11 | Oct | 12

Richard Johnson

A Fungi To Be Around?

Mushrooms are curious creatures. They’re closer to the animal than the vegetable kingdom. When you spot one in a field what you are seeing is the fruit of the fungus: the thing itself might cover two acres. Under the ground thin strands like silk, called mycelium, form large grids that are in fact the fungus. Where a male mycelium crosses a female mycelium, a baby mushroom is born.

Mushrooms are magical. There’s a definite mystique to them in the folk memory. Names like fairy rings, toadstools and witches’ caps are all rooted in the legends and myths of sorcery. Mushroom cults are as old as civilisation and span virtually all cultures – the Eleusinian mysteries of the Minoans, the Soma of the Rig Veda, the Fly Agaric of the Norsemen.

David Robinson is captivated by mushrooms. He runs Sporeboys — 2010 British Street Food Award finalists, and the makers of a fine mushroom sandwich — and is so bewitched by blooming things that he’s gone and written a children’s book about them. The Mushroom Picker is released in November. It’s a lovely work. And every bit as compelling as a Sporeboys sandwich. Nearly.


‘In a dark and ancient English wood

beneath two oaks that proudly stood,

a patch of leafy forest floor

trembled near a woodshed door.

It was that dreaded night each year

The Mushroom Picker would appear.’