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Observations autumn 2012

PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2012 7:33 pm
by GeoffDann
As a person who teaches people about foraging for wild fungi, I'm always at some risk of appearing hypocritical when I offer an opinion on the debate we're having in this subsection of the forum. However, this debate remains of great interest to me, both because of my line of work and because I'm very much on the side of ecological/environmental responsibility.

I am currently spending 20+ hours a week in search of fungi, in three hour sessions dotted all over Sussex, Surrey and West Kent. And I do see some problems, and they are getting worse, but they are actually quite specific rather than general.

Problem #1 is the "Polish Problem", and it is cultural. People from all sorts of European countries pick fungi in the British countryside, but whenever I see a combination of (1) people with carrier bags stuffed to the brim with all manner of fungi in all sorts of condition and (2) nothing even remotely edible left in the forest, I'm afraid the people involved are Polish more often than they are not. Other people tend to leave some stuff for nature, or other collectors, or even leave little ones so they can grow and be collected next week maybe. The poles take everything.

Problem #2 is the "London Problem." The closer you get to London, the more people there are trying to find edible fungi, and by the time you get anywhere near the M25 then you might as well not bother. And it is no mystery why this is. Picking fungi has already been prohibited in Epping Forest and Richmond Park, and Hampstead Heath isn't going to supply much of London with wild fungi (although I did see an impressive collection of beefsteaks very high up in a tree in Battersea Park on Wednesday, on my way to a talk in Chelsea.) It looks to me like we have a domino toppling procedure ahead of us. The next place that fungi picking will be prohibited by law will be somewhere like Ockham Common (which is quartered by the junction of the M25 and A3). But this will just shift the problem to the next easiest place for Londoners to get to, such as Limpsfield Chart. I'm not sure what the answer is. If we could just replace everything inside the M25 with what was there before humans turned up then we'd be sorted! :(

Re: Observations autumn 2012

PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2012 8:47 pm
by Sheila Lillie
Hi Geoff
I find this whole debate very interesting and hopefully think I can see both sides of the debate without judgement .I have read some very interesting articles in books.There is one by a John Ramsbottom on edible fungi and it explains how nations differ greatly in there preferences and prejudices on choice of fungi and how we seem to be the one nation that stopped making use of fungi and the interest has been ignited in more recent times by television programs on food for free,River cottage,Ray Mears ect unlike other countries and the one you mention who have always foraged and had good knowledge on the subject.This does not just effect fungi with mass collection it also occurs with plants which is just as damaging.I think we should try to understand that they do not think it is wrong as they are not as advanced on protection laws of our county side as we are.I think the way forward is education if we can learn to only take a certain amount to enable sustainability we are guilty of this in many ways look how many thing we have nearly wiped out and we are learning we just have to remember not everyone understands this yet it may be 10 or 100 years not in our lifetime but we cannot judge other's as doing wrong if they are unaware of this.I personally do not eat any wild fungi my interest is to collect and record fungi in the area were I live but I do collect wild fruits, herbs for eating and wine making and as you have said I too only take a small percentage leaving the rest for the wildlife.
I think the main problem is always going to be in large cities were there are a large population of people so even though it effect's your area I don't think it will become a widespread problem all over the country .

Sheila

Re: Observations autumn 2012

PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2012 9:57 am
by Stuart Bates
Having never directly observed the "Polish Problem" myself I can't really comment with any experience... However I do have a question... I was always under the impression that Europeans were generally considered to be more knowledgeable about edible fungi (as it is more culturally accepted on the continent etc...) but if this is the case then why are they picking EVERYTHING that they come across regardless of edibility and condition??

I think with all the media attention given to picking edible mushrooms then it is definitely going to continue to be a problem as people are not generally taught how to be responsible with their picking (I've certainly never heard it mentioned on TV).

I think the first way of solving this kind of problem would be to educate people on the "other side" of this debate, as there hasn't really been any attention shown in the media etc... A series of television programs would be a possible way forward and we all know that this has been done before with MJ's series (which I unfortunately never got chance to watch).

Re: Observations autumn 2012

PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2012 4:51 pm
by GeoffDann
Why do they do it?

As I said, it is cultural. And as Sheila has added, it's not just fungi. They're also stripping our rivers and lakes of fish like pike. Put it back? Not the poles. If it comes out of the water, you eat it. It's not just the poles, but they are the worst by some margin.

It is a really tricky situation. How do you "educate" the right people? Who is going to do this educating? They aren't going to be coming to me for lessons on foraging etiquette and UK conservation rules/customs, are they?

Re: Observations autumn 2012

PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2012 5:11 pm
by Stuart Bates
GeoffDann wrote:It is a really tricky situation. How do you "educate" the right people? Who is going to do this educating? They aren't going to be coming to me for lessons on foraging etiquette and UK conservation rules/customs, are they?

I dont suppose they would... It is tricky indeed and I have no idea how it can be tackled effectively. What kind of response do you tend to get if you challenge the "carrier bag wielding" Poles??

Re: Observations autumn 2012

PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2012 6:34 pm
by GeoffDann
Stuart Bates wrote:
GeoffDann wrote:It is a really tricky situation. How do you "educate" the right people? Who is going to do this educating? They aren't going to be coming to me for lessons on foraging etiquette and UK conservation rules/customs, are they?

I dont suppose they would... It is tricky indeed and I have no idea how it can be tackled effectively. What kind of response do you tend to get if you challenge the "carrier bag wielding" Poles??


I'm usually with customers these days, so it probably isn't best to get into such a confrontation. It also may be misinterpreted as being driven by jealousy (i.e. they will just think I'm sore because they got their first.) I don't know what to do about it.

Re: Observations autumn 2012

PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2012 10:48 pm
by Leif Goodwin
There is one site that is very good for rare fungi. In the last year or two I've seen people picking anything and everything, then dumping the inedibles in large piles. Presumably someone knowledgeable inspects them and identifies the 'good' ones. Yes, a lot of the collectors are Poles, as Poland has a big tradition of eating wild fungi. I was talking to an estate agent a few years ago, mentioning there were loads of Penny Buns about, and she said 'not for long', as she collects them. She was (I assume) English. I find it rather depressing when the collecting is so heavy, as is the case locally.

Re: Observations autumn 2012

PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2012 1:59 pm
by Dave H-Tranter
A real conundrum for the protector of the wild. Best thing is I feel is to keep enthused, spread your word as best as you can, make the owners of the land aware of the rapists and lead a few walks to educate the curious. I have had many attending my walks trying to get inside info but I always explain now that my walks are aimed at enjoying, identifying and protecting the fungi not indulging in a greedy festival where everyone loses out including the trees. Like anything in life though some people will never listen and will do their own thing because it benefits them - frustrating but there you go. Keep on mooching, sharing and hopefully encouraging others.

Fungalpunk Dave - www.fungalpunknature.co.uk

As an extra - I am booked to lead a walk this Saturday for foraging foodies where I will be showing them how to collect using the 20% rule and if you can't collect 20% then leave alone. They may be disappointed by my approach but I'll be darned if I am leading a walk to fill bellies rather than minds. I have explained to the chef what my approach will be and will be aiming at getting a few edible but in the main will be showing them the beauty of fungi and their role in the landscape and he his fine with it - wish me luck ha, ha.

Fungalpunk Dave - www.fungalpunknature.co.uk

Re: Observations autumn 2012

PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2012 2:22 pm
by Stuart Bates
Dave H-Tranter wrote:I have explained to the chef what my approach will be and will be aiming at getting a few edible but in the main will be showing them the beauty of fungi and their role in the landscape and he his fine with it - wish me luck ha, ha.

Good luck Dave.... you might need it!! :lol:

Re: Observations autumn 2012

PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2012 2:57 pm
by Sheila Lillie
I am rather torn here now after reading all your responses to this debate as I think I am the only one who does not eat my finds and does this to try and record all fungi within the area I live.I am not sure if I can say what I am thinking as I do not wish to alienate myself from the group by discussing this further and end up annoying those who do forage to consume so I will bow out from this discussion gracefully :?

Sheila