Monday, 13 September 2010
Magic Mushroom Hunting
Well guys its coming up to that time of year again, the annual mushroom hunt is almost upon us. Today I had a brief scouting trip, and once again, in the Northernmost parts of Ireland, the mushrooms are coming a tad later than everywhere else. Usually September is prime time, here it can be October through November sometimes. So for those who would like to join me and fellow shroomers in blissful psychedelic fantasy this year, you can use this guide to make sure you're picking the right things!
The mushrooms we'll be targeting are Liberty Caps. The other type, the ones that grow on dung, are rarer here, if they grow atall. I have never seen them, and it was always my understanding that they didnt grow as far north as the UK, but I could be wrong. Liberty caps are more reliable and better choice for the beginner anyway, as they are MUCH easier to identify, so those are what we'll be going after.
This guide will be in a few parts. When, where and how.
When to pick: Now, and over the coming weeks or months in some areas. You know, I dont think this part needed its own section. Well its done now, so suck it. On to where.
Where to pick: Anywhere there is grass. Alot of guides and things will tell you that these grow in places with dung, but not on the dung itself. Dung doesnt really matter in my experience. My garden has never had pets or farm animals in it, and for the 3 years I've been checking, its regularly produced liberty caps in slightly different areas each time. Numerous fields nearby are used exclusively for crops, and at this time of year they also produce mushrooms. So my advice is to find any area with medium - long length grass that hasnt been cut much. Even if it is cut, these guys grow fast and can spring up in less than a week, so search everywhere.
If you have access to fields where animals are kept, have a look, it might produce more reliable results than just wandering grassy knolls and hoping to chance upon the mushrooms. Basically, look everywhere. Once you find them, there'll usually be lots. One good patch is all you need. They also tend to grow in the same places every year, or nearby. So if you find a place you can return next year.
How to identify: Liberty caps are almost impossible to confuse with most other mushrooms. Look at that picture at the top. Its the first google image of liberty caps, and its a damn near perfect example. Distinguishing features are: Nipple capped, dark gills, stem thats the same colour(ish) as the cap. As a beginner, thats all you need to know. Forget spore prints and things, stick to those 3 features and you'll be fine.
Nipple caps are that little bump you see at the top, and most liberty caps will have them. Some may be more pointed rather than nipple like, though in general the mushroom will look exactly like the picture. The colour will be similar, though I have seen much lighter ones. The smaller ones tend to be light coloured, and darken as they grow, in my experience.
Gills are those feathery frills on the underside of the mushroom cap. In liberty caps, this is the next thing you look for. If the gills are darker than the outside of the cap and stem, you are holding a magic mushroom. Well done! Now look around and see if you can find anymore. As a final note, by picking this you have probably violated the law in most countries, though the chances are nobody saw you, so get picking!
Storing these is easy, they dry very well. Lay out a few sheets of paper and spread the mushrooms out, they dry within hours, though you should leave them for days just to be sure if you're planning on storing them in bags or anything. I always wrap them in tissue paper to speed the process and absorb any moisture left when they're in their bags.
Last but not least... Have fun! the most important part of any mushroom hunt is a group of friends having a walk and a laugh. Enjoy it, eating the shrooms is only half the fun.