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October 18, 2016
Fungi: neither plant nor animal.
Fungi: neither plant nor animal.

Today’s 5pm Dining blog comes to you from West Lothian where your blogger recently went on a fungi foraging trip with the aptly named Monica Wilde.

Monica runs Napiers the Herbalists. She is also a research herbalist, an ethnobotanist, an insured foraging teacher and a Member of the Association of Foragers.

In other words, if you go down to the woods today, she is exactly the sort of person you want by your side.

Expert identification

We went on a four hour group fungi hunt and it was absolutely fascinating. Neither plant nor animal, fungi are remarkable organisms. As far as this blog is concerned, one of their main points of interest is that they can demonstrate a huge variety of diverse flavours including coconut milk, curry and chilli.

And their uses go way beyond the culinary. They can be used to boost the immune system. They make antibiotics and can even be used to sharpen razors. And that is not the weirdest fungi fact we picked up.

Mother Nature's Diner deserves five stars.
Mother Nature’s Diner deserves five stars.

Monica also told us how the Sami people’s use of hallucinogenic fungi led to people associating Christmas with flying reindeer. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Or rather feed it to your reindeer and then drink their… well, you get the idea.

Point is, fungi are a vast subject. Not least because there are so many of them. Apparently, there are some 6000 species of fungi in the UK with new ones being discovered on a more or less monthly basis.

Good eating

The vast majority of the rest either don’t taste good or taste of very little. More happily, around twenty of them make for really good eating.

Less happily, there are about ten species which you don’t want anywhere near your digestive system or you will come to a very unpleasant and painful end.

A good portion of the trip was given over to identifying those species which are good for the pan and those to be avoided.

Fungi like rotting wood.
Fungi: fond of rotting tree stumps.

By the end of our experience, I would be confident that I could identify a couple of the more obvious edible species.

Of course, it is a foolish man who takes any risks with fungi and it’s just not worth gambling on a species which you think may be edible but just might be deadly.

Don’t eat the poison pie

Over the course of our trip, we collected about three dozen different species ranging from yellow sulphur tufts to wood worts, puff balls and poison pies.

Monica fried up a selection of the edible ones and mighty fine they were too.

Monica in action.
Monica in action.

As well as fungi forages, Monica runs hedgerow forages and seaweed hunts. If that sounds like your cup of mushroom tea then you can browse forthcoming trips here.

To be honest, it was great to find, identify and scoff some of the edible species but just exploring a tiny part of the fungi kingdom was reward in itself.

Despite my limitations with a camera, we came away with some interesting pics of beautiful fungi.


Could be some sort of ink cap. but don't take my word for it.
Could be some sort of ink cap. But don’t take my word for it. Consult an expert.
Jelly fish, alien or porcelain fungi?
Jelly fish, alien or porcelain fungi?
We found most of these in the first couple of hours.
We found most of these in the first couple of hours.