Woman given book on mushrooms as a child is now a foraging expert

When she was 11 years old, Emily Wall received a Christmas gift that would change her life. 

The youngster was given a book on mushrooms in 2010 – little did she know, the festive present would lead to her becoming an expert forager.

Now, aged 24, Emily is utterly ‘obsessed’ with fungi and spends up to four hours a day foraging in her local woods.

The arts and crafts teacher said: ‘Mushrooms are amazing. Some will kill you, some are medicinal and some feed you.

‘I’ve come across really deadly mushrooms like death caps and destroying angels.

‘But then there are mushrooms out there that can heal and even help treat cancer and then, of course, they are such a food staple.

‘I love to photograph my forages, so I can paint them before I eat them. I am making a mini-series of them all as part of my artwork.’

Emily, from Monmouthshire, South Wales, enjoyed picking wild berries and mushrooms with her mum as a child – and her passion for the natural world grew from here.

She said: ‘I used to pick field mushrooms with my family. I really enjoyed it so, for Christmas, someone bought me a mushroom book, which really sparked my interest.

‘There’s a picture of me just lent on the kitchen counter reading the book as a child. I already loved mushrooms and became obsessed with finding them.’

While Emily’s mum, Tracey, still picks fruit – the 24-year-old says she’s now the foraging expert in the family.

She added: ‘I use all my senses when I forage. How does the mushroom smell? What plants are growing near it? It’s a really immersive experience.’

Emily also loves to cook with her fungi finds and says they taste best when used as a base for ramen.

She said: ‘I love ramen. It’s my favourite food and it’s a great way to enjoy your forages, as you can throw in most leafy greens you find and of course mushrooms.

‘I found a massive chicken of the woods mushroom the other day – it is huge and yellow and orange in colour and tends to grow in trees. It’s lovely cooked and I’ve been eating it for a week. 

‘I never buy mushrooms anymore.’

Emily’s advice for beginners is to always use a guidebook, rather than an app, when it comes to foraging – particularly because certain mushrooms are poisonous.

‘Apps can be wrong and you need to be careful when picking mushrooms. They can be delicious but they can also be deadly,’ she added.

The mushroom master hopes to put these skills to good use to write her own book.

Emily said: ‘I’ve been thinking about writing my own foraging book, doing all the illustrations for it and everything. That’s really my goal.

‘I work outside as a teacher and I love going out in the evenings for an hour, or even four, and looking for great stuff to eat.

‘And I never get sick of eating mushrooms.’

See more of Emily’s finds over on her Instagram @foragedbyemily.

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