I wasn’t tempted by fungi opportunity during a walk on the wildside

Tastes like chicken! The fungus growing on a dead tree by the riverbank.
Tastes like chicken! The fungus growing on a dead tree by the riverbank.

Instead of my usual riverside walking route, upstream from my house, I decided, for a change, last week to have a wander in the opposite direction and head downstream.

My route was decided for me by the ongoing flood prevention works, currently dominating Selkirk’s riverside at the moment. With one footbridge removed and the other closed, I was restricted to the north bank, but it is definitely the most interesting, from a wildlife perspective anyway.

After pausing to try and get some pictures of a buzzard sitting on a fence post near Linglie Farm, I had just passed the aforementioned closed footbridge when I almost walked into a football-sized yellow and orange mass, growing on a dead tree which as leaning across the footpath.

I had inadvertently discovered a beautiful example of “chicken of the woods” or “sulphur shelf”, a fungus which is easily identified and much sought-after by those who enjoy eating such things.

Laetiporus sulphureus is generally rated as a good edible fungus (unless growing on wood such as Yew, which itself contains dangerous toxins that could be taken up by the fungus), however, it is best picked when young and moist (which this one was).

A popular way of cooking this fungus is to cut it into slices, brush them with oil, and then fry them in breadcrumbs before serving with lemon juice.

The taste is quite like chicken, however, although most people find this a tasty species, a small minority find that it causes feelings of nausea. If frozen (uncooked), this fungus retains most of its flavour, and so it is a good species for storing.

I wasn’t tempted and after taking some pictures, I moved further downstream.

Shortly, I entered an area of riverside meadow which has been used for years as a motorcycle scrambling course, so there was a good network of paths to follow.

Thankfully, no bikes were about and all was quiet except for the distant noise of the flood prevention machinery. I noticed that bird song was beginning to diminish, as the breeding season concludes, but a few warblers such as chiffchaff and blackcap were still singing.

It was the wild summer flowers which took my attention, as they were at their stunning best amidst the yellow broom and hawthorn scrub.

Most obvious were the towering white and pink clumps of the blousy dame’s violet – a member of the mustard family, which gives off a wonderful scent in the evening and hails originally from the Mediterranean area.

Other tall flowers in bloom included comfrey, red campion, leopardsbane, melancholy thistle, valerian, Welsh poppy, meadow cranesbill and a great many more.

I also noticed that the dreaded Japanese knotweed was taking hold in some places, after several years of eradication efforts.

It had been a welcome diversion from more familiar haunts and one I’m sure I’ll repeat before the year is out.