Feile an Earagail
Feile an Earagail is an annual festival held in the beautiful village of Dunlewey, which lies at the foot of Earagail Mountain – the highest mountain in Donegal.
This year I booked a mushroom forage or “Toraiocht na Muisiriun Fiain” led by Kristina Ferry in the grounds of Dunlewey House.
The forage took place in the woods surrounding the house.
The first find of the day was a large specimen of the edible mushroom “Penny Bun” which is a member of the Bolete family. It thrives in mixed woods.
The Penny Bun
We learned that most Boletes are ectomycorrhizal fungi, meaning they form a mutually beneficial relationship with the root systems of trees. The fungi help the trees to feed on soil nutrients, while the trees deliver nutrients to the fungi. A win-win relationship.
Boletes cannot survive without trees.
The Larch Bolete grows near Larch trees and is only edible when young. It has spores and is very sticky.
The Birch Bolete has a long stem, white pores and a brown cap. It grows near Birch trees.
Spores are a good means of identifying mushrooms. Kristina showed us a map of spores she had taken in the past.
We were advised that reddish spored mushrooms should be avoided as they are often poisonous.
Indeed, some mushrooms like the Web Cap are deadly poisonous!
Other means of mushroom identification are:
- The appearance of the stem,
- Colour of stem,
- Appearance of gills,
- Colour of cap…
Kristina advised us not to mushroom forage alone.
Chanterelle are highly prized edible mushrooms. They have a faint smell of apricots.
There are a number of helpful books to aid in mushroom identification, but I realized it is best left to the experts.
Sadly, the forage came to an end and we headed back past magnificent views of Earagail Mountain.
The Perfect Ending
A surprise find of two very large Penny Bun’s, by a junior member of our group, was the perfect ending to our forage.
Brigid P. Gallagher