Last September I took some talented artists to some beautiful woods and tried to inspire them with fungi. I find fungi fascinating and inspirational – and they can take some weird and wonderful forms.
The day of the foray started for me with an interesting breakfast of fly agaric. This is not something I do regularly, them being both hallucinogenic and dangerously toxic, but with careful preparation they are delicious, with no side effects. And besides, if I got it wrong, I would be hanging out in the woods with some groovy artists. Win win.
The trick is to blanche out all the water-soluble chemicals (ibutonic acid and muscimol are the active ingredients) to leave delicious, tasty mushroom and toxic amber liquid that looks quite like a pint of Arran Blonde Ale from the bottom of the barrel. I don’t treat this process lightly and nor should you, but if you do want to give it a go this article tells you all you need to know, and makes fascinating reading even if you don’t.
After prepping my mile-high-wild-pie with some of the previous day’s chanterelle haul, it was off to meet the artists. It was a typical Galloway summer day of low cloud and steady rain – perfect for an afternoon in the woods (see how I can’t lose?). I fortified the intrepid painters with a dram of sloe gin (last of my stash) before we set off into a gorgeous bit of old beech and birch woodland on the outskirts of the forest park.
This was a unique forage for me, in that the focus was not entirely on what was or was not edible, and I think the artists got really into fungi for its weird beauty and mysterious nature as much as anything else. For my part, I thoroughly enjoyed being able to bang on about all kinds of fungi to a receptive/captive audience. Despite it being nearly 2 months short of prime mushroom season, we found loads of really interesting and inspiring fungi.
We followed a beautiful moss-banked stream to a hidden loch that seemed to be brooding in the soft light and smurr before making our way back to the cars and a short trip to my home in Gatahouse for a feast of mile-high wild pie, cep and Kilnford bacon tart and Cara’s fine bread and stem ginger cake.