Winter’s Harvest: Part 3

Musings on my mushrooming interest in fungi.

Me holding a massive Piptoporus betulinus bracketWhat winter blessings! I have just been down the quarry from walking the dogs + seeing if where were any more fly agarics to pick – for friends who can’t get the tincture elsewhere. There weren’t any out, I think they’ve long gone for the rest of the winter now. Anyway, I saw a tree stump + fallen log covered with turkey tails (Trametes versicolor). I couldn’t reach the stump but I could get at the log, and collected 140g of turkey tails. This however did require me to scamper down a 20 foot slate wall/pile in a manner resembling an ape (or highly excited forager).

On my way back, retracing my footsteps as I didn’t want to go all the way round the quarry, I found a path down to the shore of the lake – which I must have walked past a hundred times, but only just ‘found’ now the undergrowth has died back so much. The shore of the lake is actually the first level of the quarry, but which sits above the waterline. Exploring, I found more blushing brackets (Daedalopsis confragosa) than I could shake a stick at, and wonder of winders, a birch stump with Birch Polypores (Piptoporus betulinus) growing on it. Mose were less than 3” across, and I left them be. But the biggest fruiting body was 12+” across and weighed 1044g – I couldn’t believe it. A midwinter gift from the woods to keep us all healthy through the dark times of the year.

I am still trying to understand why I have taken so strongly to these medicinal mushrooms and the subject at large. It mostly started with reading Paul Stammets’ books on mycoremediation + fungus’ role in the forest, which are inspiring, thought provoking and very readable (and highly recommended). Clinically, I can see just how powerful these compounds can be… and they’re also in the main not commercially available from herb suppliers in the UK.

But beyond all that is the thrill of discovering… the thrill of seeing new things and exploring new areas around my home. Every dog walk becomes a hunt with the associated thrill of the hunt.

What potentiates this even more for me is that this is rebellious medicine. I wasn’t taught or examined on this – I literally know a much as the next man, perhaps more. Some things like trying blushing bracket based purely on research on its constituents + extrapolating clinical use feels even more exciting. Like, I’m giving something back to our profession and our materia medica. In the spring I’m also going to try experimenting with forgotten plants and seeing if they hold a much magic of discovery also.

In the coming days before Christmas I will publish a monograph of Blushing Bracket (Daedalopsis confragosa) that I’m working on as a first step in giving something back to my fellow herbalists, plantsmen and interested foragers. I am also writing a two-part article for Tilia Magazine ( on the use of fungi medicinally. The first part is out now and covers the 3 most used (oriental) mushrooms in our materia medica. Take a look at it! The second part will focus on the native British myco-medicinals which have been forgotten for too long, and which will be published this spring. Watch this space…

Categories: Out and About

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