In 1972 Richard Mabey wrote a book called “Food for Free” which was published by Collins. This book has proved so popular it is still in print and Collins also have produced a pocket sized “gem” edition.
Living in Lanarkshire, the damp conditions beside the Rivers Avon and Clyde provide an excellent environment for many of the plants mentioned in the above book. I have tried some of the recipes in the book including:
wild garlic leaves in salads
dandelion leaf salad
dandelion root coffee
comfrey leaf salad
Many of the flowers can also be found in many gardens so it is not always essential to walk miles to get free food. Although Richard Mabey includes a chapter on fungi, I have not tried to eat any unless bought from a shop.
Summer is also when the birds rear their young. On the River Clyde a female Goosander was on the water with her youngsters. When she saw us she swam to the other side of the river with her goslings.
Goosander and Goslings
The Goosander was quite far away and we only had a compact camera, but we managed to get a blurry photograph. It was quite a cold day despite it being at the end of May and the goslings tucked themselves under mum’s feathers to keep warm.
A pair of adult Greylag Geese were also on the water with their youngsters and were not afraid of the people walking about.
Mallard Ducks and Ducklings
Yes, summertime is a great time for those who love wildlife.
Autumn is one of my favourite times of the year for many reasons – golden leaves on the trees, wintering birds returning from Scandinavia and the number of fungi fruiting at this time. On the path I walk to meet my bird-watching group at Baron’s Haugh in Motherwell I was able to spot the following types of fungi. The photographs were taken on a Sony Xperia S phone, which I find is good enough for many photographs when I cannot carry my SLR camera.
This yellow-brown fungi grows in tufts in decayed conifer wood.
Soft Slipper Toadstool
Soft Slipper Toadstool
This is easy to identify as the skin peels off completely due to the elastic skin. If is 7cm in size and shell-like and is found on the dead trunks of deciduous trees.
Candle-snuff Fungiis sometimes called the ‘stags horn fungus’. It is quite a strong and rubbery and can be bent without
breaking. It is black at the base, grey in the middle and white at the tips just like a snuffed candle wick.
Fairy Ink Cap
The Fairy Ink Cap is very small – between 0.5 to 1.5cm in diameter and 1 to 1.5cm tall. It is egg-shaped at first, then bell shaped and then flattens out.
It is beige when young, then turns grey and then black.
Unfortunately I never spotted the big red fungi with the spots!
Autumn is the time when the greatest number of fungi can be seen. In my local area fungi can be seen at Chatelherault Country Park and New Lanark.
On a walk round Chatelherault today I spotted seven types of fungi and hopefully I will see more before the winter months arrive.
A Word of Caution on Fungi
Although not all fungi are poisonous, it is not advisable to eat any fungi which are found while out walking unless you are 100% sure they are safe to eat.
What are Fungi?
Fungi are members of a large group of eukaryotic organisms which includes microorganisms such as yeasts and moulds, as well as the more familiar mushrooms. These organisms are classified as a kingdom, Fungi, which is separate from plants, animals, and bacteria.
One major difference is that fungal cells have cell walls that contain chitin, unlike the cell walls of plants, which contain cellulose. The study of fungi is known as mycology.
Fungi at Chatelherault
Is an easily recognised toadstool coloured red with white spots. It is about 8cm in diameter and poisonous and grows beside deciduous and coniferous trees.
It is now primarily famed for its hallucinogenic properties and was used as an intoxicant by the peoples of Siberia and has a religious significance in these cultures.
Amanita rubescens is a common species through out the UK and it
grows under several different species of tree, including birch, oak, beech and pine. It is often one of the first of the autumn species to appear and is mostly recorded from August – October. It is between 5-15cm in diameter.
It is not one of the deadly Amanitas but it does contain haemolytic compounds which break up red blood cells and cause damage in the human body.
This is an edible mushroom and is often called ‘charcoal burner’ as its colour resembles that of a charcoal burner. It was designated “Mushroom of the Year” in 1997 by the German Association of Mycology.
It has weak gills, which feel greasy to the touch and are flexible and do not break. The cap is 4–15 cm (1.5–6 in) wide and the colours vary from greenish to bright brown. It is found in forests from May to November, with the highest concentration in July to September.
The chantrelle is an easy mushroom to identify but it can be tricky to find as it hides under thick undergrowth. It has the colour of apricots and has caps which are often wavy and concave or even trumpet-shaped.
It is an edible fungi and is commonly found between summer to late autumn.
An edible fungi with a dark-brown cap, found growing solitary or scattered on soil in open broadleaf woodland or in grass near trees.
It has a cap diameter of between 30-80mm and is common in summer and autumn.
The gills are white at first but soon turn yellowish-pinkish to pale tan. They have a strong odor, somewhere between sweet and mealy.
Ganoderma resinaceum is a rare fungus which is found throughout the year. It starts out as a yellow colour but as the fruiting body ages, this beautiful fungus turns black and can then be mistaken for the Hoof Fungus, Fomes fomentarius.
The photograph here is of an old and unattractive fungus. It was growing on a fallen branch of a tree and is poisonous.
An attractive small yellow slimy fungi of 2 to 3 cm in diameter and common from spring to autumn.
Commonly known as the Dung Roundhead, because of its cap shape and habitat preference for pasture land.
It was found growing in a field adjacent to the path through Chatelherault. It is poisonous.
I will be on the look-out for more fungi and will go to New Lanark as Clavulinopsis helvola, Ramaria stricta and many of the Agarics can be seen there.