Picking wild mushrooms and then using them to create either straightforward, simple dishes, like those which have been created since man first discovered fire and how to cook, or you can create very modern cuisine, based on the most luxurious of ingredients, but either way, the dishes will be superb and you will have a real sense of having gathered the food yourself.
One of the most common mushrooms found in Scotland is the delicious chanterelle mushroom. This is a particularly common mushroom in woodlands and forest areas, where the conditions are optimum for their growth. Chanterelles are a very bright orange-tan colour, but before you eat any, for your own safety ensure that they can be positively identified as chanterelle, since some other ‘orange’ mushrooms are quite poisonous.
Chanterelle mushrooms can often be found at the edge of a pine forest area and they are particularly prolific if there is a good deal of moss on the ground, since this seems to encourage the spores to grow. They grow in all regions of Scotland, but they are obviously more common in the Highlands, since there is a large proliferation of pine trees and forests in this area.
If you are lucky enough to be in the Highlands, then you should also keep your eye out for the Hedgehog mushroom, which is a very simple mushroom and is usually found where there is a quite dense forest and often where there is water lying or ponding. The Hedgehog mushroom, confusingly enough, does not really look like a mushroom and it has a creamy coloured cap with a stem which feels quite downy and is a white-ish colour which turns slightly yellow when it has been cut.
For those who are not in the Highlands it is still possible to pick mushrooms such as the ‘Sulphur Shelf’ mushroom, which can even be found in more urban locations, due to the trees and vegetation which can be found in parks, open spaces, or anywhere that you may find trees, or logs etc. This mushroom is usually found on the wound of a tree and is most common on oak, but does grow on other trees. This is a bright yellow colour and literally layers or stacks itself like shelves! Interestingly, although it does grow on the ‘wound’ of a tree, it is not regarded as a parasite!
When picking wild mushrooms it is important not to over pick any that are found, just take what you need and then let someone else have a chance, otherwise, the mushrooms become over picked and then less sustainable.
You should also remember to pick only the pieces of the mushrooms, which are above the ground, otherwise the structure of the mushroom itself is damaged and it will not survive.
So wherever you are in Scotland, you should be able to find a good supply of fresh wild mushrooms, but particularly if you visit places where there are plenty of trees and shaded, mossy areas, in which mushrooms love to grow. And remember that you don’t have to be in the country to find edible mushrooms: just keep your eyes open, wherever you are.