Long hot summer brings ‘ridiculous’ bumper harvest of wild mushrooms

A cluster of Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria ostoyea) in Washington state
A cluster of Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria ostoyea) in Washington state
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The long hot summer is about to yield one of the biggest wild mushroom crops for years.

Experts say the unusually warm and dry June and July delayed the fungi growth, meaning the recent wet, humid conditions have seen mushrooms grow in “ridiculous quantities”.

Forager and research herbalist Monica Wilde, from West Lothian, says everywhere is currently a breeding ground for mushrooms.

She said: “There will be rich pickings, from the middle of towns to the wilds, a huge abundance.

“Because we had a long dry summer, the mushrooms held back a bit. But with these current optimal conditions they are all coming out together.

“Mushrooms that would have grown in stages, such as chanterelles, which usually start fruiting in July, needed moisture so are growing now. And woodland species like porcini are out in ridiculous quantities.

“Rather than fruiting in July, August and September, we’re getting several flushes all at once. The summer delayed the season, but they’re really going for it now.”

Early this week is likely to be especially good thanks to the Moon.

Ms Wilde said: “Friday was a perigee, the point in the orbit of the Moon when it is closest to the Earth. Up to that point, mushroom growth slows down, then afterwards it quickens up.”

Ms Wilde, a member of the Association of Foragers, organises foraging courses throughout Scotland.

“I’ve been teaching for 12 years and the courses seem to have sold out particularly quickly this year,” she said.

“There has been a huge rise in awareness of organic food and clean eating, with young people realising nature is part of their lives and without that connection we don’t do very well. We have amazing restaurants and chefs in Scotland, and foraged ingredients – the ultimate extension of local sourcing – are appearing more often on their menus.”

Mycologist Patrick Harding, who has written four books about mushrooms, agrees. He said: “TV chefs such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have helped bring about huge change.

“People have realised there is more to mushrooms than the boring white buttons ones, which is all you used to be able to buy.

“I started running foraging courses 40 years ago and only a few people would come – and they would be embarrassed to tell their friends.

“I think people coming here from countries such as Poland, France and the Czech Republic, where kids are brought up knowing about edible fungi, also brought about change.”