Cauliflower fungus (Sparassis crispa)

There are a few foraging finds that can make people whoop with delight and cauliflower fungus is definitely one or them.  They are always found at the base of pine trees, sometimes in the same place every year but often they pop up unexpectedly in a new location.  They look amazing - just such a natural sponge that has been left behind in the woods.  The temptation is to cut the whole fungus away and carry it home in triumph but it is best for everyone if we only take a third or a half.  This allows the fungus to release it's spores and ensures that the invertibrates inside continue to have a home.  Earwigs love to hide in these fungi so make sure you give your chunk a shake before you leave there.
Key identification points:
Appearance: creamy white, sponge like lobes
Size: 20-40cm wide, up to 30cm highSmell: delicious nutty, mushroomy smell
Season: late summer to autumn, occasionally early winter in mild years
Habitat and distribution: always by pine trees on sandy soils, found across the UK
These fungi are delicious and are perfect in a whole range of mushroom dishes,  They can be dried in slices which helps with cleaning as any dirt or pine needles just fall out afterwards.  However you decide to cook them please make sure you give them a good clean first as they do hold a lot of creatures and leaf debris.  Washing them under a gently running tap is fine.  Please see our blog for more information on Cauliflower Fungus.