The weather in the last few weeks has been good for ducks (ones with thermal underwear presumably) and also for mushrooms, judging by the number that are sprouting up, well…, like mushrooms.
Now, I am one of those people who fancy themselves as a bit of an outdoors man, and in the UK I had a fair idea of what could and could not be eaten out of the hedgerows and fields. Sadly that is not the case here, although I am doing my best to learn. It appears that few others do either, since the mushrooms seem to be surviving unmolested.
I did an internet search on edible mushrooms and discovered a South African paranoia about fungi, with the general advice being not to eat any since they are likely to lead to a painful and certain death! Ouch.
So was I being incredibly foolish by picking some white mushrooms with brown gills out of our local field, pan frying them and eating them. Possibly, but three days later I am still here, with no side effects, although I wish the pink elephants in the garden would go back to Addo.
Ok, I am not advocating going out and eating any old fungus that you find, the ones that I ate I knew were safe (I have a very good knowledge of food and drink) but I find it a shame that these things are all over the place and no-one seems to be paying them any attention, especially since so many people are supposedly going without food. They say that a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing, but I don’t buy that; it is ignoring the knowledge that you have that is most problematic.
Mushrooms are just one indicator of how much knowledge we have lost regarding our local environment. Millions are spent annually coming up with ways to make certain food crops grow in alien environments, yet surely the best things to grow in an area are the things that are already there. I am probably about to cause a crowd bearing burning brands to mob my house and chase me to the border, but I will say it anyway- Karoo lamb is the worst I have tasted in the world. It is like eating the packaging that New Zealand lamb comes in. This is because good lamb comes from flocks that eat lush grass, something that the Karoo is very short of. And yet springbok is a far superior meat and they thrive in the dry conditions up there.
In an increasingly expensive world surely we have to start thinking about local solutions to solve our problems, and work with our environment, not try and bend it to our will.
The field mushrooms are plentiful and safe, now I am turning my attention to another type, though I will do a lot of research before trying them. I think they are a type of morel, however, they could just as easily be poisonous enough to kill the pink elephants in the garden- time will tell.
If you do eat a mushroom (or the kids do) and you are not sure about it (why did you eat it if you weren’t sure) then take your self off to hospital preferably with a sample of the fungus to show. Most probably you will just have an upset stomach for a few days, however, it is better to be safe than sorry as there are a couple of mushrooms world wide that can kill you!
DON’T eat it if you are not sure, but don’t let horror stories put you off, it’s just such a shame to see all these things go to waste.
Inspired by my mushroom success I am going to endeavor to find out what else is good to eat in the bushes, and also where I am permitted to take them from (I am sure that TMNP take a dim view of berry picking in national parks!)
And how did my mushrooms taste? If you took an entire punnit of button mushrooms from the supermarket they would contain about one tenth of one of the field mushrooms I found, which really shows how much intensive agriculture steal