always with a little bump at the top, cream coloured and covered in brown scales. In its parasol drumstickearly stages, it is a drum stick shape (see pic to the right); this then opens up – like a parasol. It is edible at either stage, although the flesh is most delicate when it’s young, it can also be stuffed and baked in the oven at this point. The photo (bottom left) shows some stuffed young parasols using tomatoes, sweetcorn and herbs as a filling, with some grated cheese on top (the other mushroom is a little bit of delicious cep/porcini, but more about that another time).

Stem: long, up to 25cm by about 2 cm wide, with snake skin markings (this is quite tough, but is good in a soup or added to a stock pot). Another good ID point is the 'cog' that slides up and down the stem (see pic above and left).

Gills: creamy white, if they are turning a browny colour it means the mushroom is getting past its best.

Smell: this is often useful when identifying mushrooms; in the case of the parasol, it has a warm milky smell – particularly in the really fresh specimens.

parasol stuffedIt should be noted there is also the shaggy parasol. As always, do more research, but it differs in a few basic ways, the main one being it’s cream coloured stem without any snakeskin markings and it propensity for bruising orangey/red. It is generally considered edible, but has been known to cause dodgy tummies in a few people.






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