Wild Mushrooms in the Cape Point Peninsula- Nutritious food source or deadly accident waiting to happen?

My haul of mushrooms
My haul of mushrooms

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

5 thoughts on “Wild Mushrooms in the Cape Point Peninsula- Nutritious food source or deadly accident waiting to happen?

  1. tracy says:

    we just picked these this morning, I think they are a type of tree ear or oyster (but a bit dark for that) Although they’re not porcini they smell just like them. Not sure whether to venture them into the frying pan…..?

    1. Russell Hepworth says:

      Hi Tracy, I’m no mushroom expert and it is pretty hard to tell from the photo what these are. They look ok to me but it isn’t my liver that will need transplanting if I’m wrong. If they smell like an edible mushroom then again all point to them being ok. If you are in serious doubt then don’t eat them- I’m an idiot and tend to trust my instincts, try a bit and see if I wake up the next morning but I do not advocate others to do stoop to this lunacy.

  2. Hi Tracy,

    Were the mushrooms you found ever confirmed as being morels? I’m fascinated about finding black morels growing wild in Cape Town. They are ultra rare!

    Thank you, hope to hear back soon (although this post is 4 years old!)

    1. Russell Hepworth says:

      Hi Justin, I’m led to believe (though I have never confirmed myself) that Tokai forest was the place for Morels, but I don’t know what effect the recent fires had on anything out that way.

      1. Hi Russel.

        Thank you kindly for the info about morels, I have made it my mission to go out and find some this spring. Research has led me to believe that the Fish Hoek Valley also used to be a hotspot for them, back that’s going back to the 1950’s. One was found in Observatory in more recent times but very little else is known about them here. Apparently fires are very beneficial to the soil upon which morels grow, so I’m thinking that this Spring could be a good time as any.

        The first place I’m heading to is Tokai!

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