Danger lurks in the woods

August 3, 2009 § 3 Comments

On the final leg of a Lake District walk along the far side of Buttermere I was delighted to spot the egg yolk yellow of what I assumed were chanterelles emerging from deep green moss. Eagerly I filled a small bag with the perfect little specimens below:

We ended the walk with a celebratory ice-cream at nearby Syke Farm in Buttermere village where they make delicious and unusual flavours from their own herd of Ayrshires. Blackcurrant cheesecake flavour was definitely a winner. They don’t have their own website but further details about the ice cream and Syke Farm tearoom can be found at http://www.explorelakedistrict.co.uk/detail_to_see.php?v_id=72

Back home that evening I thought I would double check my wild mushrooms against the photo and description in my trusty Collins gem Mushrooms book. After a few minutes I was dismayed to discover that I’d gathered a bagful of false chanterelles. These are marked “POISONOUS: A minority suffer from sickness and hallucinations”. Oh dear. They were quickly consigned to the dustbin and I was relieved to have escaped unharmed. I was mindful of the widely reported story of how Scottish “Horse Whisperer” author Nicholas Evans became seriously ill in September 2008 after mistaking a deadly cortinarius mushroom for the prized chanterelle. The little Collins book is really helpful as an identification guide as long as you pay attention to each section: the key piece of information in my case was habitat: I’d gathered my mushrooms beneath larches in acid-soiled woodland, a classic false chanterelle habitat whereas the true chanterelle grows mainly amongst broad-leaved trees, only occasionally amongst pine.

I was rewarded with a solitary real chanterelle a week or so later which I discovered on the wild fringes of a Lake District country house garden. I’m going to keep the exact location secret as chanterelles are thin on the ground! The perfect thing to with a single chanterelle is to cut it into neat small dice, fry it quickly in hot butter and serve it alongside creamy scrambled egg on toast. A perfect combination.

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