As the icy grip of winter closes in around the region you would be forgiven for thinking that the time for mushroom foraging is over.
Luckily, we miss the worst of the wintery weather in Devon, it rarely snows and the temperature usually stays a couple of degrees higher than across the rest of the country.
Despite being the leanest of the seasons Winter can still produce a bounty of mushrooms, you just need to know where to look and what to look for.
With all mushroom foraging, it’s important that you don’t eat anything without being 100% certain of its identity and always cook your foraged mushrooms before eating them. But these tasty treats can be found in Devon during the winter months…
Get your wellies on! It’s time to go mushroom foraging…
Grey Oyster (Pleurotus Ostreatus)
- Often shelf-like mushroom, roughly 15cm diameter when mature.
- Flat, grey cap with white / yellowy gills that run down the stem and white flesh.
- The stem opens out at the top when present.
- Delicious mushroomy smell and delicate in flavour.
- Grow on dead or dying deciduous trees (prefers beech) and can grow in clusters.
Oyster mushrooms can grow throughout the year. They are common in the UK and are a good mushroom for novices as they don’t have any poisonous lookalikes.
Scarlet Elf Cup (Sarcoscypha Austriaca)
- Bright red cup shaped cap that begins to flatten and split when mature.
- Approximately 3cm high and 5cm in diameter with a short, thin stem covered in downy white hairs.
- A good amount of flavour for such a tiny delicate mushroom, must be cleaned and cooked before eating.
- Grows in clusters on damp, dead wood (prefers hazel) and likes to hide under leaf litter.
Although rare, it’s another good mushroom for novice hunters as their only lookalike in the UK is the ruby elf cup which is just as safe (and lovely).
Wood Ear / Jelly Ear (Auricularia Auricula-Judae)
- Brown, floppy, ear-like mushrooms measuring 5-8cm in diameter, lightly covered in white down.
- The flesh has the texture of a tough jelly when fresh that becomes brittle when dried.
- Mainly grows on dead or dying elder trees, only pick from elder trees to avoid confusion.
Mild flavour that needs to be cleaned, shredded and cooked before eating; can explode when cooking if not shredded.
Wood Blewit (Lepista Nuda)
- Stout mushroom with a convex lilac cap, roughly 10cm in diameter, that flattens and browns when mature.
- Pink / purple gills with a bluey purple thick stem and lilac flesh.
- Strong, delicious mushroomy smell and taste with a solid texture.
- Common across the UK, the Wood Blewitt grows on leaf litter and in grassland.
Can be confused with the foul-smelling Bruising Webcap although the aroma should be a good identifier.
Foraging for mushrooms is a year round activity, with different species popping up throughout the seasons. We strongly recommend either taking a foraging course or going foraging with someone who knows their mushrooms.
If you’re up for some urban foraging, there are plenty of opportunities to find tasty additions to your pot in and around our towns and cities too. Read more in our urban foraging guide.