Can you forage in Iceland? Do mushrooms grow in Iceland? You bet they do! Here's an intro to foraging in Iceland and a project called 'Wildfjords', based in the Westfjords. . . 

I run the Wildfjords project in the Westfjords of Iceland, I set it up to explore and map old walking and herding routes with groups of artists and volunteers. Along the way Jay Simpson, Tanja Geis and myself have raised funds to carry out restoration work on fallen cairns, plant native birch and rowan trees and offer a deepened understanding of land and seascape through storytelling, artistic response and foraging activities. It's wild. You should come. 

Sept - Oct in Iceland is a blast of colour, plants turn a livid red, yellow, orange, rusty brown, any colour you care to dream, a chance to top up on the land's liquid gold, a last hurrah before the annual drop and then winter hibernation. 

Icelandic Magic Mushrooms Got Me Into Foraging

Westfjords, Oct 2017

Along with a limitless supply of blueberries, the fungi world comes to life, or more accurately, they send forth their reproductive parts (mushrooms), erections emerging from the soil in an astonishing array of forms. For the rest of the year they live under ground, mycelium strands inching through the soil, breaking down organic matter and helping enrich the soil. 

Icelandic Magic Mushrooms Got Me Into Foraging

The much coveted Penny bun, Cep, Boletus edulus, King Boletus at Reykjanes, Westfjords Oct 2017

Yeah, Shrooms got me into foraging. Truth. Back when shrooms were legal to sell in the UK, I once went to work having munched through a bag of imported mexicans. Work didn't go so well but the walk we took to escape the customer's askance looks melted my mind, in a good way. The world vibrated, colour and texture came at me giddy and gorgeous, love for the Whole filtered through me, a glimpse of human potential settled within me. 

Icelandic Magic Mushrooms Got Me Into Foraging

A little Reykjavik inspired magic: rowan, snowberries, aspen leaves and the locally abundant Psilocybin. All parts left in situ, an ode to Autumn.

Soon I went looking for fresher produce and in the process discovered the wonderfully diverse world of fungi. Snowball effect: I loved being out on land, exploring, coming home with new flavours, meeting new life forms, taking part in the web of life, an ecological identity being born, a realisation that I am animal and, oh, so animalistic. Plants, seaweeds followed and foraging is now a core part of my life and something we offer on all our trips. Here's what one of our guests had to say about their first foraging experience with us:

“Foraging was absolutely great. I think that eating what you've foraged is one of the most satisfying experiences, it makes you feel connected with the Earth.”

Icelandic Magic Mushrooms Got Me Into Foraging

Perky Wax Caps, always check with someone who knows before eating ANY mushroom; some will make you ill to dead. Reykjanes, Westfjords, Oct 2017

We're writing a book 'Hiking and Wayfinding in the Westfjords of Iceland', detailing the trails we've been mapping and sharing some of the activities and knowledge we developed over the past 4 years in the Westfjords. We're doing it to create an invitation to adventurous travellers and local companies to start making use of the trails we've been researching; they are totally worth it. 

Will you please give me some feedback? On the book entry I've drafted for the Slimy Slippery-Jack Mushroom.....Thank you!

One benefit of the popular activity to plant non-native pine and fir trees in Iceland is their symbiotic ectomycorrhizal relationship with edible fungi. The relationship allows both tree and fungus to feed each other nutrients, minerals and carbohydrates that would otherwise be unavailable; bless, what a lesson they have to offer!

Slippery Jack is one such mushroom: it’s a member of the Bolete family, a family identified by their spongy pore underside and convex cap, a family that has many edible species. Slippery Jack grows exclusively in planted pine forests, and is best plucked from the ground when young and firm, like most things. It’s so slimy-when-wet that when Slippery Jack caught a big catch (that’s what you call a harvest of mushrooms) he slid the whole lot down his gullet and the slippage didn’t stop there; they can upset sensitive stomachs unless you first remove the slimy cap-skin. Cooked in a little butter and spices, they are delicious; drying doesn’t work as they have too much watery slime.

Icelandic Magic Mushrooms Got Me Into Foraging

Slippery Jacks (Suillus luteus)

Foraging resources to get started (UK based but much overlap with Iceland):

Fergus Drennan

and 

Icelandic Magic Mushrooms Got Me Into Foraging

Till our minds meet again, blacken the night, colour your cheeks and find your form x

Contact Henry