Magic Mushrooms

Wild mushrooms have begun to appear in parts of West Clare, a full six months ahead of their usual growing season. For 79-year-old Miltown Malbay farmer, Chris Sexton, this is a first. He spoke with Andrew Hamilton.

Christy Sexton showing his early January harvest of mushrooms from his farmland in Spanish Point

When you’ve lived through eight decades, there is not too much left that will surprise you. West Clare farmer, Chris Sexton, got the surprise of his life last Tuesday, when he came across a massive crop of mushrooms, in full growth, in Spanish Point, right in the middle of January.

Wild mushrooms traditionally grow in West Clare in July and August, with the season sometime stretching into the early autumn. Never before in his many years of mushroom hunting has Chris seen a crop of mushrooms growing in January.

“Mushrooms normally appear around here at the end of the summer, in July or August. I am a farmer and a member of the IFA and I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Chris.

“Down through the years, we always picked the mushroom in the late summer and into early September but, once you’d get into September, they’d be gone, that’d be the end of them. I don’t think this has ever happened before.

They taste great, better than they would in the summertime. Maybe that’s the way I’m cooking them, I’ve been frying them in butter and they’ve been tasting really outstanding. Maybe it is where they are growing, I don’t know.”

“I’ve been picking mushrooms for 70 years or so. I’m 79 years plus and I’ve never, ever seen anything like this before.”

Chris picked two large buckets of mushrooms in a field in Spanish Point last week and that spot is already producing a second crop. Interestingly, these ‘winter mushrooms’ seem to have a nicer flavour than mushrooms picked during the summer.

“I picked two big buckets of the mushrooms last week and there are more coming up now. They are edible, I’ve eaten a load of them. I’ve had so many that I’m sick of eating them,” said Chris.

“They taste great, better than they would in the summertime. Maybe that’s the way I’m cooking them — I’ve been frying them in butter and they’ve been tasting really outstanding. Maybe it is where they are growing, I don’t know.

“I picked two big buckets of them. I’ve been giving them away, I’ve so many of them.”

The cause of this unprecedented mushroom growth is unclear. West Clare has witnessed unprecedented extremes of weather in the past 12 months — from the snow of last March, to a summer heatwave and drought and then one of the warmest winters on record.

“It must be down to the mildness of the winter. It has been so warm. It is not clear to me if this is an extension of last year’s crop or if it is this year’s crop coming early,” he said.

“I don’t know what is the cause. Is it global warming or something else? I’d be very interested to know how this is happening and what is causing it. All of the daffodils and all the shrubs are all six inches over the ground.”

Hundreds of different varieties of mushrooms grow wild in Ireland but not all are safe to eat. If in doubt, ask an expert before eating them.

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