To eat or to paint…

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of mushroom fairy ring

So the Professor tells me that it’s peak mushroom hunting season at the moment. He says that edible mushrooms can be picked in every nook and cranny of the country and that they’re just waiting to be tossed on a pan with plenty of butter, to be served up on generous slices of thick soggy toast…

Caution is advised, however, when it comes to mushrooms.

Ask a mycophagist. If you’re a regular at the crosswords, you’ll know that a mycophagist is a person who knows about and eats edible funghi.  I’m not one of them.

They say that some mushrooms can make you seriously ill and that some can actually be fatal. “Ah, we’re so funghi-phobic in Ireland”, says the Professor, “we don’t know our amanitas from our elbow…”

watercolour by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of garden mushroom

Now the amanitas, I’ll have you know, is one of the poisonous ones – along with the funeral bell, the poison pie and the yellow stainer – but there are safe ones as well – like the cep, the puff ball and the chanterelle.

I mention all this because of the sudden appearance outside our front door of a fairy ring, or at least, a large circle on the green which began to produce mushrooms, lots of them. I kid you not.

So today, I’m asking for your help, dear reader. Is there any chance that you could tell me if these particular mushrooms are edible, inedible or downright nasty?  And, if they’re edible, must I eat them on soggy toast or do you have a better suggestion than the Professor’s?

But wait!  I’ve just found out that this is not the only fairy ring in Harold’s Cross. No, we had a lovely evening recently with friends of ours and they showed us a mysterious mushroom-bedecked circle in their back garden!  Who knows where the next one will pop up. Have you checked your garden recently?

But anyway, I decided for the moment that it would be safer to paint them rather than eat them.

A Brief Guide to Mushroom Foraging in Ireland


  1. Fíor-bheagán mushroom atá nimhneach, ach ní fiú go leor acu a ithe – amhail bheith ag ithe paipéar. Ta cuid mhaith acu ite agamsa, ach ní na cinn i fairy rings, cé gur féidir iad a ithe, ach gur fearr iad a chócáil i dtosach. Paint rather than eat, déarfainn, cé nach bhfuil siad ró-fheiceálach, murab ionann agus cinn eile amhail ‘fly agaric’.


  2. Don’t know if they’re edible, but on soggy toast? Nay, I say!
    Saute then in garlic butter thusly – turn ’em upside down, slather copious quantities of garlic butter on the stem and the fin/gill thingies, sprinkle Parmesan cheese over everything and then grill them … then proceed to consume them with great gusto, perhaps using the slice of bread (un-toasted) to soak up any remaining juice. 😀


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