A Colourful Cornucopia

Late Summer/Early Autumn is a favourite time or year for me, particularly because there is so much available to the wild food forager. Hedgerows are alive with colourful blackberries, vitamin C rich rosehips, hawthorn haws to make fruit leathers, sloes for gin, apples, plums etc etc

The fungi are unexpectedly colourful too. These blackening waxcaps (Hygrocybe conica) look spectacular, but some sources list them as inedible.

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Colour is an important factor in identification, and not just the colour of the cap, gills and stem as they occur undisturbed, but also colour changes that occur on cutting or bruising the flesh. A prime example is the Yellow-Staining Mushroom (Agaricus xanthoderma). Many people have fallen foul of this species, simply because it looks like a standard edible field mushroom (Agaricus campestris), and ended up with a night of unpleasant gastrointestinal ‘issues’. The key, when finding a standard field mushroom looking species (Agaricus), i.e. whitish cap, pink gills turning brown and a ring on the stem, is to scratch the cap and stem with a fingernail, or better still cut the base of the stem with a knife. If it quickly turns yellow, it is likely you have a Yellow Stainer, so leave it alone. However, I always check the smell too, by crushing some of the cap between my fingers, it will smell mushroomy, but there will also be an inky smell caused by phenol. I do this because some edible Agaricus species like the Horse Mushroom (Agaricus arvensis) also bruise yellow, but less violently, and smell strongly of aniseed. However, if in doubt leave any that stain yellow alone.

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Another example of a brilliant colour change is the Boletus genera. These fungi have the typical mushroom shape, but have spongy pores rather than gills under the cap. This species that I found growing by an oak tree in the grass on the edge of a wood is the Inkstain Bolete (Boletus pulverulentus) which stains blue on handling the cap or the pores, and as you can see from the video turns bright blue when the flesh is exposed. It is meant to be good to eat, but they always seem a bit soggy and bug-eaten, though perhaps I will give one a try this year!

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Inkstain Bolete Colour Change Video

My final find of the day was this incredible Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus) which, though edible, isn’t meant to be particularly good, but would provide a feast should you ever be trapped in the wild!

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