nature

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What’s in Season? Foraging in February

There are wild treats to be found throughout the year but as we make our way into the Spring months the forests start to come alive. In February the snow capped slopes will start to appear green again and we can venture outdoors to get closer to nature.

So what’s in season at this time of the year. Foraging in February is fruitful if you know what to look for and where to find them.

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Hairy Bittercress

A common plant that grows year round and is the perfect replacement for cress or rocket in your salad dishes. Pick the leaves when young; February is an ideal time of year to collect these.

Nettles

This versatile stinging leaf is one of the most undervalued wild edibles around. From warming nettle soup to fresh nettle pesto there are so many ways to use this ingredient in Springtime.

Pennywort

Another underestimated small plant is pennywort. Often found crowded at the sides of forests and trees, this wild gem is said to help lower blood pressure. Eat it raw in salads or add it to dishes like you will find is some cuisine of Sri Lanka.

Wild Garlic

You will find this pungent plant growing in large patches in dense forests. Both the leaves and flowers are edible and chefs around the world will be out and about for wild garlic season. Follow your nose instead of your eyes for this wild plant as the smell will guide you to its location.

Watercress

As the name suggests this wild plant can be found near the water sides. It works well in soups and the raw leaves are packed full of nutrients and anti-oxidants.

Salad Burnet

As a member of the rose family we love this refreshing wild plant species. The leaves are small and delicate and often hard to identify. Many say that it tastes like cucumber which makes is a perfect addition to all winter salads.

Gorse

This is one of our favourite flowers. It has a mild coconut flavour and works a treat in salads and smoothies. Remember to leave some for the bees as they love these bright yellow flowers.

Be sure to wash all of your wild foraged foods carefully under luke warm water, never uproot the plant, be gentle and don’t forget to enjoy the journey along the way.

Now that you know whats out there you can begin your foraging in February adventures.

Enjoy learning about the wild foods around you and join us for a local forage in Ireland if you are nearby. You will find our guided day tours here.

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Springtime Foraging Tours 2020

Join us for a taste of the wild as we embark on unique adventures in Dublin and Wicklow for some Springtime foraging fun. We will enjoy learning about the land around us, getting a taste for foraging and making some new friends.

We are pleased to announce three public foraging tours for the coming months.

Friday 21st of Feb – Dublin

In February we will walk the trails, sample the wild food and discover the wild foods around us.

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Friday 6th of March – Dublin

In March we are planning our wild greens outing to the coast of Dublin where we pick some wild learns and get to know about the plant species living near the capital.

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Friday 13th of March – Wicklow

In the middle of March we will make our way to the heart of Wicklow where the mountains greet us and the forests house lots of hidden treasures for foragers to enjoy.

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We recommend that all participants bring a small picnic on the day as we will stop for a break to discuss the wild plants that we discover.

Some Foraging Rules:

  • Never taste anything that you cannot identify correctly
  • Wear gloves when picking
  • Never pick from the root as you will kill the plant
  • Always forage with a friend (preferably one who has knowledge of wild plant species).
  • Do not pick endangered species
  • Do not take more than you need

If you have any questions about your tour please contact one of our foraging team at info@orchardsnearme.com

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Climate Change and the Future of Food

How will we cope with any scarcity of food in the future if we don’t learn about our sources of food today? There is an alarming amount of coverage about the adverse effects of climate change on our eco-system. There are many ways that our food production could change in the future and climate change could have a severe impact in the foods that we already consume today.

It has been reported that our oceans are absorbing much of the heat from greenhouse gas emissions and this is damaging our coral reefs which are key breeding grounds for our marine life. Where will our fish go to survive? And with the pressure on farmers to pivot away from traditional beef farming where will we source or meat from?

Now isn’t the time to panic, its the time to plan and make some food choices that will help us to better understand the foods around us.Of course there are innovators coming up with brilliant solutions and there are farmers schemes like CSA’s that are re-imagining modern farming but we could also take a closer look at the forgotten, often ignored food sources, such as weeds. This week we present foraging as one way to substitute some of our key ingredients. 

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A series of freak climate events in the 1870s caused a Global drought that resulted in the death of millions of people. In India it was known as the Great Famine. The most significant climate event was El Nino of 1877 where warm waters released heat into the air creating storms. In addition to the Indian Ocean, the Pacific and the Atlantic recorded higher temperatures than normal.

Today, we rarely find famines in the developed world. The majority of famines hit places where organisations cannot enter and trade issues are hurting local people. However, with all of these climate unknowns in front of us we must be prepared to take action in the case of a climate crisis. Eating local and community supported agriculture, known as CSA’s, have become trendy in recent years. 

We hear about many people adopting sustainable agricultural practices and promoting community food initiative. They are not just farming enthusiasts but socially engaged individuals who enjoy spending time outdoors and learning about the land around them. A few examples to look up include Juniper Hill Farms and Moy Hill Farms. These farming communities should be admired for the innovative approach to farming. They also encourage the sharing of knowledge, which we love here at Orchards Near Me. 

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However, there are other opportunities if we decide to broaden our knowledge base and look at the traditional farming methods of nearby regions. It could be just as beneficial to learn about the foods coming from nearby resources. For example, in Europe we have many different climates that lead to the production of a wide variety of food species. In a time of crisis wouldn’t it be great to know what foods could your neighbours offer as a substitute if you run out? We believe this is all about immersive farming education and understanding the role of nature in the production of food.

Chefs from around the world, often privileged and guys that are striving for their next Michelin star love to travel to learn about other food cultures. We think the general public can also get it on this interesting past-time. Learning about the ancient art of crushing grapes in France or discovering why bee keeping is a national tradition in Slovenia or why the warm summer days of Bulgaria led to the popular cold soup of Tarator are ways to preserve traditions and carry them into the future.

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Food is closely linked with the weather and geography of a region or country. Traditional dishes often reflect the mood associated with the climate. The proximity to the wild atlantic coast makes Portugal heaven for fish lovers and the cultivation of fruits and olives makes Greece a mecka for salad eaters. 

If we begin to understand the landscapes around us and how they are affected by the climate we can better educate ourselves in food production and regain knowledge of how our ancestors used wild plants and integrated them into their dishes. Although large corporations have successfully harvested key ingredients for human consumption and distributed major crops around the world, it is also worth knowing about the lesser known and lesser used crops that can act as substitutes if the time comes when we need them too. This is one of the reasons why we encourage foraging and learning about the wild plants around you. 

There is enough food to feed the masses as long as we teach ourselves about the food sources available to us and re-train our palettes so that we can adapt dishes to include some wild flavours. 

Feel Free to listen to the Go to Grow podcast version of this article on our YouTube Channel

For more food rants and foraging adventures please get in touch with us.

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Inspired in Nature: Forest Walk Playlist

What music do you listen to when you are out for a walk in nature? Mostly, we tend to listen to the trees around us or the rivers running or the birds whistling but a good forest walk playlist with the right beats can put a spring in your step.

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Here are some of our favourite songs to listen to when we are out in the forest:

It was hard to narrow this list down to the above but we finally managed. Do you have your own forest walk playlist? We would love to hear your favourite tunes for outdoor listening. Send them to us below and we will add them to the list.

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Best Wild Herbs for Anxiety

When you are feeling stressed or anxious you will take anything to make this panicked feeling disappear. Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. Whether its an interview you have to do, an exam you have to take or the stresses of work. However some people suffer more than others and find it difficult to manage their levels of anxiety.

You may already be familiar with the big drugs like zanex or valium but many do not know that natural herbs growing all around us can help us to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety. Why not give a mixture of exercise, meditation and herbal teas a try to tackle your inner demons?

What are the causes of anxiety?

It is usually a combination of factors that include environmental factors and genetics.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

Every person is different and we all react in different ways. A feeling of panic, an increased heart rate, sweating, rapid breathing, restlessness and a lack of focus are just a few of the many common symptoms of anxiety.

Here are some of the best wild herbs for anxiety:

St.John’s Wort

Dried St.John’s Wort can be a calming tea substitute if you want to relax at the end of your day. The active ingredient of hypericum in this herb is said to interact with the hormones of serotonin and dopamine which are associated with depression. One study by the Cochrane Review Group found that it was as good as standard anti-depressants. However like all things we consume, this herb interacts with all other chemicals in our body so if you are best to consult your doctor if you are taking other medications before messing around with this powerful yellow plant.

Valerian

Used as a medicinal herb since ancient greek and roman times, this bright flower has become well regarded for its treatment of nervousness. Taking a cup of Valerian root tea can help the mind and body to relax, therefore aiding stress and anxiety. Herbalists sometimes use it as a tincture.

Lavender

Lavender has traditionally been used for its calming and therapeutic properties. In some countries a bunch of lavender is placed under a pillow at night-time to improve sleep and you will commonly find lavender scented candles in spa resorts to enhance a calm atmosphere. Evidence suggests that lavender oil taken orally is an efficient mood stabilizer, may be helpful in treating neurological disorders and contains neuroprotective properties.

Lemon Balm

This sweet scented herb has been used for over 2000 years and it is believed to be a mood enhancer. It has the ability to improve cognitive function and has proved effective in the treatment of anxiety. One study published in the Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found that administration of 300 mg lemon balm extract for 15 days showed to improve symptoms of anxiety and insomnia in participants.

Why try natural remedies for anxiety?

Why not! If you are feeling anxious or stressed sometimes a walk in nature is all you need. You can also try cleansing the air of negative energy with some DIY smudge sticks. However if you want to try herbs or other remedies there are plenty of ways to try and tackle those negative feelings and herbs may be one of many things that people have used to sooth the mind since ancient times.

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A European Mindful Escape to Slovenia

Discover the stunning landscapes of Slovenia on this one of a kind mindful adventure. Along the way you will discover the spectacular Julian Alps and meet the local food producers.

We have teamed up with local experts to provide design a once in a lifetime adventure that encompasses everything we love about travel: time to relax, time to explore, time to learn and time to taste the land.

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Did you know that Slovenia produces world class red wines on the slopes of the alps. Also, in Slovenia there is a long history of bee keepers and many households have their own, homemade honey. In a time when we are trying hard to get back to our roots and understand the nature and wildlife around us, Slovenia is a good place to learn how to bring nature into your everyday life.

10 REASONS TO VISIT SLOVENIA

  1. Relax and unwind at Lake Bled
  2. Over half of Slovenia is forest – Nature & Hiking lovers delight
  3. Visit the Fairytale castle in Ljubljana
  4. Taste traditional Foods like Kranjska Klobasa
  5. Enjoy the magical sunsets
  6. Explore the Caves
  7. Get friendly with the bees
  8. Nature is everywhere – Enjoy!
  9. A friendly, warm welcome awaits
  10. Sip the Local wines

On our 7 day adventure you will taste the honey, pick the flowers, visit the waterfalls, take a scenic train ride and tour an eco-village. Get in touch with us to learn more about this epic natural adventure in the heart of Slovenia. We promise you an unforgettable journey. SEE TOUR HERE

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What’s in Season? Foraging in Winter Months

Sometimes foraging in winter feels like a secret adventure. Wild foodie treasures don’t fully disappear after the fruitful summer months. Fresh green leaves, nuts and berries may be a little harder to identify but they are there for the taking. Sometimes it feels as though nature knows more about what we actually need than we do ourselves. You will find plenty of sources of vitamin C and other immune boosters during the winter months, helping you to keep cold and flu symptoms at a distance.

When the evenings are dark and there is frost in the air you have plenty of time for playing around with your wild food finds in the kitchen. Every season is a time to get back to nature and reconnect with the landscapes around you. When you look at the winter hedgerows, drooping, grey and glistening with frost, it’s hard to imagine there is much life around. But the truth is, even in the depths of winter, plenty of foodie treasures can be found.

Grab your hat and scarf and head out for a local forage with friends. Here are just a few of the wild treats you can hope to discover in winter.

BERRIES

Rosehips

One of our favourite food sources in winter is the Vitamin C packed rose hip. These are plentiful in parks and woodlands at this time of year. Be sure to wear your gloves as they come with thorns attached to the stems. Enjoy sipping rosehip tea and mixing them for syrups.

Hawthorns

Used as a herbal remedy to tackle high blood pressure in ancient times, the hawthorn berries and stems are high in antioxidants.

Juniper Berries

These tree berries are deep purple in colour. You can infuse them in drinks and the stems have a wonderful fragrance that can be used to clear any nasty odours in the house.

Sloe Berries

Gin infused with sloe berries is now one of the most popular drinks on the market and it is easy to see why. Sloes are sweet and pack a punch when it comes to flavour.

WILD GREENS

Pine Needles

These spiky needles that come from scots and spruce pine trees contain high amounts of vitamin C and are often used in winter herbal tea recipes.

Wood Sorrel

Available year round this healthy woodland green is a wonderful addition to warm salads in winter. They have a bitter but pleasing taste that will leave you wanting more.

Jack by the Hedge

Often known as garlic mustard, Jack by the Hedge is a winter gem. They have distinct heart shaped, hairless leaves that sometimes look like nettles but they won’t sting you. The leaves have a natural anti-freeze and so they are worth foraging in the winter months.

Honesty

With its radish flavoured leaves Honesty is a lovely little leaf to forage in winter. Try a taste of the root and the leaves.

Ground Elder

Smelling and tasting a little like parsley we can think of lots of dishes for this wild weed.

Dock

If they are picked young they have a nice lemon flavour that goes well with any fish dish.

MUSHROOMS

To our amazement the woods are still packed with different mushroom species this year but there are some types of mushrooms more commonly found in winter than others. These include wood blewits, velvet shank mushrooms and oyster mushrooms.

Join one of our next foraging tours or find out more about winter foraging with our free foraging guide.

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Why eating local is the future!

Do you know where the food that you eat comes from? If not than maybe its time to find out. Eating locally produced food has benefits for both us and our fragile eco-system.

By 2050 the UN experts predict that we will  have 2.5 billion more people living on our planet. The UN believes that we will have to double our food production but wait, let’s take a closer look at our current system and see if there are some areas of improvement. If one third of the food we grow is never eaten than there is surely room for lots of improvements in how we consume our foods and the way we learn about the food around us.

This is one of the primary reasons foraging for food became a passion for us. We wanted to see how the plants were growing, what environments they lived in and how other plants interact with them before we decide to use them in our dishes. Experimenting with food has to be one of my biggest passions and heading out into the wild to source invasive wild produce is like going to a toy store as a child.

WHY WE SHOULD EAT LOCAL

NUTRITION

If you buy locally grown food than the food should arrive on your plate shortly after it is produced, thereby holding more of its nutritional value. The quality of the food will be better and we will eat more seasonal produce.

INVEST IN THE LOCAL COMMUNITY

As well as helping your local environment you are also helping the local economy. Buying local means that the money you spend on food goes back into the local economy, spreading the wealth around the local area.

REDUCE FOOD WASTE

This is something that we are all guilty of and with the prolific use of plastics in our supermarkets it is difficult to avoid all waste after you do your shopping. However if we begin to shop locally and organically we can significantly cut down on our weekly waste.

In addition to composting we can find alternative uses for our food waste and this is starting to become a hot topic of conversation. Farms are experimenting, using compost as feed and biofuel.

SAVING ESSENTIAL WATER RESOURCES

Our natural water sources are being depleted. A sustainable future requires a collective appreciation of all of our water sources.

WHAT CAN I DO?

Here are four simple changes that you can make to your daily routine to help secure a brighter, sustainable, local future for your community.

  1. Take time to understand where your food is coming from and how it is produced.
  2. Adopt a composting culture. Recycling has become the norm for most households today, composting needs to be the same.
  3. Save water whenever possible.
  4. Join us for a foraging adventure and learn about the wild edible species around you.

Some people are concerned that foraging or extracting sources of wild food could damage the environment. However, let me introduce you to invasive plants. Everywhere you look you will stumble upon an invasive plant species. Not all are edible but some are simply delicious and not only is it okay to forage these wild plants, you are assisting the environment by tackling the large amounts of these non-native species and allowing the true natives to flourish.

After a number of years in the making, the Invasivore Movement is catching up and people are starting to realise that eating local doesn’t have to be expensive. Eating local may mean both organic farm produce and wild invasive species like some weeds that can easily replace a number of our refrigerated green leaves. Using weeds as a source of food can be nutritious and benefit the environment at the same time.

In fact many environmental groups agree that invasive species can damage and change a landscape. According to the Woodland Trust “invasive non-native species are one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss” and over 30% of important plant areas contain invasive species. How do we tackle this issue? Well, will I be so bold as to suggest foraging! Yes, foraging is one way that we can help to reclaim the natural eco-system and improve the quality of life for our native plants and trees.

Let’s think about other ways that we can begin to think locally, eat locally and create a sustainable environment that feeds future populations. Do you eat your local fruits and plants? If you have a local food story to share we would love to hear from you.

Feel free to listen to the podcast version of this article on our YouTube channel

Join in our wild food experiences and come foraging for invasive plant species on one of our guided foraging experiences.

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Nature podcasts for easy listening outdoors

This week we have chosen 5 of our favourite podcasts for nature lovers.

Do you love to listen to podcasts on the way to work or on the way home? Do you listen to podcasts while you are cooking in the evening? Do you listen to podcasts when you head out for a walk? So do we! We have found a few epic podcasts for nature lovers. If you are interested in sustainable lifestyles, the power of plants, the GIY trends around the world and adventures into nature than these podcasts will be right up your street.

Get out your earphones and head out for a walk while listening to some of the fantastic episodes in the below podcasts. From inspiring stories to in-depth interviews with the experts, learn something new each week.

FROM ROOTS TO RICHES BY BBC4

If you are looking for short snippets of the impact of plants and the natural world around us then the 15 minute, bite sized podcasts from Kathy Willis are a fantastic resource. Where we are introduced to some of the most amazing plants that. Kathy Willis discusses the importance of green spaces in our society. 

PAUL STAMETS ON JOE ROGAN

If you are a mushroom lover, a mushroom hunter or simply curious about the natural world then this podcast will blow your mind. Paul is an expert mychologist and mushroom King. He truly believes in the power of mushrooms and his passion for these magical species will leave you wanting more. In two separate discussions Paul illustrates the power of mushrooms and how they are an essential component of the earths eco-system. Listen and learn with this one! 

SHE EXPLORES

Named among ITunes 2016’s top debut podcasts, She Explores, empowers women to share their stories and to connect with a community of talented and diverse female artists, adventurers, and outdoor advocates. Filled with powerful stories about overcoming insecurities and conquering incredible feats, this podcast will keep you coming back again and again.

OUT THERE

Hosted by a former Wyoming NPR reporter, Out There explores the relationship between people and wild environments. From deciding where to settle down to transformational outdoor encounters, this podcast offers a passionate discussion on our role in the environment and how we can achieve perspective in outdoor settings.

WILD IDEAS WORTH LIVING

No crazy adventure idea is out of reach to this podcast host. Covering everything from snowboarding and mountaineering to the health benefits of being in nature, this podcast will open your eyes to real life examples of people living unconventionally through the power of adventure! You won’t want to go back to your day job after hearing these stories of people and brands who have turned their wild ideas into reality. We particularly loved The Adventure of Self-Love with Sarah Herron, an inspiring story about breaking out of your comfort zone.

There are so many interesting and thought provoking podcasts out there it was difficult to narrow it down to just 5 but we will continue listening and keep you updated on any episodes for nature lovers.

If you have more nature podcasts to add to our list we would love to hear about them.

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10 Unusual Mushrooms to find in the Woods

We are always fascinated by nature and the wild world around us. Mushrooms provide an extra element of surprise as you never know where exactly they will turn up.

Yes, there are certain trees that are associated with certain species of mushroom but they may not always appear. This is what makes hunting for mushrooms an extra special foraging activity. People who specialise in the study of mushrooms are called Mycologists and these guys are the experts. Paul Stamets would be considered an expert in all things mushroom related and we would highly recommend a watch of his Ted Talk if you get some time.

As amateurs who have only been studying mushroom for a few years we would never claim to be experts in this area. However, we have identified some wonderful mushroom and we know enough about the popular types to put some delicious dishes together.

1. Cep AKA porcini

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We love stumbling upon Ceps. This is one of the more famous mushrooms around the world and a regular feature in Italian cuisine. Ceps are fairly common from late summer to the end of Autumn but they are often hidden in the high grass. These popular mushrooms taste is delicious.

2. Collared Earthstar

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This is the strangest looking mushroom we have ever stumbled upon. Usually found under hardwood trees. When the rain falls on this mushroom the spores escape, creating an errie smoke.

3. Giant Funnel Fungi – Giant leucopax

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These grow plentiful in Britain and Ireland during the Autumn months. The cap is white and funnel shaped. It is known as an edible mushrooms but all mushrooms should be eaten in small portions.

4. Shaggy Inkcap

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AKA The Lawyers Wig. This tasty mushroom should be eaten very soon after it is picked. They are common in Ireland and often found on the edges of pathways or open woodlands.

5. Puffballs

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AKA Lycoperdon perlatum, the common puffball is a friendly looking mushroom and edible when young. They are found in all types of woodland and only the young ones are edible as the spores turn a horrid mustard colour as they grow.

6. Stinkhorn

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You will spot this crazy looking mushroom from afar. We found two this year. One standing up straight and one flopped over towards the end of Autumn. He was obviously said that the season was finishing up. It smells disgusting and you would want to have a very strange palette to even consider eating it.

7. Amethyst Deceiver

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This is one of my favourite types of mushroom and they are deceivingly delicious to taste. These small purple mushrooms are easy enough to find in mixed woodlands, often under beech trees.

8. Winter Chanterelles

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A firm favourite of all who have tried these delicious mushrooms and often easier to find than their sought after cousin. Winter chanterelles are a tasty treat in Autumn.

9. Honey Fungus

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In Eastern European countries this yellow stained mushroom, aka Armillaria, is one of the most prized mushrooms. It has a distinct nutty flavour but be careful of look-a-like species.

10. The Fly Agaric

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Aka Amanita Muscaria, these mushroom appear in Autumn and add a spot of brightness to the damp woods. They are a vibrant red colour and often produce white spots on their caps. Both Alice and Wonderland and the Super Mario Brothers game feature these magical mushrooms. These guys are considered poisonous and have hallucinogenic properties.

Fun Facts About Mushrooms

  • Mushrooms are neither a plant or an animal.
  • Some species of mushrooms have psychedelic properties that will make you hallucinate.
  • The chicken of the woods mushroom feels and tastes like fried chicken.
  • Over 200 species of mushrooms contain Psilocybin, the ingredient that causes hallucinations.
  • Different species of mushroom can be used to produce dyes and vivid colours.

To join us on one of our foraging adventures and learn more about mushrooms please contact our team.

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