Big thank you from

If you enjoy the fungus the message is - be careful

by Paul Cormacain

SO you like fungus on the doorstep? So you like to eat fresh fungus?

When we were young we used to go out early in the morning to collect fungus in the form of mushrooms, and to our credit or good luck never poisoned ourselves. If you go to mainland Europe you can see folk out collecting mushrooms and other fungus with enthusiasm. Also with more knowledge and confidence than ourselves.

We have to be very careful when collecting fungus because we just do not have the culture of eating fungus other than mushrooms.

Many of us could identify mushrooms with certainty, but even I would not risk picking some other beautiful fungus. I could not be sure that I would not end up with excruciating cramps.

The Environment and Heritage Service and the National Trust are linked closely with the Colin Glen Forest Park. Recently Colin Glen had a fungal survey, although they did not state whether they ate the results or not.

Colin Glen has a wide variety of fungi, although the one fungus not found during the survey was the common, edible mushroom.

A grand total of 31 different types of fungi were found, which would support the theory that fungus can only grow where the air is pure.

One of the more colourful names for a fungus is the Shaggy Ink-cap. A reasonably common one, it also has the name of Lawyer's Wig. Who thinks up the names?

The tricky thing about this growth is that it is edible when all white, but no thanks!

The shaggy white young cap eventually dissolves into an inky fluid as gills auto-digests from the edge of the cap outwards.

The crowded whitish gills turn black from the tips. Would you fancy eating that? It's near relative, the Common Ink-cap, will cause nasty symptoms if you have a drink up until two days later.

Then there was Slippery. Jack, another great name, which is also edible under certain circumstances. It has a dark brown slimy cap with yellow poses on the underside. Does that sound palatable to you?

It also has a white ring on the stalk. And the stalk is often covered with brownish granules above the ring. If you remove the slime the Jack is reckoned to be good to eat. .

The sweet-named Honey Fungus even has a sweet name in the scientific Latin. This is a flattish honeycoloured cap with an incurved edge, covered with fine brown scales in the centre.

It is very common in tufts on stumps and above roots, and ii is a serious parasite of many trees. It is edible with care, which means that you do not eat it until an expert eats it without dying. Then you take your share.

There are a number of milk caps, not to mention a milk drop. The Milk Drop Mycena is found in Colin Glen. It is a small greyish-brown mushroom with- a hemispherical cap.

The stalk exudes white milky fluid when broken, which just might have something to do with its name. It is common and widespread found growing among leaf litter in all kinds of woods, but never on a living tree.

The Oak Milk Cap is common in Colin. The gills release a milky fluid when broken, which again may help explain its name.

The cap is a dull reddish brown colour, with darker zones. The gills are creamy, what else?, and the milk runs white. And if you really fancy it, it is inedible.

So much for mushrooms and fungi this week. By all means gather and eat real wild mushrooms, they are a delight. But beware, unless your identification is very good, and you have no doubts about what you are gathering, the word is DON'T.

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Ulster Star