Many types of mushrooms grow wild across most parts of the UK, from the north of Scotland right down to Cornwall. There is a huge variety of edible mushrooms to choose from, and the New Forest in Hampshire has one of the biggest ranges of mushrooms in the UK.
When you first go mushrooming, make sure you take an expert and an up to date field guide with you. There are hundreds of delicious mushrooms available to pick wild from many areas, however there are also many poisonous varieties growing in the UK. Poisonous mushrooms can cause hallucinations, upset stomachs and even kill you.
Where to Find Mushrooms
Mushrooms first appear in September, and the season is short, lasting just a few weeks. Mushrooms are normally found in areas that provide the best conditions for them to grow in, e.g. areas that are warm and damp. They are often found at the base of many trees, and areas containing rotting wood. Woodlands and dense copses provide some of the best conditions for mushrooms to grow in, as they have plenty of trees, rotting wood and also rotting leaves, which the fungi also grow in.
Fungi thrive in mossy areas, and places, which have had little disturbance. Also look for mushrooms in fields next to woods – the mycelium will travel from the woods to grow in the fields. Old land is also likely to yield many mushrooms.
Dry, and sandy areas are less likely to have mushrooms growing on them, and rocky areas are also inhabitable for fungi. Similarly overgrown areas will prevent mycelium from growing and newly cultivated land does not provide ideal growing conditions for mushrooms.
When picking mushrooms, it is important to observe codes of conduct to ensure the fungi and local environment are not damaged and to ensure the mushrooms continue to grow for years to come.
If you are picking mushrooms on private land, always get permission from the landowner beforehand. Follow the country code; close gates behind you, take your litter with you and try not to tread on, or disturb wild flowers, which are important to the local ecology. Avoid moving dead wood, as this can disturb wildlife, such as stag beetles, which are endangered.
The best time to pick mushroom is first thing in the morning, when they are fresh and least likely to have been attacked by pests such as slugs and maggots. You should take with you a knife to cut the mushrooms with, a basket to carry them in, a brush to clean them with and a field guide to identify them with. To cut the fungi and cause the least damage to the fungi threads, cut it at the base with a clean, sharp knife.
Only collect a few mushrooms from each ‘troop’; never take the whole lot, as this can prevent them from reproducing and growing in the same spot the following year. Never pick species that are on the Mushroom Red List of rare species, as this can put the species in serious danger of extinction.
Picking mushrooms is a fun and worthwhile activity. There are plenty of different types of mushrooms available to pick, with a variety of tastes and textures. Always take an expert and a field guide with you when picking mushrooms, and abide by the codes of conduct to ensure you don’t harm the local environment and wildlife.