Kent is often referred to as being the Garden of England and for this reason it is a particularly good spot to find mushrooms. Like mushroom picking anywhere, it is very important to bear in mind that before eating any mushrooms, you need to be sure that it is actually an edible mushroom. If you are in any doubt at all, then do not eat it.
One of the places you may want to consider for a foray mushroom picking is Bedgebury Forest in Kent. This is an area which is around 850 hectares of park which is partly forested. It also borders the Bedgebury National Pinetum, which is an amazing collection of conifers.
In an area like this, where there is a wide variety of trees, leaves which have fallen and formed a thick carpet, as well as the damp, humid conditions which have evolved through the leaves dropping and the trees which form an umbrella against the light when they are in leaf, make this ideal mushroom growing territory.
One of the best places to find mushrooms is anywhere that has not been disturbed or forested for some time. Mushrooms basically will grow anywhere that they can find a little peace, so they will not be found where an area has just been cleared, or where there is a good deal of pedestrian or vehicular traffic.
Thetford Forest can also be a useful collecting ground for mushrooms, as can any forested area.
What kind of mushrooms can be found in Kent? Well forays have successfully yielded Horse mushrooms, bloody beefsteaks, puff balls and shaggy parasol.
Horse mushrooms are a yellowish colour but should not be confused with the deadly yellow stainer. One way of telling them apart is that when the flesh of the mushroom is cut, the stainer will stain yellow, but the horse mushroom will only go yellow on the outside. The horse mushroom will also have a faint air of aniseed.
Bloody beefsteaks are a kind of strange looking mushroom. They tend to grow on the side of oak trees and can be up to 12 “ wide. It is a reddish brown on top, with a rather pale, white underside. They tend to be more common in the autumn. When it is cut, the beefsteak will exude a little liquid which faintly resembles blood (hence its name).
Puff balls are also relatively common in Kent, particularly around Ashford. They are also quite a large mushroom and come in various guises, but the one which is easiest to identify has to be the ‘common’ puffball. This is a very large, ball shaped mushroom with a white, round helmet and the helmet or globe is covered in tiny little ‘pearls’ which helps to identify it. If it does not have the pearls, don’t touch it.
The shaggy parasol loves to grow in woodland and has been found in various areas of Kent, however, although it is deemed to be edible, it can upset some people and also the ‘false parasol’ mushroom is poisonous and may be mistaken for being a parasol mushroom, so parasols should only be picked by seasoned collectors.