Thursday 27 October 2016

Day 2 Mushroom Picking Gets Riskier

If pickings hadn't been so slim I doubt we would have been so bold. 

After finding 11 edible rovellons in 10 minutes on Day 1, we were expecting similar success on Day 2. Our initial excitement at finding mushrooms as big as our palms faded as we read on fungipedia that though edible, they were of low quality. 

Mushrooms as big as our palms!
Determined to find something we could eat for our lunch, we stopped at each unfamiliar mushroom and spent what seemed an age trying to ascertain whether they were toxic or not. My favourite part of foraging is scrambling through the forest and the stopping and starting was a little tedious. The pictures we found online varied so much and we couldn't be entirely sure the mushrooms in front of us were the same as in the online archives. It's a risky call to make. Often an edible mushroom will have a copy cat mushroom which is toxic.

After umming and aahing for the time it takes a mushroom to grow, we picked two samples of a mushroom that is endearingly nicknamed 'Pixaca', or in English, 'dog piss'. No joke. It must be to do with its colour and lack of popularity. They are brown capped, with yellow spongy gills and a spotty yellow and brown stalk.

Hello there. Are you the one they call Dog Piss?
I also picked up a little grey and white specimen, which I was almost certain was a 'fredolic', a mushroom I used to collect with my Dad. I didn't feel over confident but planned to Google enthusiastically before I cooked it. We also picked up a few white puffballs and, finally, we revisited out patch from the first day and found five rovellons.

Foe or friendly fredolic?
It wasn't much for a lunch, so we saved them and cooked them for dinner. I was a little bit worried about the yellow dog piss ones, and my husband didn't fancy tasting my I'm-80%-sure-it's-a-fredolic. After I'd gobbled it down, he showed me a list of the five mushrooms that could actually kill a human. I could have killed him when the first picture popped and it looked exactly like the mushroom I'd just eaten.

"It's not the same," he insisted nervously. "The one in the picture has a ring, see?"

The murderous mushroom looked less like my one in the second photograph. But still. It was scary. Next I tried the puff ball. It was creamy inside, like a Lindt chocolate ball, except Lindt chocolate balls are much better because they don't taste of moss and soil.

The deadly mushroom would have an affect between 20 minutes and 4 hours after
consumption. I went to bed two hours after eating it and with my stomach intact. My skin felt itchy, but then that was probably from all the scratches from scampering through the forest.

I was relieved when I woke up the next morning still alive. I've decided I don't think one should be too hasty when sampling wild mushrooms. So many look so alike and I think it would be safer to learn from an expert. I've actually been searching for a mycology course but without much luck.  

In other foraging news, my husband also picked up a berry like fruit on our excursion. He appeared with it later that day and asked me to eat it without looking it up online. I thought it was a real test of my faith in him that I did it. Luckily It was delicious. Turns out it's called a madroño fruit (Arbutus) and can be used in jams and sauces. Husband now says he is more excited about this fruit than mushrooms.

(Erm, I don't know if this blog is turning into The Good Life. I'm just going with the flow at the moment.) 

Monday 24 October 2016

The Joy of Mushroom Foraging

I've rediscovered the pure joy of mushroom foraging! My Dad introduced me to it when I was little and we used to go into the pre-pyrenees mountains to look for them.  

Not sure what it is - but I'm guessing toxic!
Yesterday, after a week of photo exchanges on the family WhatsApp group, not only my Dad but my brother had been showing off their finds, I decided it was time to see what Mallorca had to offer. It's rained a lot this week so I thought it would be a good time.

Rovellons or esclats de sang- the prized mushroom of my childhood - like wet, mossy ground in pine forests. That's all I know really!

Cute but what is it?
Husband and I headed off mid morning to... ha, no true mushroom hunter ever reveals where he goes. Let's just say, it was in the south west of Mallorca.

It was Sunday and our destination was disappointingly full of cars. Cars filled the off road car park. Cars were lined up along the narrow country road. Our expectations were low. We didn't even take a basket. 

I've recently read, when collecting mushrooms you must use a basket so that the spores can scatter as you walk through the forest.

We got out of the car and immediately saw a mushroom beside the back tyre. It was not one I recognised but it seemed like an excellent sign. A few minutes down the road, we saw another bright yellow one. Definitely toxic, I thought.  Google agreed. A minute after that, we spotted another.

Beautiful but poisonous!
None of the four types of mushroom we spotted in the first five minutes of our walk were edible, and yet I was already jumping up and down with excitement. I felt high on nature, high on being on this grown up treasure hunt.

(I'm giving a business consultant feedback on her book about 'personal power'. There's a part about how we should raise our energy levels by reconnecting with our passions and dedicating time to doing things that makes us feel joyful. What was the last thing that made you really happy? Do it!)

Our plan was to join a hiking route, but half way before we got to the start, we decided to go off road and check out a mossy patch. Immediately we saw two more species of mushroom. The thorny bushes were vicious, cutting up our legs and arms, but we couldn't resist continuing.
Rovellons - edible and delicious!

My husband spotted the first rovello. It was a little paler than I was used to but I got down on my knees and scraped around it to check the colour underneath. There's a trickster mushroom called un rop which is almost identical to the rovello but white underneath. 

This one was pink underneath. Result!  Beside it there was a smaller one... and not far from it... another and another and another! It was incredible. We had only been walking ten minutes and we found 11 in one spot!

In the evening we fried garlic in olive oil and then added our mushrooms. The idea is you fry them until all the water leaves them. We had them on toast with a glass of red wine. It felt quite something to have foraged for your own dinner. 

After his first successful mushroom trip, my husband feels very confident. He thinks it was as easy as picking them up from the supermarket. Tomorrow we'll head out again and we'll see if it was beginners luck!


Extract from my book Shop Girl Diaries (Diary entry: 2nd October 2008)

It was just me and my Dad on the trip. Mum stayed to run the shop.
          We arrived in the village at night; the air smelt of earth and blown out candles. This was the village of my childhood. It was where I’d learnt that lizards lost their tails when in danger and a Calimocho was wine mixed with Coca Cola.
          In the morning the sun was shining.
          Time expanded.
          Old men sat on benches chewing toothpicks. They grunted and stared.
          Everyone who passed by was under scrutiny.
          Papa and I sat out on the balcony with our books, pens and newspapers.      
          The Spanish papers had adopted a tabloid tone for that week’s disaster. The stock exchange was collapsing; the banks were in trouble.
          Papa rubbed his hands together and looked excited.
          ‘I’m getting very worried!’ he said.
          I looked across at the sleepy plaza.
          The sun was out and a breeze was gently lifting the pants on the washing line.
          I could hear the clang of cow bells.
          It was hard to muster any worry in the pueblo.
          Perhaps If I’d had money I would’ve been a bit more concerned. It felt good not to own anything.
          In the afternoon we headed into the forest.
          I felt about twelve years old with my wicker basket and as free as a mountain goat.
          Rovellons are like big, fat orange buttons sown into the earth.
          There weren’t lots about and I was thrilled by each one I found.
          ‘We’re going back to our roots, aren’t we?’ I said. ‘We’re hunters again!’
          In the evening, Papa fried the mushrooms with garlic.
          ‘What else could we find in the forest?’
          I had a devilish desire to shoot a rabbit.
          ‘Cauliflower,’ Papa said.
          We followed the same simple pattern each day.
          I wrote endlessly, plotting my novel about the phoenix until my head hurt.
          It was perfect.

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Unproductive Days and Changing your Mindset

I was listening to a podcast as I do when I'm fishing for wisdom on an unproductive day. The kind of useless day when everything seems so impossible and frustrating, and everyone so annoying and demanding. The sort of day you want to throw yourself on the floor and thrash your arms and legs about like a furious toddler suffering some terrible injustice. Like not being allowed to shoplift Peppa Pig or shovel M&Ms up your nose.

The subject was the Successful Author Mindset and I was half listening, half observing the familiar knot of anxiety in my stomach caused by the feeling this day was not going to be salvaged. A few words on the podcast caught my attention and I rewound the cheerful voice of Joanna Penn. She was talking about a book called “The Success Principles” by Jack Canfield.  
The first thing it says is take 100% responsibility for your life.
100%? I considered my unhappy predicament, my restlessness and angst. 100% seemed rather a lot of responsibility.
Was it true? Should I?
I suppose I hadn't got much done today because I was tired. I was tired because we'd had a friend to visit and we'd treated Monday like a Saturday night. We'd drunk quite a bit and it takes me at least two days to recover from a hangover. So that did explain why I wasn't feeling very focused. I could have drunk less so I guess I had to take responsibility for that.
What else was wrong?
Okay, I'd been feeling a bit sorry for myself which was contributing to my weariness. I was feeling sorry for myself because I'm not yet a rich, bestselling author with books translated in every language from Chinese to Chamicuro*.
(*Chamicuro is a language from Peru and apparently has only 8 native speakers. It's probably only oral so it's a silly example, for which I apologise half heartedly.)    
But wasn't the reason I wasn't a rich best selling blablabla my responsibility too? I could have become a plastic surgeon if I'd wanted to make some money a bit quicker. And if I wanted to be a best seller then it was up to me to write more than three books, wasn't it?
Oh, I thought. And I realised I had no one to blame for my terrible day and no reason to feel any more terrible than necessary.

It cheered me up knowing I could take so much responsibility for my life. Now to decide what to do with it... 


Tuesday 18 October 2016

Palma Marathon - finishing line!

This is just a short post to let you know I made it to the finish line! After training in my hilly neighbourhood my fitness level was better than expected. In fact, I really enjoyed the half marathon course and felt great until kilometre 19.... fortunately by then the end was in sight!

ProActiva Opens Arms will have just received the 100 euros I wanted to raise - thank you for the support! I really believe every little helps!

Would I run it again?  Definitely. 

Would I ever run a full marathon? I doubt it very much!