Its Mushroom season.
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all of our exploring will be to arrive where we started and to know the place for the very first time”.
T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding
It takes some time to understand, but mushroom foraging is not really about mushrooms.
Consider this. You head out together into the woods, ostensibly to bring home a delicious wild mushroom haul. You may bring home some mushrooms, perhaps you find golden chanterelles and some spiky ‘hedgehogs’. But, best of all, you are brimming and buzzing with the sights, sounds and smells of the forest.
This is because mushroom foraging forces you to slow down your walking pace. You take your time in the forest. You train your eye to observe closely. Then, suddenly, there you all are, together in the forest on a Sunday morning. You are watching the natural world up close and absorbed in the life of the forest floor.
On any other morning, you would have sauntered past the badger’s den. You would not have noticed the fine red fox fur snagged in the gap between two trees. You would not have spotted the single beech nut, spinning in the air, suspended on an invisible spider’s thread.
Later, at home, you will think of all the times that you have walked through that same forest and simply not noticed any of this. That little patch of trees will never look the same again. You delight in the sheer magic of it all.
For amateurs, like us, mushroom foraging is a thinly veiled excuse to spend a morning rummaging about amongst the leaves on the forest floor. Poking, investigating, ruminating and hypothesising, but with the sense of purpose and permission that us adults seem to need.
In time, you begin to realise, the prize is not the wild mushrooms. The prize is the time you spend, together, looking for them.
The above is not intended as a guide to mushroom foraging. Mushroom foraging is a fun family activity but you need to be aware that some mushrooms are poisonous. It is really important to educate yourself properly before you begin any mushroom foraging adventure. If you’re interested in trying mushroom foraging for the first time we always recommend getting started with a knowledgeable local tour guide. They will be best placed to guide you through the do’s and don’ts of mushroom foraging in your region.
If you are living in, or visiting, the west coast of Ireland we highly recommend taking a mushroom foraging trip with Will Williams. You’ll find him at https://www.instagram.com/will.walkonthewildside/