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In this month’s outdoors columns, Mullman Daniel Brooks shares his appreciation of life and the beauty of nature after spending a week ill in bed. Getting back out into the fresh air and open surroundings was a great healer.
I took a short walk in local woods to hopefully find some yummy edible mushrooms that abound right now, especially after recent rain.
Hearing all the common woodland birds chirping and calling around me was music to my ears. A great spotted woodpecker chipped from the top of a nearby tree. A tiny jenny wren flitted from a fallen tree at my feet and fluttered off into the undergrowth to let out its impressively loud song, for such a tiny bird. Wrens can often be heard along with robins and other common song birds singing throughout the year.
I have eaten more than 50 species of wild mushrooms in the UK now, with only one slight stomach upset for not following my own golden rules. A lot of folk are terrified to eat wild mushrooms, as they are terrified of the big bad wolf. Mushrooms can be extremely dangerous, but in truth, there are only a handful of species that can make you seriously ill and even less that can cause death.
Get to know those species that you must avoid. Anything that can remotely be confused with one of these species ought to be left to one side. Always triple check the identity of what you find – not just from sight, but habitat, size and spore print before trying to eat it. Only ever eat just a little if it is a species you have never tried before.
Some species can react differently with different folk. Best advice is to get to know a few yummy edibles well and stick to them.
Two species I found on my walk which are two of the most delicious and relatively common in Argyll are the chanterelle, cantharellus cibarius and wood hedgehog, hydnum repandum mushrooms. They are also very difficult to confuse with anything harmful once you have got to know them. Frying hedgehog mushrooms to the point where they get crunchy is not only a delicious addition to eggs on toast, but becomes the main attraction for me.
All wild food in my opinion has to be up there with the most healthy and healing, and many species of mushrooms are now making huge waves in the medical world for their miraculous healing effects. Turkey tail for example, is just one of the species that can be found locally and used to great effect for many medicinal uses to keep us healthy.
Nature does heal us. It always has, in so many ways. So get out there, fill your lungs, treat your eyes and maybe start exploring more of the delicious edibles and wild medicines that are everywhere – cautiously, of course. We are what we eat.
Daniel is a wildlife guide, adventure seeker, conservation campaigner, forager, bushcrafter, rewilder and father of four. His website mullman.co.uk is coming soon.