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ForestHarvest: non-timber forest products in Scotland

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Wild mushrooms in Scotland

There are literally dozens of species of edible wild mushrooms in the Scottish woods but only a few are commonly eaten. Given the frightening toxicity of some species (e.g. fly agaric), our reluctance to gather unfamiliar fungi is a sensible precaution. Nevertheless, it does not take much to learn the most common edible species and the ones to steer clear of.

Tips for would-be mushroom pickers
  • If you are uncertain what mushroom it is, don't eat it! A good way to learn is by attending an autumn 'fungus foray'. These trips, led by local experts or fungus groups, are ideal for gaining confidence in mushroom identification. Otherwise get a good field guide.
  • Look out for maggots, particularly in ceps. It is worth chopping each mushroom down the middle to check, and cutting out any bad parts.
  • Mushrooms can be preserved by drying or pickling. Small ones can be dried whole but large ones are best sliced. String them onto a thread in a warm dry place such as an airing cupboard, and then store them in an airtight container. Rehydrate before use by soaking in water.
  • Some people react badly to species that others can eat with impunity. If the mushroom is new to you, only eat a small quantity at first.
  • Check your specimens again before cooking, just to make sure that they are all what you thought they were.

 

Gathering wild mushrooms sustainably

The Scottish Wild Mushroom Forum has developed a Mushroom Code to advise gatherers and landowners on best practice.

 

Common edible fungi - Click on the image
Ceps
When to gather

Autumn is the most productive time for edible mushrooms, but there are always some species available in woodlands.

Commercial mushroom harvesting

At least four mushroom buyers now operate in Scotland, with an average total annual turnover of over £250,000 in Scottish wild mushrooms. The self-employed pickers' earnings are comparatively small, but it is occasionally possible to gather as much as £1000 worth of wild mushrooms in a single day.

Most businesses focus on only a few mushroom species such as chanterelle, cep, hedgehog fungus, saffron milkcap, chicken of the woods, St George’s mushroom and wood blewitt. The mushrooms are sold to British restaurants and hotels, or exported to France, Holland, Germany, USA and Canada.

Mycotourism

Scottish wild mushrooms are so good that some visitors come to Scotland just to gather them - you may meet Italians travelling to Aberdeenshire in search of porcini to collect and dry for themselves and their families.

More on mushrooms

Scottish Fungi, an information hub for both beginner and established mycologists who are interested in Scottish fungi.

Scottish Natural Heritage's online publication Naturally Scottish - Fungi provides detailed information about Scotland's fungi.

Visit the recipes page for some interesting NTFP cooking ideas.