From horse riding and kayaking to falconry and golf, activities at The Lodge at Ashford Castle certainly make the most of the incredible 350-acre estate. Ultimately, though, little beats a walk in nature. It’s not only the estate’s wild beauty and proximity to the glassy Lough Corrib that sets it apart as prime hiking territory, though. The grounds are peppered with edible plants, with a wide range of delicious Irish mushrooms growing thick and fast through the autumn months. When heading out on a stroll, why not take along a tote bag? You never know what bounty you’ll encounter.
There are a few guidelines to bear in mind when it comes to foraging for mushrooms in Ireland. Firstly, if you’re unsure of its identity, steer clear. Some mushrooms are poisonous, with deathcaps – a white flying saucer-shaped cap mottled with a green tinge – being lethal. Although it’s unlikely you’ll come across one of these, be aware that not all fungi are friendly. Secondly, never eat a foraged mushroom raw. Rather, bring your fresh spoils back to our kitchens so we can prepare something delectable for you to enjoy later. With this in mind, enjoy hunting for County Mayo’s rich crop of wild mushrooms. Here are some of the species you might encounter.
A plump, round mushroom that resembles a pincushion, the puffball has a very short shelf life – less than a week. Pluck it and cook it while it’s still young and milky white – it should be a uniform porcelain colour all the way through. Puffballs can grow up to the size of a pillow, so don’t be alarmed if you encounter a giant on your wanderings. They taste deliciously nutty and earthy, and are among the more versatile mushrooms on Ireland’s menu.
With their elegant stems and ornamental heads, a chanterelle is high on the list of any forager. It has a delicate, woody flavour that’s delicious when sautéed with butter and garlic. There are two kinds of chanterelle mushroom in Ireland. The rarer type is a deep golden colour with a stocky trumpet-shaped head, while the darker chanterelle resembling an oyster is an easier find. Look for ridges rather than gills to identify it.
Easily identifiable for the ‘spikes’ or villi replacing the gills beneath its cap, hedgehog mushrooms are a deep buttery colour with white flesh. They’re usually misshapen and rarely grow in a uniform structure, but despite their unusual appearance, hedgehogs are a culinary delight, with a fresh nutty taste and satisfying meaty texture.
Those who come across a robust cep should count themselves lucky. This sturdy fungus, also known as a porcini, is the queen of edible mushrooms in Ireland. With a smooth, chestnut-coloured cap, wide rim and chunky stalk, ceps are easily identifiable. Their flavour is enhanced by drying, but this versatile mushroom is just as delicious freshly sliced in a risotto or cooked into a sauce and served alongside a steak.
Enjoy exploring the beautiful grounds of Red Carnation Hotels’ The Lodge at Ashford Castle during your stay in County Mayo.
Image credits: lead image © iStock/ClarkandCompany. Chanterelle mushrooms © iStock/SilviaJansen. Puffball mushrooms © iStock/Ivan Marjanovic. Basket of mushrooms © iStock/knape. Cep mushroom © iStock/Andrey Danilovich.