Mushroom Magic - Walnut Magazine
My shoes slip on the moss which creeps over the rocky floor as I hurry after my guide who scrambles through the ancient wood as nimbly as a hobbit. The trees on either side of the path seem to reach across for each other's limbs until it feels like we're walking into a tunnel. Suddenly he swoops on a mossy hollow and emerges cradling a bouquet of delicately scalloped golden cups. "Chanterelles love birch trees." His eyes widen. "To be a good forager you have to get inside the mushroom's mind, see."
"I think that one of the reasons the average person in Britain knows so little about mushrooms is that they were associated with black magic because they grow in dark, damp places and literally spring up over night. People became afraid of anyone who understood them, particularly during the great witch hunts of the Protestant revolution," Cynan muses. "Dried mushrooms make rich, earthy stock, the Chinese love them in stir fries, but I think you can't beat them swimming in garlicky butter and served on crusty bread with rosemary."
Mushrooms have been a key thread running though this area's history. It was at Llandudno that Lewis Carol devised Alice in Wonderland, near a woodland which locals call the Happy Valley because of the number of Fly Agaric which poke their scarlet caps through the undergrowth. "Those bad boys are the most hallucinogenic of them all. The chemical totally alters your perception of reality. You often feel like you're huge, then very tiny. Rather like Alice when she meets the caterpillar." He flashes a gap toothed grin. "Bit of a coincidence, eh?"