Fairy stories and toadstools
Open any fairy-story book and if it has pictures, the chances are good that gnomes or elfin folk will be seen seated on colourful spotted toadstools or maybe these little people will be depicted living in houses constructed from mushrooms.
Every child, even still in modern times, grows up familiar with these images. The toadstool and wild mushroom is a cultural image for the land-of-make-believe, an icon for fairyland.
The Magic and Myth of British Fungi
Mushrooms and toadstools grow all over the world, and whilst many are edible others are poisonous or hallucinogenic. Fungi are very important and we need to learn about them.
Fairy stories and toadstools
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Flowers of the Earth
Mushrooms, toadstools and other fungi
Fungi, the mushrooms, toadstools and some other types, are a strange breed that are no longer regarded as plants but are not animals either. However, I still think of them as representatives of the vegetable kingdom. Like flowers of the Earth they grow but without the need of sunlight or the green pigment chlorophyll.
This gives them a certain advantage and means that they can flourish in dark and low-lit locations. It means they can still do well when other plants and trees are struggling with the shortened hours of daylight in autumn and winter. It is often at this time of year, at least before the frost, ice and snow, that these peculiar ‘blooms’ come into their own and suddenly appear in large numbers in our gardens, fields, parks, forests and moorlands.
Often they have unusual colours and bizarre forms like something alien from a sci-fi or horror film. Not only do they have peculiar appearances but they are often cold and clammy to the touch as well.
Some are very ephemeral, lasting only a day or so in their fruiting body, which we see above the ground or maybe protruding from a tree-trunk or stump. In actuality, and unknown to many people, fungi can, like trees, be incredibly old living organisms, which each year extend their underground body of fungal threads or mycelium.
Many are poisonous but many more are not and make an excellent source of food. Some are useful for all manner of purposes, ranging from tinder to sources of dye.
There are mushroom growing kits so you can grow your own at home, and there are many different varieties you can try cultivating.
You might even fancy making some mushroom ketchup? That has got to be a bit different and could add some interesting flavour to your meals.
Mushroom ketchup is made from mushrooms and a blend of spices, such as bay leaves, and no tomatoes in it at all. There is an 18th century recipe for making mushroom ketchup.
This is a ketchup that has that real rural flavour to it. It tastes distinctively of mushrooms and has a healthy aroma to it too. This is a sauce that you just know is a natural product.
And after you have taken all the mushroom juices out to make the ketchup you can of course use the flesh that is left in other dishes such as mushroom soups, or even dry it all out and store for future use.
Mushroom ketchup on Amazon
Where to buy Mushroom Ketchup
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|TruffleHunter Real Black Truffle Tomato Ketchup Sauce (7.05 Oz) - Gourmet Food Condiments Cooking...|
TruffleHunter Black Truffle Ketchup is made by blending the highest quality European Black Truffles (Tuber Aestivum) through a rich tomato ketchup.
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Making Mushroom Ketchup
How to make Mushroom Ketchup explained
Hallucinogenic fungi and Magic Mushrooms
Mushrooms and altered realities
Many are psychoactive and possess hallucinogenic properties and have been used the world over by cultures founded on shamanism. The Fly Agaric, unmistakable with its red cap dotted with white, has been used by ancient cultures including the Sami people of Lapland. It is thought by some authors to have been the origin of the idea of Father Christmas being dressed in red and white, and is the subject of the controversial book The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross by John Allegro.
In modern times, some of these psychoactive fungi, such as the Psilocybin-containing “Magic mushrooms”have become popular with recreational drug-users and laws have been passed in many countries to attempt to curb this usage.
Sacred Mushroom and the Cross
Hallucinogenic mushrooms and religion
|The Sacred Mushroom and The Cross: A study of the nature and origins of Christianity within the f...|
Where did God come from? What do the bible stories really tell us? Who or what was Jesus Christ? This book challenges everything we think we know about the nature of religion. •...
Gnostic Media Research & Publishing
|The Sacred Mushroom & the Cross|
The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross
Did the Fly Agaric inspire religious experiences?
Edible wild mushrooms
Foraging for edible fungi
One thing is for sure, that a vast number of delicious and nutritious species are readily available from our fields and forests for the knowledgeable picker to collect as food for free. Up until recently the identification of such types was handed down and still survives in many areas of Europe and Scandinavia.
Dishes made from wild mushrooms are regarded as gourmet delicacies, while over in China, Japan and the Orient, fungi are incredibly important, as not only a source of food but also as medicines.
For a variety of reasons, people in general have lost the knowledge of which fungi are useful and harmless and not only that but an actual fear and loathing for these strange plants has developed in many folk. Often a potentially good meal is deliberately kicked over and destroyed due only to ignorance and superstition.
Fungus fun is in fashion
Best Books about Wild Mushrooms
|The Wild Mushroom Co. Dried Gourmet Mix European Mushrooms 12 Ounces (340g)|
The Wild Mushroom Co
|Wild Mushrooms: A Cookbook and Foraging Guide|
|Roland Foods Dried Mixed Wild Mushrooms Specialty Imported Food ,16 Ounce (Pack of 1)|
A word of warning
However, it needs to be stressed that there are a small number of very dangerous and potentially lethal mushrooms that can be mistaken by the inexperienced picker for harmless types. To avoid the tragic consequences of such actions detailed information is required, best obtained from an experienced and trustworthy expert on fungi.
With this in mind, it is a good idea to watch out for any guided fungus walks being organized in your area. The best rule-of-thumb is if in any doubt at all to leave well alone. After all it is better to be safe than sorry and a free meal that turns out to be your last one is definitely not recommended.
Even if you do not wish to eat fungi, they can be really interesting to study and make excellent subjects for paintings and photography. There is a whole wealth of wonder and veritable panoply of delights to be found in the magical world of fungi.
The magic of the mushrooms awaits you in a field or forest in your neighbourhood.
Footnote: The text above represents the slightly edited version of the introduction to a book I started writing several years ago but never continued. I just found it again so thought I would publish this here.
Copyright © 2012 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.
Fly Agaric on Youtube
Fly Agaric in a book on Amazon
|Plant Intoxicants: A Classic Text on the Use of Mind-Altering Plants|
This pioneering study of psychoactive plants and their role in society, initially published in 1855, is one of the first books to examine the cultivation, preparation, and consu...Healing Arts Press /
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Thanks for that great feedback! I used to like collecting Jew's ears and they were easy to find near and in Cardiff. I haven't seen any here on Tenerife, though we have plenty of Edible Boletus.
My favourites from the UK (and unmistakeable for poisonous varieties) are:
Blewits (Fried - poisonous if not cooked thoroughly); Shaggy Ink Caps (fried with garlic, and put on toast); False Saffron Milkcaps (beware these turn your urine red); Amethyst Deceiver (interesting colour for salads, once cooked); Jew's Ears (little flavour though); many of the Bolettes (strong flavour in soup); Oyster Mushrooms (multiple uses); Salmon Salad, Orange Peel Fungus and Beefsteak Mushroom (these are now harder to find I add to stews).
Thank you, Jerrico!
voted up my friend
Thank you for your feedback, Tolovaj!
Mushrooms are important part of our (Slovenia) history. We have a lot of forests and many people could not afford meat, so many Slovenes still call mushrooms 'meat for poor people' although market price is actually higher at the moment.
About fungi and vegetables... Fungi with their parasitic lifestyle has much more in common with animals (plants can synthesize their own food from inorganic substances), but they have their own kingdom for several years now.
You are right, there is a lot of magic here. Without mushrooms witchcraft would never be the same:)
I'll think of you next spring when I get a good haul of morels. Great topic I've enjoyed it.
Thank you for appreciating it!
Fabulous article! Great Read! Congratulations!