The one thing that makes foraging for fungi an skill rather than aimless searching is that they are predictable they have set relationships that we can observe and use to find our own prime foraging spots .
As with many natural foraged finds Mother Nature has given us sign to guide us and recognising these sign is key to gaining finds of our chosen mushrooms ,
You will be aware that All field guides refer to information reference to habitat and within these references you will see mention to trees and this is due to the relationship that many fungi have with trees these are called mycorrhizal relationships when we look at ground growing fungi these relationships work as the mycelium bonds with the roots of the tree extracting nutrients such as carbohydrates in the form of sugars from the tree and in return aids the tree in uptake of other base nutrients especially phosphorus and water yielding a mutually beneficial bond these are called mycorrhizae.
Mycorrhizal relationships that yield fungi growing directly on to a tree these are due to several different types of relationships .
Mushrooms growing on trees are saprotrophic ( feeding from the dead tree )
A parasitic fungi lives on a live tree these can often be damaging but some actually support the tree and some fungi begin with a saprotrophic relationship growing Into a parasitic one is the tree begins to degrade and die .
Knowing what type of relationship your target fungi has narrows your field greatly approximately eighty percent of fungi grow within these relationships .
It is often more beneficial to look into the species that are likely to be found in your local woodland rather than seeking out a specific fungi to start with this enables you to become familiar with visual sign and you will quickly notice that some fungi are indicators of others .
identification of the surrounding trees is as important a skill as identifying the fungi themselves as without the reference gaining a positive identification is impossible so gaining basic tree identification skills is a must for any serious mushroom forager being able to identify oak , beech , birch and familiarisation with spruces and firs is not a great deal of information and with a field guide can be achieved with ease and as many of our choice edible fungi have mycorrhizal bonds with these species familiarisation is key .
The next factor is soil type and although we are not easily able to determine much scientific data easily there are some great resources available one of my favourite sites is The My soil hosted by the British geological society it has a application for my phone and is full of useful information .
If I can offer one piece of advice it is simply that you have all the needed senses to use soil type as an indicator it’s does not need to get complicated use what you have don’t be afraid to use your touch , your sense of smell and your eyes is the soil of good substance , good colour , sound form and full of decaying matter or is it pale , sandy or red with clay all of these are traits that can be identified by any forager .
Also at this point you need to take note if immediate features such as ,
Water sources ?
Are you in a clearing ?
Are you on a slope ?
Direction in relation to the sun ?
Ground cover , ie moss ?
Many people remove light from the noticeable habitat indicators in the belief that mushrooms only grow in the dark and although it is true that they do not use sunlight as plants do as food they do have a photosensitive reaction to it , in basic they reach for light , meaning that often growing patches are found on woodland edges or clearings .
Seasons are hugely impactive upon fungi and your field guide will list favoured growing seasons this is massively due to temperature and humidity and although fungi is constantly present during the year autumn is the beginning of what is known as the prime season .
You will need to take notice if both daytime and nighttime temperatures as it is the cooler nights of autumn that trigger fungi into growth of the fruiting bodies , and the second group of fungi that are awaken by the first frosts of winter so humidity and temperature are now noted within your habitat information .
In time you will build up a vast amount of similarities in growth patterns within habitat these will become clearer over time and seasons spent foraging these will only become useful once you have found a fungi that is of value stop and take mental notes of all of these habitat features recognition of these will lead to future finds and fruitful foraging spots and it is my strong belief that successful foraging regardless of targets is fifty-percent habitat recognition .
Sorry if you expected me to tell you where to look for some choice edible mushrooms I wouldn’t feel right depriving you of a epic adventure I only hope to point you in the right direction .