Was delighted to be invited to the Wicklow music festival Beyond The Pale and to talk on stage with Ali Dunworth about, what else, mushrooms (!) and all of the ways that they are magical. And why they should be on your plate!
It was so enjoyable and what an incredible festival. The music line up was incredible.
I brought some interesting mushroom tasters to share. Some balsamic pickled shiitake mushrooms, dandelion buds and wild garlic. Also made some Lion’s Mane and peanut butter dark chocolates.
Best of all I got to bring Sadhbh the bus and my dearest girlfriends!
I am so happy to report that we will be offering another full day intensive workshop where we will explore medicinal mushrooms in depth. We will make medicine together to bring home with you. We will share a full day together in the beautiful space in a very special venue in Blessington, Co Wicklow, Ireland.
Join us in this intensive medicinal mushroom full day workshop for a fascinating exploration into the diverse and mysterious world of fungi! Together we will explore the many ways that you can incorporate mushrooms into your life as various medicinal preparations and as delicious food.
We will: -Study and learn about 10 species of medicinal mushrooms, half of which grow wild in abundance around us in Ireland/ UK. Some samples will be on hand to see/ touch/ smell and taste. We will learn about their health benefits and immuno-modulating properties, including links and references to scientific studies.
–Learn how to identify them, their habitat, their physical properties. We will learn about how to safely dry or preserve mushrooms to keep their properties intact, or indeed how to enhance or harness their properties, such as providing us with a bio-available form of Vitamin D and other minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.
–Medicinal Mushroom preparation– We will discuss and demo how to make an aqueous extract, alcohol extract, alcohol-free glycerin extract and the benefits of these vs how and when to combine these for a dual or full-spectrum mushroom extract. We will learn how to create water extracted mushroom powders. We will discuss when there may be contraindications for use.
-Learn how and why mushrooms offer powerful nutrition and learn some delicious recipes and easy ways to bring mushrooms into your diet and wellness routine. Special preparation consideration for enhancing nutritive value and to safely use and consume wild fungi. We will discuss some different cooking methods and a variety of food preparations including: drinks, desserts, mushroom jerky, gomasio/ food condiments, pickles, etc.
–How and where to source medicinal mushrooms: which mushrooms are possible to forage from the wild and which fungi are easier to cultivate and some resources about how to do this. We will share some reputable sources and how to choose good quality mushroom products. We will learn about how to distinguish from a fruiting body and mycelium and their respective medicinal properties.
You will be provided with a recommended reading list and extensive notes and you will go home with a medicinal mushroom preparation made together on the day.
Medicinal mushrooms drinks, tasters and a healthy lunch will be provided on the day.
There will be some dried mushrooms and dual-extract tinctures available on the day to purchase, should you like to.
I was fortunate to take Joe up on an offer to visit his woodland. Joe lives on a farm in Tipperary and his family planted up some of the fields with forestry in March 2000 as part of a long term plan to reinstate the native woodland habitat.
When Joe, Eimear and Selina were telling me that there was a huge abundance of fungi there, to be honest I thought, yes, there are so many fungi in so many places – yet I was not prepared for what we came across!
In my naiveté I totally underestimated the drive to Tipperary from Wicklow, in my mind it was an hour at most. However it was well worth it, not only for the fungi, but to spend a surprisingly lovely day with really special people! Joss, Anna, Manini, Jamie, Joanne, Anna, Selina, Eimear, Joe and myself.
It was a wet and soggy 25 October when I arrived after a 2.5 hour drive there. I was greeted by Joe’s warm smile and a sputtering campfire that Joe had gone to much effort to light along with a gazebo and tables to meet everyone around.
We laid out some of my favourite mushroom books, some dried mushrooms samples and medicinal mushroom tinctures to discuss and introduced ourselves to each other. We then headed out to explore the undergrowth of the Norway Spruce plantation. It was like entering an enchanted fairy glen and we were immediately greeted by literally hundreds of thousands of mushroom fruiting bodies.
Mushrooms in crazy abundance amongst a Norway spruce plantation in Tipperary- have you ever seen anything like it? I haven’t! This was in every direction!
Thank you to Anna and Selina for some of these images!
This is difficult to answer as there are so many different ways to be interested in fungi- whether it is identification, edibility, medicinal mushrooms, cooking mushrooms or wild food, cultivation, mycology… the list goes on. I am interested in most of these aspects, but I am aware this could quickly become overwhelming to a newcomer. Also of note is that one should seek out mushroom books that are local to their part of the world.
Another important consideration is that while I value buying vintage and second hand whenever possible- when you are relying on mushroom books to give you safe and up to date information- I do not recommend old books. The information is changing constantly, not only the classifications and taxonomy but the information on safe edibility of mushrooms in older books can be suspect and no longer recommended, such as the culmulatively toxic Brown Roll Rims. So, find it second hand if you can- but get your books recent and up to date.
This list will evolve and I will add to it over time, I’ll just get a start on it tonight…
I will list some books I love or recommend and why here:
I highly recommend this book for all beginning mushroom foragers. The River Cottage Mushroom book by John Wright is an excellent resource for those that are interested in foraging for edible mushrooms. There are great photos, clear information, a slight sense of humour and importantly he points out when there is a dangerous look-alike to be aware of. There are some very tasty recipes at the end of the book in true River Cottage style. I like John Wright and also might say while I am here that I also enjoyed this one:
The Forager’s Calendar- A Seasonal Guide to Nature’s Wild Harvests by John Wright
I downloaded this Audibles audio version of this book: The Forager’s Calendar- A Seasonal Guide to Nature’s Wild Harvests. I love listening to audio books in the car while driving and this one is informative and entertaining. Its good because he covers wild food and fungi throughout the season and what you might expect to find in any average month of the year and some tips about how he likes to use these ingredients.
I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending this book to anyone, no matter what your interests are! I have both this copy AND the audio version. It is narrated by the author Merlin Sheldrake and I cannot get enough of it. An incredible book that covers the many and diverse ways of “How Fungi make our worlds, change our minds and shape our futures.”
Absolutely mind-blowing and hugely entertaining.
I would LOVE LOVE to have a coffee with Merlin one day:)
Let’s start with the one in the centre: the second one that I recommend to any new mushroom forager to be: Edible Mushrooms: A Forager’s Guide to the Wild Fungi of Britain, Ireland and Europe
I highly recommend this book, both to beginning foragers and experienced foragers alike. It has many species and what I like best is Geoff’s book stands alone in my opinion with its attention to the “Spectrum of Edibility”. So many books copy each other and err on the side of over-caution and preach to the lowest denominator. Geoff touches on this spectrum in detail and gives information about how and under what conditions each mushroom is edible or it isn’t. For example, many books might state: inedible, not recommended or unknown about edibility but Geoff gives us more detail than most- sometimes its a case of boiling before cooking, or cooking at high heat, etc to remove certain toxins. I respect and value this information so that I may make the decision myself, rather than be told simply: not recommended. And of course, should a mushroom not be recommended for consumption- this is also clearly stated!
Again, great photos, great information and again a warning on dangerous look-alikes.
Another book from that book stack above:
The Fungal Pharmacy by Robert Dale Rogers.
While, granted, this book says it is for North American species, most of it is also relevant to Ireland/Uk/ Europe. Many of these medicinal mushrooms also grow here so there is much valuable information if you’re interested in mushrooms’ medicinal qualities.
From Jelly ears, Shiitake, Fly Agaric, Reishi, Lion’s Mane, Button mushrooms, Oysters, the list goes on and on.
Robert Rogers has a good online medicinal mushrooms course that I also can recommend.
Next on the list:
Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares- The Love Lore and Mystique of Mushrooms by Greg Marley
Throughout history, people have had a complex and confusing relationship with mushrooms. Are fungi food or medicine, beneficial decomposers or deadly “toadstools” ready to kill anyone foolhardy enough to eat them? In fact, there is truth in all these statements. In Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares, author Greg Marley reveals some of the wonders and mysteries of mushrooms, and our conflicting human reactions to them. With tales from around the world, Marley, a seasoned mushroom expert, explains that some cultures are mycophilic (mushroom-loving), like those of Russia and Eastern Europe, while others are intensely mycophobic (mushroom-fearing), including, the US.
This fascinating and fresh look at mushrooms-their natural history, their uses and abuses, their pleasures and dangers-is a splendid introduction to both fungi themselves and to our human fascination with them. From useful descriptions of the most foolproof edible species to revealing stories about hallucinogenic or poisonous, yet often beautiful, fungi, Marley’s long and passionate experience will inform and inspire readers with the stories of these dark and mysterious denizens of our forest floor.
Hmmmm? What’s that you say? Can’t hear you from my Jelly Ear!
(Even if it’s the biggest Jelly Ear I’ve ever spotted!)
These abundant, edible and medicinal fungi were a bit challenging to me before, I must admit.
The gelatinous texture isn’t one that I was accustomed to eating but it’s grown on me! The distinctly ear lobe shape didn’t help either. 😂
This mushroom can be found commonly growing on dead or dying Elder trees. Sometimes you can hit the jackpot and find branches heaving with them.
Another name for this fungus is Auricularia aurícula-judae, Wood Ear, Black fungus, Cloud Ear, Judas Ear or more controversially Jews Ear/ although this name is no longer recommended.
These can be harvested throughout the year, and can even be found shrivelled up on the tree after a dry spell. They dry down very small and rehydrate readily when needed. Love finding them plump and fat and juicy but you can collect the dried ones too, saving you the job of drying them out!
I harvest, clean, slice and dry these to preserve them for use throughout the year. Then rehydrate when needed.
If cooked fresh in a frying pan they can be quite explosive!
I enjoy them most sliced into a Chinese dumpling with other wild greens and aromatics.
Another favourite amongst the Foraging world was dreamt up by @fergustheforager many years ago and takes the intact dried jelly ears and rehydrates them into a liqueur then covers them in chocolate.
This mushroom has been used medicinally since the Tang Dynasty 618 BCE in China, often added to dishes to help improve breathing, sore throats, to reduce colds and fevers, to enhance well being and to boost circulation.
One to look out for on your wild food or herbal medicine journey.
I have been learning and teaching and talking and sharing and exclaiming about this remedy ever since I learned of it.
This mushroom as an alcohol extract has incredible properties for relieving pain – applied externally to the site of pain, particularly sciatica.
I first tried this medicinal mushroom remedy on myself after I developed a very painful bout of sciatica after a bicycle accident. As little as 3-4 drops applied externally near the pain (I applied this nearest the spine near my pain which was in my right buttock) and within minutes the pain was gone, and not just for hours, for weeks! and later for months. I no longer suffer the pain of sciatica. And yes, I am talking about only a few applications of 3-4 drops.
I have now taught and shared this old Finnish recipe with many and after the Welcome to Mushroom Hour podcast I have received many hundreds of messages from people all around the world who have shared this and many other ways in which this incredible mushroom has changed their life. Often eliminating long time pain and suffering after accidents or other types of chronic pain and often when nothing else would work!
Here is a link to purchase this remedy from my online shop. I make this remedy from wild, fresh fruiting bodies that I personally forage for from the stunning Wicklow mountains in Co Wicklow, Ireland.