Wild Edibles – Cooking With Jew’s Ear

The other week me and my friend Szymon had a go at some outdoor cooking with foraged Jew’s Ear – a common edible fungi that you can find all year round even in urban environments such as London. It grows  predominately on dead Elder.

Jew's Ear, Auricularia auricula-juda

Jew’s Ear, Auricularia auricula-juda

Jew's Ear, Auricularia auricula-juda

Jew’s Ear, Auricularia auricula-juda

Szymon has a youtube channel focusing on bushcraft; he has been teaching me basic survival skills such as primitive fire making – I plan to incorporate more of this in to my blog in the future as it’s something I am very interested in. I love to camp and hike (and generally be outdoors) so these sorts of skills are really useful to have, not to mention it’s great fun! So here is the video we made of us cooking an oriental style broth using tofu, garlic, ginger, noodles, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, chili and, of course, Jew’s Ear mushrooms. Enjoy 🙂

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Deceivers

After getting really interested in fungi for the first time last year my eyes were opened to the amazing variety of shapes, colours, sizes, and even scents of different species. Aside from providing vital ecosystems functions, many are also aesthetically beautiful to look at. But I am learning, unsurprisingly, that identification is not always straight forward! One genus, Laccaria, known fittingly as ‘Deceivers’, can be very variable in appearance as I discovered during a trip to Kingston Cemetery last month, inspired by this blog post by Alison Fure, who I have also to thank for confirming IDs!

Laccaria laccata, cap with central depression

Laccaria laccata, cap with central depression

Laccaria laccata, with orange-brown cap

Laccaria laccata, with orange-brown cap

Laccaria laccata

Laccaria laccata

Laccaria laccata, gills widely spaced, irregular and interspersed with shorter gills

Laccaria laccata – gills attached to the stem, widely spaced, irregular and interspersed with shorter gills

These deceivers Laccaria laccata were found together in the same area, showing variation between specimens particularly in cap colour which lightens with age.

Even more baffling was this specimen from Putney Heath, found at the entrance to one of several tunnels that appeared to be part of a badger set (hairs were also found on a fallen tree nearby). I settled on Amethyst Deceiver Laccaria amethystina but the cap has obviously become extremely twisted and furrowed.

Laccaria amethystina

Laccaria amethystina

It looks like a petticoat! 😉 although difficult to see, the gills are fairly widely spaced and irregular, similar to Laccaria laccata.  I’m pretty sure on the ID but as always open to any suggestions!

Other fungi found during my trip to Kingston cemetery….

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Snowy Waxcap, Hygrocybe virginea

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More Snowy Waxcaps

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Fly Agaric, Amanita muscaria

Yellow Stainer, Agaricus xanthodermus

Yellow Stainer, Agaricus xanthodermus

 

 

 

 

 

 

Golden Crested Birds and Mysterious Red Capped Mushrooms

As the warbler activity has died down at Bedfont Lakes – aside from our resident Cetti’s warbler, a few chiffchaffs (one a retrap that was ringed back in April so thought to be a resident rather than a wintering visitor) and a male blackcap, tit activity seems to have increased. This is a great opportunity for me to get familiar with ageing great tits and blue tits and of course the chance for an adorable long-tailed tit group photo that is sure to brighten up anyone’s day!

Long-tailed tit Aegithalos caudatus

Long-tailed tit, Aegithalos caudatus

Two Sundays ago I was also delighted to have the opportunity to ring my first ever goldcrest!

Goldcrest, Regulus regulus

Goldcrest, Regulus regulus

This individual was shortly followed by two more….

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Gorgeous! Considering the autumnal colours all around I thought the beautiful golden yellow crest of this tiny bird went nicely with the red, orange and brown hues of several species of fungi I discovered growing close by; my favourite of which being this lovely Velvet Shank Flammulina velutipes

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Velvet Shank, Flammulina velutipes

IMG_3560 IMG_3564More of a mystery, however is this red capped mushroom growing in large numbers on woodchip, thought to be a Russula sp possibly beechwood sickener; the trouble is there are no beech trees around, however I think the spores are likely to have come in on the woodchip which may contain beech. I’m informed that the woodchip is made up of willow from the park itself but also from wood that is brought in from all over the borough, so who knows what could be in it! IMG_3538 IMG_3534IMG_3745IMG_3742IMG_3738Any suggestions would be welcome!

Another nice find was what I believe to be Turkeytail fungus Trametes versicolor

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Turkeytail fungus, Trametes versicolor

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Urban Fungal Adventures

I usually carry around various wildlife identification guides pretty much every where with me (as well as my binoculars!) as I’ve found that even in the most urban environment, you never know what you may come across! At the moment the two books that I don’t go anywhere without are my micro moth field guide (this is the perfect time of year for looking for leaf mines!) and a little collins mushroom guide I was gifted years ago. This year is the the first autumn I’ve actually got around to using the latter and finally delved in to the amazing world of fungi. I would just like to share a few recent  discoveries….

Originally I thought this to be the Purple Jelly Fungus, but on second examination I’m going with Jew’s Ear or Jelly Ear as some people know it, Auricularia auricula-judaeIt’s typically found on Elder – this was discovered (thanks to Maaike from Camley Street!) on a log, part of a habitat pile at Camley Street Natural Park. Honestly I’m not sure on the tree ID but I will take a closer look when I am there this week.

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Jew’s ear, Auricularia auricula-judae

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This next specimen was found in Epping Forest, Glistening Inkcap Coprinellus micaceusIt really does glisten!

Glistening Inkcap, Coprinellus micaceus

Glistening Inkcap, Coprinellus micaceus

This next one was also found it Epping Forest, Hump-backed Polypore Pseudotrametes gibbosaThis is one of the many bracket fungi, the brackets on this species are humped at the point of attachment (hence the common name!) and the upperside has an interesting velvety lumpy surface.

Hump-backed Polypore, Pseudotrametes gibbosa

Hump-backed Polypore, Pseudotrametes gibbosa

The next few specimens were found on Wanstead Flats – a new urban discovery for me, really looking forward to exploring this area further!

This Fly Agaric Amanita muscari  is the typical ‘toadstool’ depicted in fairytales. The white spots are actually remnants of the white veil enclosing the young fruitbody. No problem identifying this one!

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Fly Agaric, Amanita muscari

IMG_3394This is probably my favourite so far, Parasol mushroom Macrolepiota procera. I love the markings on the stem and cap, really nice! It’s the ‘snake-like’ pattern on the stem that pointed away from the similar Shaggy Parasol which has a white stem that bruises red-brown.

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Parasol mushroom Macrolepiota procera

IMG_3400 IMG_3404And last but not least, also found on Wanstead Flats, is this impressively large puffball – I think the Membranous Puffball Vascellum pratense.

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Membranous puffball, Vascellum pratense

Complete with one hungry slug 😉 IMG_3413

Green Elfcup Fungus and Colour Variations in the Lunar Underwing Moth

Hi all!

As some of you may know I have recently completed a MSc in Species Identification and Survey Skills. At the moment I am filling my spare time with habitat management based volunteer work – super excited to be starting at London Wetland Centre next week!

I also joined Natures Gym earlier this week for a couple of sessions thinning and removing scrub and clearing green waste at Crane Park. During the Monday session we came across this funky looking blue fungus:

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Green elfcup fungus Chlorociboria – either C. aeruginascens or C. aeruginosa; apparently microscopic examination is needed to tell the difference between these two species! Although C. aeruginosa is the rarer of the two.

It’s common to see blue stained wood caused by the mycelium of these species, but not so common to come across the fruiting body so this was a good find!  Can’t say we were looking out for it (or even knew what is was when we found it!) but still pretty cool!

Mycelium is the main part of a mushroom consisting of thread like tissue (called hyphae) that run underground or, as in this case, through dead wood; what we see on the surface is just the fruiting body!

Fascinating to think there’s a whole other world of life going on beneath our feet!

Anyway, I also wanted to share a few recent moths from the trap and look at the different colour variations of the Lunar underwing:

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Lunar Underwing

Lunar Underwing

Luner Underwing

As you can see individuals vary from light creamy yellows to dark orangey browns. The darker ones are particularly stunning as the pale veins and cross-lines contrast beautifully with the darker background.

I’ve been getting quite a few of these guys lately but the variation between individuals make it just as exciting as getting a different species!

I also wanted to share a few micro moths; Originally I found the thought of identifying micros a bit daunting but actually they are not too difficult and are just as stunning as the big guys! Must purchase this book!

Garden Rose Tortrix

Garden Rose Tortrix Acleris variegana

Light Brown Apple Moth

Light Brown Apple Moth Epiphyas postvittana 

Tachystola acroxantha

Tachystola acroxantha – this one doesn’t have a common name! Tiny but beautiful – love the flame orange tipped wings!