By Geoff Dann

I love this time of year. The oppressive hot weather has gone and nature is at its most abundant for a forager. Best of all, it has been nine months since mushroom season ended and I don’t have many foraging clients yet: so I actually get to remember what my hobby was like before it became my job. And because every year is different, it’s never boring.

The opening of the 2018 mushroom season has been quite selective – at the time of writing a lot of things aren’t fruiting at all – but the things that are fruiting are doing so very abundantly. Most predominant of all are the large boletes (mushrooms with tubes beneath the cap ending in pores instead of gills).  This group includes some of the most famous and tastiest edible species, as well as a few that are bitter and/or poisonous (but not deadly), or both. As a rule, the poisonous ones have red or orange pores and stain/bruise blue, although some of the edible species share these characteristics.

At the start of September, I found  the biggest flush of oak boletes (Butyriboletus appendiculatus) I have seen in many years (just a couple of miles outside Hastings). And I finally got a photo that had eluded me while collecting photos for my book (the photo in the book is one of the few that aren’t my own). This is an absolutely first-class edible – my wife Cathy ranked it higher than a penny bun (Boletus edulis) – and I’m tempted to agree with her. Our six-month-old daughter Dorothy, who has just started baby-led weening, was also impressed! They are sweet and almost crunchy, even when cooked. Do be careful though; there were some very similar-looking mushroom under the next tree, no more than ten metres away, but these were the poisonous and bitter rooting bolete (Caloboletus radicans).  Apart from the taste (rooting boletes are very bitter). The most obvious distinction is the slight differences in the colour scheme and the patterning on the stem (compare photos). Sadly, rooting boletes are also considerably more common than oak boletes.

The same day that I took these photos, I found a very wide selection of large boletes in and around Hastings, including summer boletes (B. reticulatus), penny buns, lurid boletes (Suillelus luridus), scarletina boletes (Neoboletus luridiformis) a couple of bay boletes (Imleria badia), as well as handful of smaller species. Dark penny buns (B. aereus) are also fruiting in South-East England, although I had not found any at the time of writing. All these species typically do well after a long, hot summer, so this is not unexpected. Some things are missing though: I haven’t seen a single Leccinum, nor a Suillus.

If you’re interested in learning more about fungi then I’ll be running a free, fungi walk in Alexandra Park as part of Transition Town Hastings’ ‘Sustainability on Sea’ week. This is going to start at 11am on Wednesday September 26th, meeting in the car park
by Harmer’s Pond. It will last between an hour and 90 minutes, although please bear in mind that I have no way of knowing how many people are going to turn up!

Good luck and stay safe!

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