A PROFESSIONAL forager has discovered one of Britain's rarest fungus - which can be eaten and contains healing powers, writes Ed Cullinane.

Chloe Newcomb Hodgetts, 41, stumbled on the super-rare Tiered Tooth Fungus, or Hericium cirrhatum, in a forest in Monmouthshire, Wales, near where she lives.

Chloe, who runs a professional foraging experience business 'Gourmet Gatherings' and supplies Michelin star restaurants, said she nearly missed the rare fungus.

The Tiered Tooth Fungus is so rare that when she offered a sample of it to researchers at Kew Gardens, they rejected the offer to allow it to grow more.

Chloe, who has a chemical ecology PHD and who was mentored by late Chepstow forager Henry Ashby, said: "I've never found one before, and I probably never will again - and that's despite spending a lot of time in forests.

"I had found some other mushrooms that day when I found it, and had actually left - but something told me to go back because I sensed there was more.

"When I found it, I was so excited. I'm very lucky. I actually keep going to visit it."

Tiered Tooth Fungus' are in the same family of fungus as their more common Lion's mane cousin, which looks similar and is more commonly found in North America.

Both the Lion's Mane and Tiered Tooth Fungus are believed to have incredible medicinal properties - helping treat nerve damage, heart disease, and maybe even dementia.

The rare fungus is actually edible, tasting like shellfish or crab, but Chloe says that foragers should avoid disturbing any they find to allow them to spread.

She added: "I'm not concerned about people finding it, in fact I've taken a few groups to see it myself, but people should not remove these fungus or tamper with them.

"Unfortunately there are a lot of people, particularly during porcini season, who come out and commercially farm mushrooms and fungus illegally in the ancient forests around here.

"You always see them appear during certain times of year, leaving some areas decimated and causing damage to the woodlands. 

"Chefs who shouldn't be accepting 'backdoor mushrooms' really, but I think a lot of these people export the fungus to Europe to be sold.

"I prefer to take small, intimate groups to visit these environments and see the life that grows in them.

"I have a waiting list of over 200 people for woodland walks, which I use to educate people about foraging and what plants we can eat and which we cant.

"There is not really a big foraging culture in Britain. In Czechia or Italy it's very common, but here it's unheard of really. 

"Hopefully this discovery will help raise awareness of the amazing things you can find in Britain's forests."