A mushroom foray or two is a must when visiting unfamiliar lands, and especially so when we're overseas. Therefore, it was with a lot of enthusiasm that we prepared for our trip to Ireland by scanning websites that discussed mushrooming in both the Republic and Northern Ireland. However, it soon became apparent that even though there are a number of species to be found on the emerald island, there is no real tradition of mushrooming in Ireland.
On the website of RTE (Raidió Teilifís Éireann, a semi-state company and the national public service broadcaster of Ireland), the section entitled Fungi notes that "95% of Irish people avoid eating wild mushrooms due to the justifiable fear of serious/fatal poisoning."
The author of the Fungi section goes on to pose the question: "One of the great mycophagal mysteries is why all other European cultures have such a strong interest and knowledge of wild mushrooms, yet the Irish and to a certain extent the British, have a strictly 'field mushroom only' interest. What could explain this? In most Western and Eastern European Countries, and indeed Russia, children are given the knowledge and desire to collect wild mushrooms at an early age. Most people from these cultures are aware of how best to prepare different mushrooms, whether they should be boiled first, pickled, dried, sliced thin and served raw. Meanwhile back in Ireland we are taught that if it is not a field mushroom then it should be avoided at all costs." The author offers no possible answers to the question of why the Irish don't have an enthusiasm for gathering different species of wild mushrooms.
While Steven and Glenda Powell, his guide, fished on the
Blackwater River, I looked for mushrooms.