Mushroom Foraging Experience with Martin Bailey

mushroom

noun

noun: mushroom; plural noun: mushrooms

    1      1. A fungal growth that typically takes the form of a domed cap on a stalk, with gills on the underside of the cap.

Our fantastic Green Team at UWE gave me the opportunity to go on a paid experience with Martin Bailey and learn the basics of mushroom foraging, in a wild green space. I awoke early on a blue skied, but breezy Sunday morning and set off to a secret location. I was excited to learn all about how to forage and identify wild mushrooms as well as wild herbs.

I met in the meeting place with around a group of 18 people. Bailey explained that he started foraging as a young child, but it became a passion after he moved to Bristol and met other passionate foragers who taught him the ways. We learnt that plastic is not the best container to carry mushrooms in as it causes humidity in which bacteria and other contaminates can thrive. And since mushrooms are fruiting organisms which need to breathe we used wooden baskets to collect them in. 

We then walked up to a grassy area of the park, and came across a multitude of different mushrooms, in a small area. The majority were from the wax cap family, which Martin advised were the easiest to start learning to identify first. The group walked around excitedly picking up mushrooms of all shapes, colours and sizes. Martin then explained what it was and how we could identify it. We learnt to look at the size, shape and texture of the stem, gills and cap. Next we passed the mushroom round the group for us to smell. It surprised me how each mushroom had a distinct smell, some fruity and some floral, something I would never have thought to do before. Many of the mushrooms which grew to the side of each other and looked very similar were actually different. This made me realise how challenging foraging really is, it takes a lot of time, effort and knowledge.

We then wondered round a small space to identify 8 different wax caps, which took a couple of hours. By this time we were all feeling quite puckish and Martin took us into a small forest clearing situated under some beautiful trees. We sat on some logs and had a little picnic, Martin got fresh bread he got from a bakery with homemade mushroom pate, kimchi and organic mayonnaise to try on the bread. Also some fresh elderflower tea. It was the most beautiful setting whilst we talked with really great like-minded people about different locations of foraging around Bristol and Bath.

After this, we had a last 30 minutes of looking for different mushrooms and by the end, we had successfully filled our baskets with mushrooms. We walked back to the start, where we divided the mushrooms up between us.

As you can imagine, fresh mushroom risotto went down a treat for dinner!

If you want to know more about these foraying days or just get a few creative recipes, have a look at Martins website. - https://www.goforaging.co.uk

I would like to end to notify you how important fungus is, and how it really can help save the world! Most people just think of fungi as the edible mushrooms but it can in-fact:-

  • Decompose plastic
  • Filtrate dirty water
  • Be made into a sustainable leather
  • Be used for recyclable packaging
  • Be used as a natural medicine
  • Clean Co2 from the atmosphere
  • And let’s not forget being mega tasty!

A few useful links if you want to learn more how these fungus can help save us in climate change and revolutionise today’s world!

Article written and images taken by Lauren Jennings