By now, you have to look a little harder for them under fallen leaves but wild mushrooms are still on the ground and the picking season can continue into November. Gathering these mushrooms has become popular in Ireland. Be careful out there, however.
We don’t have a strong tradition of collecting for the table here, as they do in mainland Europe, so getting to know the good, edible fungi and avoiding the poisonous ones is not that straightforward.
We have at least 2,500 species of mushrooms including about eight “magic” varieties that can give you hallucinations, which are sometimes compared to the temporary euphoria from illegal drugs or alcohol. The key is to identify the ones safe to eat. And the best advice is: never eat a mushroom until you are certain of what it is.
Every year, there are cases of accidental mushroom poisoning in Ireland and it’s not always easy to identify fungi. Some even have bizarre names like Death Cap, one of our most toxic varieties.
Usually, most patients experience only minor symptoms like nausea or a few vomiting episodes. Normal fluid intake should do the trick in sorting these cases, according to the National Poisons Centre. If symptoms persist, people should contact the centre.
Tom Harrington has made a lifetime study of mushrooms and is among speakers lined up for the annual series of autumn talks organised by Killarney National Park. He is a biologist and an expert in mycology, the science of mushrooms. Now retired from University of Limerick, he is also a consultant for the National Poisons’ Unit, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin.
They contact him in cases of suspected mushroom poisoning; mainly to help identify the culprit species, which makes all the difference with subsequent treatment. Tom, who will give his talk next Thursday night, says that the greatest concentration of mushrooms is in forests. Mushrooms have a natural relationship with trees: they help produce nitrogen and oxygen for trees while the trees, in turn, give proteins to mushrooms.
On Thursday November 7, biologist and researcher Aine O’Sullivan will speak on waterfowl in Lough Lein, Killarney. On succeeding Thursday nights, there will be talks by scientist Rory Harrington on deer in Ireland and by forestry consultant Padraig O Tuama on nature forestry.
The final talk, on November 28, will be by Dr Allan Mee on the programme to reintroduce white-tailed sea eagles to Ireland. He has managed the programme since it began, in 2007, and is an expert on birds of prey, having worked in Scotland, the USA and this country for some 30 years. All the talks are in the Killarney Plaza Hotel (8pm) and admission is free.