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I have to admit to being a bit fascinated by mushrooms in a spooky sort of way. For a start, they’re neither animal nor plant – which in itself gives them a whiff of the Martian invader. And there are so many dark tales of horrible deaths as a result of mushroom poisoning that they actually are just as menacing as they look half the time. On the other hand, if you’ve ever tasted fresh mushrooms straight from the forest – for me, it was ceps cooked within minutes of (someone else) picking them in Gascony – well, you’ve known true happiness. These are beings of real mystery and magic, and you don’t even have to go far to find them.

My local mushroom colony is in the woods frequented by the dog-walking brigade (of which I’m one) – not exactly a secret location way off the beaten track. So I got very excited when I found what I think may be a Morel – famous for being quite amazingly delicious and one of those mushrooms that chefs go crazy for. Here it is:

It was sitting quite unnoticed at the foot of a Scots pine, right by the path. Actually I’m not absolutely sure it’s a Morel (though it looks just like one) and there are enough deadly poisonous fungi masquerading as quite edible ones around (more proof that they have something of the night about them) to make me hesitate before snaffling it and frying it up with a few fresh eggs. My golden rule with mushrooms in the wild is Never Eat One unless you have someone who really knows what they’re talking about with you. It’s a bit tempting this time, though. Anyone know a tame mycologist?

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