Sunday, 29 September 2013

Inside the woods. The woods inside.

Some days could be summer days, but for the breeze that rattles hoarsely through the trees that are already turning and the chill evenings with smoke on the wind. It is the season of jewel-like berries in wayside places, and of mushrooms glowing in the enchanted dusk of the forest. We have been out gathering and foraging. And we have been in drying and chopping and cooking and baking.

A little while ago, we went out mushrooming. Everyone set off to wander in their own direction, and when we all met up later to open up our sacks and present our findings to each other, my husband had not only a bag of mushrooms, but a full camera too!

Even in our best foraging haunts, it always seems to take a fair bit of walking aimlessly before any mushrooms can be found, before a sort of intuition kicks in and it becomes possible to feel and imagine where they will be.

Until then, there is the breeze and the thrum of the forest. Early in the mushroom season there are wild blueberries and raspberries. And then there are the rustling and jumping of the deer, giant bird nests overhead, and sometimes pheasants running by in a mad dash of colour. And always there are hypnotizing patterns underfoot.

And gradually, as the pleasure of being alone in the woods takes over, and mushroom hunting begins to seem less important, they start to appear....

...bright chanterelles, bursting out of the ground orange-coloured and smelling of apricots...    

...and rich, earthy boletes which are often enormous.

And there are certain parts of the forest that we wander to every now and again only because they are so pleasant to visit...

Though it is impossible to do it justice in a photograph, somewhere in the woods we often come across a great crater filled with strange and beautiful white mosses that contrast sharply with the green mosses all around it. It is stunning to stand and look down into it, and when you do, it feels like finding a miracle.

We never really want to go back home on days like these.

But when we do, the damp earth smell of mushrooms makes it feel as though the forest has stepped into the house.

Chanterelles are best eaten fresh, but boletes are for drying. So we sort them and clean them and cut them up.

Some of them bruise a rich blue when you touch their spongy undersides or cut into their stems. The bluing happens quickly, but fades away again after a while.

An evening was spent threading them together and hanging them up in the window.

For a week they bobbed in the breeze and at night they caught the candlelight and sent shadows dancing across the ceiling like wild geese flying overhead.


  1. It feels so familiar, this place, as though you were walking around RavenWood... such a beautiful forest and wonderful images you (or your husband) caught of it. I have all kinds of mushrooms popping up in my yard, and, from the looks of it, many are edible. Though I'm not trained and have a fear of picking and eating then, maybe because a relative almost died of eating the wrong kind of mushroom. But I remember well, when living in Italy, how it was the norm for people to wander and gather mushrooms. Not so here... we've lost so much!

    1. It is really gorgeous there, definitely one of my favourite forests, though I didn't take a single photo there.

      I think a lot of people are reluctant to pick their own mushrooms. It seems to me that mushroom picking is more popular on the continent than here (though this country is a mushroom paradise for those who are interested). At the markets in France people used to sell the craziest looking varieties of mushrooms... it was great fun for cooking!

      Anyway, that first mushroom I definitely would not eat, by the way. I just liked the look of it, but it could very well be poisonous. We basically only eat chanterelles and various boletes. There are certainly a lot more that are edible out there, but since we aren't so sure about them I don't think it's worth hoping that by researching and checking in many sources and making spore prints we identify them correctly... we are satisfied enough with just those two kinds we are sure of anyway. Though, I would love to find morels in the spring some time.

      I've heard that there is a great guide for mushrooming called 'All the Rain Promises' it's meant for the west coast of the USA, but might still be worthwhile for the east coast. Mushroom guides are always fun to read through, even if you don't actually go picking, I think.

  2. Mushroom lanterns... bits of the forest coming home, what a beautiful post. How I long to find my own forest to walk through, with those different parts each with moods of their own. Thank you for sharing these glimpses.

    1. Oh, I hope you do find a nice forest to stroll though! Having time to just wander and think outdoors is so important, at least for me. Thank you for the kind words and happy autumn to you!

  3. wow, sometimes i think you live the most enchanted life!
    wonderful photos, thank you to the photographer also!

  4. Oh my! Those suspended mushrooms look like roosting bats!

    That fantastical wood looks ripe for a re-telling of Hansel and Gretel!

  5. simple goodness described in a few words. mushroom silhouettes, others moist for salads....lush greens, a forest of textures and dancing dreams.

    very good post and images.