By Ruth D’Alessandro, The Wildlife Gardener The Wildlife Gardeners have had enough of cutting mixed hedgerows. We want to get out. It’s September, it has been raining, it’s warm, it must be time for mushrooms! We headed to woodlands on the Surrey/Kent border where we had surreptitiously followed a wicker-basket-and-knife-bearing German couple last year. And we were not disappointed. The first fungi were entertaining rather than edible. Just what are these funny little grey Halma-piece shaped mushrooms?
And this beautiful shining white one looks tempting:
…until you notice the volva (cup-shaped sheath) at its base. Although a volva is visible on the edible Caesar’s mushroom (Amanita caesarea), deadly Death Caps (Amanita phalloides) and Destroying Angels (Amanita virosa) have volvae, and for that reason I wouldn’t consider touching this mushroom. By the speckledy crackling on its cap, I’m guessing that this too is an Amanita species, and if one of our readers ID’d it as a Destroying Angel I wouldn’t be at all surprised. But all was not poison and destruction. As we wandered deep into the wood through bracken and wild bilberry bushes, we came across the occasional oak tree among the beeches and pines. And under these, we found the ultimate mushroom hunters’ prize: ceps!
Ceps, porcini or penny bun mushrooms (Boletus edulis) are big, meaty, earthy, utterly delicious mushrooms, beloved of Italians and foodies at London’s Borough Market (who pay