The foraging season begins in early spring with birch sap, wild garlic, alexanders and cow parsley. As we get further into spring there is whole panoply of lush green shoots, fragrant flowers and the first mushrooms.
Saint George’s mushroom is up for Saint George’s Day, 23rd April, and continues sometimes until June. Then comes the fairy ring, field mushrooms, chicken of the woods and dryad’s saddle. Many of these grow well into summer along with giant puffballs and horse mushrooms. Summer also brings the first fruits, black and red currents and wild cherries.
Autumn is the best time for mushrooms, from late August through to December, from beefsteak to wood blewit. Along with the mushrooms are the autumn fruits and nuts, blackberries, crab apples, sloes, hips and haws, hazelnuts, chestnuts and acorns. Winter still finds plenty to forage. Wood ears and velvet shanks grow in the coldest of weather and in mild winters alexanders, cow parsley and even nettles are keen to get a head start on spring.
Forager or farmer?
Foraging for mushrooms taught me a lot about growing mushrooms. It has helped me tune into the world of fungi. It teaches you the what, when, where & why of mushrooms. Conversely, growing mushrooms gives you an understanding of the whole life cycle, from a few strands of mycelium to a spore shedding mushroom.
“The best advice I can give anyone who wants to grow mushrooms, either as a hobby or a business, is think like a mushroom.”