The best season to spot mushrooms is certainly autumn. The soil still retains some warmth from the summer sun and the frequent rain together with falling leaves make the perfect conditions for mushrooms.
Either cultivated or wild, mushrooms are an important food source and they play a vital role in the ecosystem. Climate change is affecting the way mushrooms grow and interact with other organisms.
Do Mushrooms Grow More in Autumn?
Different types of mushrooms grow throughout the year. You won’t find Saint George’s mushrooms in September, for example, but you will notice them in April.
In autumn a large variety of mushrooms grows under leaf mulch and on the bark of either live or dead trees. Fungi become abundant, covering the forest floor, within a short time frame.
Mushrooms need the right conditions to fruit:
- the right outside temperature
- frequent rain
- high humidity.
Dry weather conditions are not conducive to mushroom growth, while frosts will put an end to the season, as the ice will kill the mushroom cells.
For those interested in knowing more about mushrooms, it is always recommended to take a guided walk with an expert when looking for fungi and attempting to identify them. Guided foraging walks are the safest way to inspect mushrooms and check if they are edible.
Autumn edible mushrooms include:
- hen of the woods
- chicken of the woods
- field mushrooms
- oyster mushrooms.
Chefs and restaurateurs work with expert mushroom hunters to maximise the autumn season and offer their clients a more sophisticated choice in their menus.
Mushrooms and Climate Change
A report from Purdue University analysed the complex relationship between mushrooms and climate change.
On the one hand, regions with dryer and warmer conditions are likely to experience even dryer weather, therefore affecting the fruiting of mushrooms.
On the other, those regions that already experience high rainfall are likely to see an increase in the duration and intensity of the rain season.
There is more: some detrimental fungi that negatively affect crops are more likely to thrive when humid conditions are persistent.
However, the flip side to this is that beneficial fungi improve soil fertility, therefore boosting crops and their yield.
With thousands of species of mushrooms existing it would be extremely difficult to over-generalise their interaction with soil and the environment, however it is useful to be aware of how changes in the climate affect the whole food chain.
Harvard T.H. Chain School of Public Health tested the health benefits of edible mushrooms in terms of their nutrients.
- B vitamins
They also contain a precursor of vitamin D, ergosterol, which requires exposure to UV light to become vitamin D.
Studies found that mushrooms can have a protective effect for brain and gut health.
Fast cooking does not affect the nutritional value of mushrooms compared to stewing or boiling, which will deplete precious water-soluble B vitamins and potassium.
Grilling or air-frying mushrooms are among the best cooking methods to preserve nutrients.
For example, a quick air-fryer meal can be chopped mushrooms, peppers and tofu or another protein source with a light spray of oil, some seasoning and chopped garlic to add flavour.
A creamy mushrooms sauce can be a tasty topping for mashed potato. Start by cooking some chopped garlic in oil, adding the mushrooms, seasoning, cooking for 10 to 15 minutes and then adding some cream, then pouring everything over a plate of mashed potatoes for a complete meal.