Jan Holben

This last year has been strange to say the least – but for some of us it has allowed to discover or rediscover the outdoors and nature. Before Covid kicked off I was getting a real interest in fungi/mushrooms – mostly due to a walking through forests in Belgium where there were mushrooms popping up all over the place – it was like mushroom heaven.

The first ones I found looked very much like mushrooms you buy in the shops and I was looking forward to having some freshly picked for breakfast – but I thought first to check with a guy I call my ‘mushroom friend’ (also known as Justin). I sent a picture of the cluster of lovely white mushrooms saying ‘lookee what I found’ – and after a few minutes he replied with: “I hope you are not planning on eating those – they look very much like ‘destroying angel’.

If you haven’t guessed ‘destroying angel’ mushrooms are toxic. In fact they are described online as “DEADLY. The name “Destroying Angel” is well deserved. Symptoms of poisoning often don’t appear until 6–24 hours after eating, and include vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps. Later, kidney or liver dysfunction occurs and can lead to death” picture shown here too for identification. So – no breakfast mushrooms then…and lesson learned. My interest in mushrooms is still very real but I look for them now to identify them only (I especially love to find amanita muscaria or fairy mushroom as I like to call it) – and not to eat them.

I do have a garden too, its a steeply terraced garden (not unusual for Sandgate), but my interest is also captured by community gardens. There is just something very special about people working together on the land which I find so very humbling. Growing fruit and vegetables for your family is an act of love – but our community gardeners go several steps further. They set up small gardens all over Sandgate and Cheriton and they grow herbs and plants for anybody who wants to pick them.

There is an urban alleyway a few minutes from my door, a narrow footpath down to a lower road – and at the bottom of the pathway, there it is – another little community garden growing parsley, chives and other herbs – just for anyone to pick as they pass by. There are other tiny community gardens in various places – and I think that’s pretty wonderful. If you want to find out more about the community gardens across the district, and where the various allotments and farmers markets are to be found as well as beekeeper news – checkout www.growshepway.uk and perhaps you will feel inspired to start growing your own. Just be VERY careful about mushroom picking and never eat anything without checking and double checking.