And it’s so hard to get your money back after an unsatisfactory armageddon. However, for now I shall limit my scope to the world of edible mushrooms.
Recently, I have seen St George’s mushrooms on menus on a number of occasions and this has led me to muse about the provenance of the name. I had tended to assume that it was just an attempt to “jazz up” the humble chestnut mushroom, but it would seem not. The St George’s is Calocybe gambosa while the Chestnut is Agaricus bisporus. Most shockingly, I have discovered that the Agaricus bisporus is also the white, the button, the Crimini and the Portobello mushroom. What looks like a wide range of mushrooms in the supermarket is nothing of the sort, some are just slightly older and/or paler versions of the fruiting body of exactly the same fungus. What a swizz!
Anyway, to return to the St George’s mushroom, an image search shows that, even before gentle frying in butter, it offers no obvious visual cues to the legend of England’s patron saint (unless he had an unreported club foot). Talking of whom, while St David and St Patrick seem fairly monogamous in their habits (very much one country kind of guys), St George is really rather promiscuous in his patronage: whoring himself out to all and sundry. Does the flavour of his eponymous mushroom appeal to the xenophobic right in the southern portion of these isles (plus a raft of other places), I wondered? Does its consumption cause xenophobia and an obsession with displaying flags (of only the one kind)? The excessive flying of the national flag (of any nation) has always puzzled me: surely its sole utility is to the amnesiac who only needs the very broadest of geographical contexts to go about his day and who, despite severe memory loss, retains his knowledge of the flags of all nations. It always strikes me as a sign of insecurity or terrible uncertainty as to one’s location leading to a need for constant reassurance. Even then, surely a flag saying “23 Acacia Avenue, Lower Dicker” would be more helpful? (Assuming that was the flag’s location – it would be positively misleading were it to be flown at Balmoral.)
Maybe the mushroom is inimical to dragons? Consumption of its fruit being fatal to Theo Paphitis and his ilk? Or perhaps a mere fairy ring of the mushrooms being enough to spare one’s village (and its more chaste citizenry) from rapacious, draconic attention? I realise this is unlikely to be true, but perhaps it was once widely believed – and I’m willing to bet that no village with a healthy crop of Calocybe gambosa even suffered at the claws or flames of a dragon.
Sadly, it is all much more prosaic. It would seem that in parts of the UK, perhaps also more in the past than the present given the seasonal shift occasioned by climate change, it would generally first fruit on or around 23 April. Elsewhere it has different names, as it fruits away from the date won by St George in some ancient, ecclesiastical raffle. Further south (for example) it fruits rather earlier – nearer St Patrick’s day but not named for him yet, though if Ireland warms enough he could be in with a shot.