Peter Jordan: mushroom man; Now is the time to discover wild fungi

"Warm, damp weather brings the fruiting bodies we call mushrooms to the surface in their thousands. If you want to look for them, you couldn't pick a better month than September."

Peter Jordan's eyes light up when asked to talk on his favourite subject. This is a man who is obsessed with fungi: his house is decorated with wooden toadstools; his bookcases are a temple to mycology guides and his garage is devoted to drying machines crammed with the fruits of his forays. And it goes without saying that his kitchen shelves are crammed with jars of pickled, dried and bottled mushroom slivers.

Given this love, it is perhaps unsurprising that he now makes a living conveying his enthusiasm by conducting guided mushroom tours around the country. Mind you, he claims to get as much from the trips as his clients: "It's such fun watching people on their first foray - a treasure hunt in the woods," he enthuses. "Once someone finds their first mushroom they're hooked. Chanterelles are the worst: one glimpse of that yellow funnel and they're off. Sometimes you almost have to put a lead on them to hold them back."

Mr Jordan himself was introduced to mushrooms by his grandfather who farmed in Norfolk. Although his own career began with banking, he found that his boyhood interest was stimulated as he worked around the country: "People say our fungi aren't as good as on the Continent," he says. "But I was amazed by the number and quantity of mushrooms growing everywhere." He was just as startled, however, by the general level of ignorance: "Although it's getting better, most people won't look at a mushroom unless it's wrapped in plastic and comes from Sainsbury," he says.

This is in marked contrast to our neighbours across the Channel, who seem to value fungi in direct proportion to their distance from a supermarket shelf. Here even the proselytising Mr Jordan pauses for a moment, however: "Mind you, it is much better not to go as far as the French, who will eat anything unless they can prove it's poisonous," he says. "Over here, we enthusiasts are much more sensible and won't eat anything unless we can prove it's very edible."

And touring Britain proving the edibility of our native fungi is how he chooses to spend his time. Although forays vary according to the local terrain and weather conditions, a typical one begins with an illustrated talk on what to expect. The party - normally not more than a dozen strong - then scours a likely spot, breaking for a light packed lunch, and moves on later to search in a different location: "Because my forays are based around edible species, I also try to find a couple of poisonous varieties to give people an idea of what to look out for," says Mr Jordan.

The afternoon is concluded with an opportunity to cook and sample the day's bag.

Mr Jordan dismisses recent reports that collectors are damaging the New Forest, as almost certainly groundless (at least as far as fungi are concerned): "Provided you cut the stalks with a good knife and gather them in a woven basket, picking mushrooms actually helps the reproductive process by spreading the spores much further than they might otherwise go," he says. "Besides, disturbed areas are often the best places to look and many species actually encourage animals to eat them by being highly edible. In fact, in the case of truffles, which grow underground, if it weren't for squirrels, mice and wild boar their spores would never get anywhere."

Of course, you do not need Mr Jordan's expert help to get started. For would-be collectors he says there are four basic rules: "Get a good photographic guide; take a basket and knife; don't pick anything unless you can identify it; and preferably go on an organised foray. Forestry Enterprise and local wildlife trusts run guided tours in many areas," he says.

Mr Jordan suggests starting in local parks, forests and commons, but advises beginners to be careful with familiar-looking mushrooms, particularly those on the edge of woods: "It's reckoned 90 per cent of poisoning cases in this country are from yellow stainers, which look very similar to field mushrooms," he says. "Although only 50 per cent of people are susceptible to them it can be a very unpleasant - but not fatal - experience." Instead he recommends easily identified species such as shaggy ink caps. "If you want to find out the real excitement of wild mushrooms, it's hard to beat a fresh baby cep," he adds.

For further information: The Ultimate Mushroom Book by Peter Jordan and Steven Wheeler (Lorez Books, pounds 16.95), gives an introduction to recognising and cooking the edible species. Mushrooms and Other Fungi of Great Britain & Europe by Roger Phillips (MacMillan, pounds 13.99) is a more comprehensive guide. For details of forays, contact your local Forestry Enterprise, Wildlife Trust or Peter Jordan at Poppy Cottage, Station Road, Burnham Market, Norfolk PE31 8HA (01328 738841).

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk