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Edinburgh Live
Edinburgh Live
Jacob Farr

East Lothian forager finds puffball mushroom four times the size of their head

An East Lothian musician stumbled across a giant puffball mushroom when out foraging in a field between Innerwick and Spott.

Séimí Rowan, 28, who grew up in Edinburgh but now lives in Dunbar told how the mega fungi was three to four times the size of their head.

The puffball was so large that they were able to create mushroom steaks and a jar of caramelised puffball puree as well as being able to store cubes of the shroom and give large chunks away. Séimí made the discovery on a field at Brunt Hill and says that they could not believe their eyes.

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They said: “I saw the puffball pretty much straight away from the edge of the field but I didn't want to get my hopes up in case it wasn't what I thought it was, so I slowly wandered around picking some of the other edible mushrooms until I couldn't ignore it anymore. Looking at it up close, I was absolutely ecstatic.

“It was such a pure white colour and beautifully formed like a cluster of bubbles. I was in absolute disbelief.

“In one piece, it was roughly three to four times the size of my head! I could barely carry it like that, so I had to split it up into quarters in order to fit it in my bag and manage what was a pretty gruelling hour's walk back to the main road.

“When I got back a friend and I started prepping the puffball right away. Puffballs don't have a long shelf life - they only keep in the fridge for a few days at most, and need to be cooked and frozen if you want to store them for longer.

“This is why they aren't commercially viable and only really eaten by foragers. We firstly peeled off the outer skin, and then cut ourselves a couple of steaks which we fried up with butter and garlic for dinner.

“We then cut up the rest of it into cubes, cooked it and put it in the freezer. We gave two of the pieces whole to friends for them to prepare and eat themselves, which they loved.

“The final piece I used to make a jar of caramelised puffball puree, which we're slowly working our way through!”

Séimí said that we are in the midst of peak mushroom picking season and that they are out foraging every other day. They added that it is one of their favourite activities as it has many aspects to it.

They said: “It's one of my favourite activities because it engages you on so many levels: you get to explore places you've never been and see places you know from a new perspective; it's a great way to incorporate movement into your lifestyle - especially if you hate the gym!

“It's hard to get bored as every outing is different and engaging. You begin to really understand and appreciate your connection with other species and it feels so empowering to redevelop such a close relationship with your food, as you are involved in every step of the process.

“My best friend and I have been teaching ourselves about foraging and mushrooms over the past couple of years. It was a hobby that started in lockdown and helped us get out and about when we had to shield and couldn't be around many other people.

“We started by using identification apps on our phones and cross-referencing our finds with info on websites such as Wild Food UK or by asking friends in the foraging community. Our particular interest is fungi, and you can find them pretty much everywhere!

“Anywhere there are plants, there will be mycelium. In my experience, finding mushrooms is less to do with looking for the perfect spot and more to do with becoming attuned to your environment.

“Once you correctly identify your first finds, it's almost as though your eyes and brain adjust and you begin to spot them everywhere - whether in woods, fields or just by the side of the road!”

They added that puffballs are a great beginner shroom due to them being easily identifiable. Séimí says that there are different varieties from stump puffballs that are found on tree stumps to common puffballs that are found on leafy decaying forest floor and giant puffballs that are found in fields.

They are described as being completely round with no gills but are only edible when they are young. Séimí continued to say that as long as they are completely white all the way through then they are edible.

But if they have started to go yellow or green then they have begun to spore and are not good to eat. She continued: “We find edible mushrooms pretty much every time we go out. Around Edinburgh and East Lothian we've found plenty of meadow mushrooms, horse mushrooms, blewits, oyster mushrooms, jelly ears, giant polypores and dryad's saddles.

“It's crucial to double and triple check any food you find in the wild before you eat it, but don't let that put you off. The most important thing to check is for lookalikes. For example, I found dozens of yellow stainers in Lochend Woods in Dunbar, which look similar to meadow/horse mushrooms but turn yellow when bruised so you know not to eat them!

“I’d love to shout out Rhyze Mushrooms - an urban mushroom farm and workers' co-op of radical mycologists based in Edinburgh. Their work is rooted in anti-capitalist mutual aid, combining DIY fungi cultivation with community-centred justice work like shared meals, workshops, campaigning and organising.

“I've been to a few events of theirs and would highly recommend anyone wanting to learn about mushrooms to go and visit them at their spot at The Forge next to Fountain Park.

They also shared a couple of beginner tips for anyone wishing to start foraging themselves: “Always make sure to never pick more than half of what you find - leave enough for others and for the mushrooms to return next year in the same spot. Also, carrying them in a mesh bag when foraging is a great way to help them spread their spores!”


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