Friday, 3 June 2011


I wrote this a while back for one of the zines that we produced. Now web-ulized for distant readers:

Three recent forest foragings:

1) End of August: Trent Park, London, UK
Smallest fruit body of a fungus found: 5mm
Largest fruit body: 300mm
In other words, a factor of 60 in linear dimensions. Just one reason to be thrilled by mushrooms. Run, don't walk to your nearest birch forest, where you are liable to find mushrooms and trees engaged in a symbiotic relationship - the tree providing sugar from photosynthesis, the mushroom nutrients leached from microscopic pores in the earth via its mycorrhiza ("mushroom root") - just like little communists, from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. The mushrooms also absorb and therefore filter out heavy metals and toxins that could harm the tree; this is why you should not eat too many mushrooms from the Chernobyl region of Ukraine, even today.
Colours of mushroom found:
purple, brown, orange, white, yellow (luminescent)

2) Late September: Trukhaniv Island, Kiev, Ukraine
This island sits in the broad low Dnieper River and is accessed by a slightly shabby concrete footbridge. Penetrating beyond the ice-cream huts, winding down as the summer ends, there is an old pleasure bar, unused, now a jolly and grotty pavilion for teenagers and stray dogs to explore. We were told of - but did not see - packs of stray dogs that roam the island, numbering in the low hundreds.

Going further, further past a stagnant inlet where a strange figure loomed in the stinky marsh, there were signs warning against the bite of the tick, which did nothing to slow us.

After half and hour of increasingly grinding walking or shuffling (the sun was out), we realised that walking slowly is more tiring so we puffed out our chests and swung our arms like hikers. The road stretches long before you, each corner reveals a new distant horizon. By the side of the road in young forest are a few dozen fly agaric toadstools. Some are quite fresh, their caps still perfect little spheres, like little red purulent planets. Seeing these, we decided to turn back.

3) Last day of September: Grunewald Forest, Berlin, Germany
We arrived in the forest at about seven AM. After the Second World War, the allies built a hill here using rubble from bombings; it's called Teufelsberg - Devil's Mountain. At the peak they grew a cluster of enormous puffball funghi, a spying station of white-canvased geodesic domes.

Walking through the forest before anyone else, we found mushrooms at every step, starting with a foot high white specimen. Some species huddle together like herd animals, some are interspersed more sparsely, some go it alone. There were shrooms which glowed slightly with bioluminescence or just the morning light, or at least they tricked my eyes, and there were many edible boletes with their characteristic spongy caps.

Past a square of tightly packed allotment-summer house arrangements, up the hill, gaining and losing sight of the geodesics. We exceeded the fence of the Cold War compound and tramped through the dank and up. The view from the tallest radio tower: the sun was low and shining straight at us. A 360-degree view of any city makes it look like lego - here is the airport at Tegel, here is the sports stadium from Albert Speer, several tall masts, one of which must be Alexanderplatz. Berlin seemed to be rather surrounded by forests, unlike London, which is surrounded by more London.

Since it was stripped out when the Americans left, you can only wonder what the radio interception antennae looked like. They must not have been very aerodynamic since they were protected from the wind by these domes. The one at the peak is just more than a hemisphere of fullerene, say 8m radius. Clap your hands and the distinct echos continue for ten seconds, the diffuse reverb for twenty.

By the time we came down from the towers and the mountain, school kids and Russians were digging around for mycology. The mushrooms that were so dewy and vibrating when we arrived were drier and a bit more withdrawn.

Folk Names of Mushrooms
The Sickener
The Blusher
Slimy Milk Cap
Destroying Angel
The Deceiver
Velvet Shank
Bleeding Bonnet
Cramp Balls

Concerning the Film "Shrooms"
The horror movie "Shrooms" (tag-line: Blair Witch on acid) is about a Very Upsetting Camping Trip in which annoying American kids go to Ireland to take magic mushrooms, but they take the wrong magic mushrooms, and they all die. It portrays Irish people as shiftless and inbred. “Shrooms” was funded by the Irish Film Board. If you wish to see this film, please contact us and we will lend it to you. Please do not buy this film.

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