Jana's Recycling Journey Through West Berkshire

Welcome to the new edition of this Guest Blog. I am a full-time working mum of 2 boys and a published novelist of ‘The Ninth Cross’ by my pen name J. Karst. I get involved in trying that little bit I can in saving the environment for the future generations.’

             Watching the squirrel stuffing its face made me think of my home country, where the squirrels must defend for themselves by being faster forages before the frugal humans.

            I am not saying that UK people don’t forage, they just do it on a much smaller scale. For example, mushroom picking is a very serious matter in Europe. The locals invade their local woodlands in Autumn.  The quiet woodland is transformed into thousands of different voices trying to seek out their lost family members.  

            My dad would set the alarm for 5am so we get there before any competition. Each year he would positively set up an impossible task to wake up and get ready five girls to leave home by 5:30. In the end he would manage but only a whole hour later, by which point the childless neighbour would be already foraging for an hour.

            Initially, we would be disappointed to be told to look out for the brown mushrooms only even though the large red spotty ones were so easy to find. Confusing as it was, we’re being told how poisonous they are we would meet with grinning 20-something kids carrying baskets full of them. Only in later years I found out of the possibility of ‘other’ uses of mushroom than just a food supplement.  

After spending hours to seek a brown mushroom between the dense forest floor I would hit a jackpot. My father would check whether it would kill you instantly, kill you slowly or give you an indigestion. If it didn’t do any of those, he would praise our vision and the mushroom would be carefully placed into the rattan basket.

            About lunchtime with basket full we made our way home with the woodland bounty. Our glistening white teeth would reflect the light like shiny mirrors against the dusty covered face. Our matted hair would be sporting an occasional twig or a bug sticking out like a flag on a ship.  

            With glee we would approach mother telling her all what we found. One day I remember particularly well that we met up with our neighbour who gave us a pity glance whilst surveying our basket, because he had a porcini as big as a tree trunk in his arms. The mushroom picker frenemy has opened its peacock like tail to prove who’s the winner.

            To our surprise our father congratulated their find whilst we enviously stared at their catch. That was the day that I learned a lesson about mushroom species of Boletus class. There is a boletus edulis and a bitter bolete, though looking the same, one can ruin your whole meal and give you a mild diarrhoea whilst the other is can be very pleasant on your palate, ergo – ‘bigger isn’t always better’…

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