Ep. 42: Red Glasses - England's Godfather of Mushrooms and Worldwide Forager (feat. Roger Phillips)

Today on Mushroom Hour we are honored to speak with our distinguished, bespectacled guest Roger Phillips. Roger is a natural nonconformist and a legendary godfather of foraging in the UK. Drawing upon decades of experience, his knowledge of wild food is unrivaled. Known as “Mr Mushrooms” he is an expert mycologist, renowned for his work tracking and recording more than 1,600 species of fungi in North America and Europe. Considered a pioneer in the use of photography for documenting and identifying mushrooms, he has written numerous guide books and resource materials.

Let's take a trip across the Atlantic, and back in time, over to the UK isles to find Roger Phillips at just 8 years old hunting wild nettles and bucket loads of mushrooms. His younger years saw him join the air force, work with a major advertising firm and eventually find his way to photography. As his obsession with documenting nature took hold, Roger began writing his own botanical guidebooks to European plants and mushrooms, and in so doing, was an early pioneer of the use of photography, in lieu of drawings, in his guides.

Roger reflects on the mycophobia that is deeply entrenched in British culture, but also how that is starting to change. There is a rich wild food tradition and has always been an incomparable love of gardening amongst the British people. Roger sees all of these traditions as connected, with gardening and foraging being disciplines that most people innately recognize as "moral" and "good".

Exploring his newest book, "The Worldwide Forager" we end up traveling all over the planet to learn about wild foods across cultures. Roger has a deep interest in First Nation Peoples in the Americas. Through his research on the wild food history of the Nez Pearce we learn about the consumption of wild camas bulbs. How much can we learn from First Nation peoples about wild foods and sustainable gardening? When it comes to mushrooms, we visit Italy to marvel at the oft underappreciated Caesar's amanita and Roger regales us with the story of how it may have been involved in a plot that brought down a Roman Emperor!

As our conversation winds down, we glimpse a future where cross-cultural sharing of wild food traditions leads to a more sustainable, more nutritious and scrummier future!

Directed, Recorded, Produced by: Mushroom Hour

Music by: Lyla Foy (https://www.lylafoy.co.uk/)   
Art by: Wyn Di Stefano (http://www.wyndistefano.com/)   

Episode Resources   
Roger Phillips Website: http://www.rogersmushrooms.com/   
Roger Phillips IG: https://www.instagram.com/rogerphillips_redglasses/   
Worldwide Forager (Book): https://unbound.com/books/the-worldwide-forager/   
Nez Perce (Indigenous Tribe): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nez_Perce_people   
Amanita Caesarea (Mushroom): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amanita_caesarea   
Craterellus Cornucopioides(Mushroom): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craterellus_cornucopioides

1 comment

  • What a delightful exchange you had. Seems like you and Roger saw something of yourselves in each other. I love his English-isms. He is still enthused as hell and sharp as a tack. Lyla’s song ends in a magical and quirky way too. Bravo! One of my favorite episodes yet.


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