Thursday, 31 October 2013

Fruits of the Forest - 'A feast of Fungi'.

Fact: Fungi are the largest and possibly the oldest living organisms on earth.

With this interest fact in mind, we will take a look at Fungi and when and where to study this neither plant nor animal species. There are around 70,000 species world wide and approximately 12,000 in the UK alone with 2,700 being found in the New Forest.

Interesting Fact: Mold is in fact a fungus and important in many blue cheeses which we consume at home. Yes, some of us have fungus in our fridges!

Fungi (and mushrooms) are unique and unlike plants themselves, they do not in fact covert the rays from the sun into energy and obtain their nutrition from the likes of vegetation and animal matter either living or dead.

Many species are not visible to the human eye for the are tiny in structure and many being hidden underground - The fruit of fungi is what is usually visible above ground and forms only part of what most probably is a much larger and complex structure underground. These large structure make them in to one of the most important elements of the ecology of forests for they share vital nutrients to plants such as trees and form an important part of the whole life of forests and woods by aiding the decaying process. Amazingly fungi structures can expand to tens of thousands of feed underground and come in all varied colours, sizes, structures and shapes.
Interesting Fact: Yeast, which is a fungus, is used in everyday food items such as bread, wine and beer.

You have to take great care when handling any fungi as some are extremely toxic and can cause damage to your health and even kill you if eaten! Always wear the likes of disposable gloves when handling them and if you desire to go mushroom picking in the woods / forest then adhere to guidelines such as:

  • Never simply pick and eat mushrooms!
  • Try and leave mushrooms as you find them if they are not edible, they are important to the survival of any woodland.
  • Wear protective clothing and especially disposable gloves.
  • When picking mushrooms do not mix them in your basket / container and wrap them in paper rather than in plastic / foil etc as they still need to breathe!
  • Leave some for others to enjoy and remember not to trespass on private woodland!
If you want to enjoy growing your own mushrooms at home there are many easy-to-use kits, supplied complete with everything you need that you can purchase which will contain safe and edible mushrooms to enjoy!.

Fungi are natures recyclers which help to prevent our woodlands from being covered in dead plants and animals that simply go to waste.
Mushrooms make a delicious food for many people either fresh or cooked within well known and traditional English meals. From salads to oven baked pies, mushrooms are used to compliment many of our favourite dishes, but remember as mentioned before - Make sure you know what mushrooms you are adding to your dish, especially if you have guests round for dinner as many are poisonous!

The structure of most fungi contains a thread like hyphae which then form a web which root in to the ground usually though also within trees and other damp areas. It then produces what we see, the mushroom or toadstool which is the fruit element. The season of Autumn is the time to see the fruiting bodies of fungi and they are abundant during wet and mild weather conditions. Ideal area to spot them are within woodland, but many peoples gardens will have fungi with them even popping up over your lawn.

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