Which mushrooms picked in Suffolk are safe to eat?
- Credit: TONY WILLS
More mushrooms are appearing in Suffolk’s countryside than usual – but naturalists are reminding would-be foragers not to pick deadly fungi.
Fungi grow in all sorts of environments, some specific to species of trees, but they typically thrive in damp and shady conditions with readily available organic matter to use as a food source.
It is thought their numbers are growing due to the wetter weather in the county compared to this time last year.
Suffolk Mushroom Recorder Neil Mahler, who catalogues the different species of mushrooms that appear in Suffolk, has two messages for people considering going foraging: Only pick what you need and only pick what you know.
"It used to be the case people thought of toadstools as poisonous things in the woods and mushrooms as the things we buy in the supermarket, but now we call fungi in the countryside mushrooms too.
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"People out foraging don't always appreciate there's no need to go out into the countryside and pick everything you see.
"This time of year animals want to fatten up for the winter period.
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"There's a danger that species of mushrooms will become rarer if people keep picking them.
"I'd encourage people to only pick in moderation and for their immediate needs."
Mr Mahler added that even the poisonous mushrooms may taste delicious if eaten.
"They don't all look like shop-bought white mushrooms, but people do assume that anything that looks like that can be eaten.
"One of these is called the Yellow Stainer, which bruises yellow when squeezed.
"If you put that into your frying pan it'll spoil your whole dish. It won't kill you but it'll make you sick.
"Another one which is much more dangerous is the Deathcap, which is olive green in colour.
"When people pick them by mistake they fry them up they say they're delicious - people have been asked before they died and said so.
"Just because something tastes nice doesn't mean that it's edible."
Only a few species of mushroom in the UK are protected under law, but Mr Mahler wants people to consider collecting photographs rather than specimens of the mushrooms that grow in Suffolk.
One in particular is the Lion's Mane mushroom - known as the Bearded Tooth in the UK.
"It's very good to eat and if you look on an American website you'll see you can pick it, but in the UK it's very rare and shouldn't be picked," added Mr Mahler.
What does Suffolk Wildlife Trust say?
Ben McFarland, head of conservation at Suffolk Wildlife Trust, said: "While it's great that people can get out and about and enjoy the autumn season, as always with foraging it's important to be aware of the potential wildlife impact.
"Never collect from nature reserves and always be mindful of disturbing roosting birds as well as wading birds on estuaries.
"Wild food is wonderful, but it is also vital for the survival of many species."
What mushrooms might I see in Suffolk this time of year?
Here are just some of the many mushrooms Suffolk Wildlife Trust say you might see in Suffolk right now:
Jelly ear fungus
So named because it has a fleshy, velvety feel and similar shape to the human ear, this mushroom grows all year round and historically used to treat sore throats.
Beef steak fungus
Found on oak trees, this fungus changes colour with age and when fully developed resembles a raw beef steak.
A common edible mushroom, it is usually found growing on deciduous trees.
Fly agaric - Poisonous
Has distinctive looking red fungus with white warty spots and has been used as an insecticide.
Grows on grassland and sandy heath and has been used as an antibiotic in the past.
A tall, white fungus with a slimy, dark olive-colored cone, it is found near rotting wood and smells like rotting flesh, attracting insects. Despite all these qualities, it is also edible.
When young the fungus resembles a puffball, but then the outer layer splits to form a characteristic star shape.
Usually found on grassland, when they first emerge they are cylindrical, and then the bell-shaped caps open out. The mushroom also turns black and dissolves shortly after picking.
Chicken of the woods
Usually found on oak trees, it has been known to grow to up to 45kg in weight and - incredibly - tastes like chicken. Causes the tree it grows on to rot.
Found in both deciduous and coniferous forests, new mushrooms are lavender in colour but soon fade, making them harder to identify.