Mushroom Feast

Mushroom season

Mushroom season – I am told this one is edible

I am very partial to mushrooms, but I’m hopeless at finding them – at least the edible variety. This year is a mushroom year. Something about the climatic conditions – a damp September? – has had them popping out of the ground in places they don’t normally grow. Unfortunately, by the time I get there, they are past their best. And countless people are poisoned in France every year by the wrong sort of mushroom.

This week’s Connexion email newsletter said that nearly 1,200 cases of mushroom poisoning had been reported in the three months to October. And serious cases are 50% higher than normal. More mushrooms I suppose means more risk of poisoning. And this is an occupational hazard of the season – rather like the numbers of people who are shot by hunters when mistaken for game.

National sport

Mushroom hunting is a favourite sport in rural France. The only equipment you need is a basket, a stout stick and a nose for finding them. The basket is important. You often see people emerging furtively from local woodland bearing bulging plastic bags. This, apparently, is wrong. A basket with an open weave allows the mushroom spores to filter through and start the cycle again. The stick is useful for parting the undergrowth in search of the earthy treasures – or for fending off rival mushroom-hunters, or maybe shirty landowners laying claim to their own fungi.

Some species of mushroom, such as cèpes and girolles (the orange, pleated mushrooms) can be very expensive on the market stalls, and so it’s not surprising that people prefer to pick their own. They are easily identified, although some varieties of them are less palatable than others.

Toxic shock

The trouble starts when a toxic mushroom closely resembles an edible one. I like field mushrooms, or rosés des près, as the French call them, which grow as large as plates. They are delicious simply sliced and fried in butter with garlic and parsley. The problem is that another variety of mushroom looks rather like them and is mortel.

Mushroom 2

One we found in Cantal. Edible or not? If in doubt, discard or ask at the pharmacie

This is where the pharmacie comes in – but before, rather than after, you’ve eaten them. Pharmacists in France are trained to identify mushrooms and, most important, to distinguish good ones from bad ones. I have to say, I have never seen anyone availing themselves of this service in our local pharmacie.

If you feel ill after eating mushrooms in France, call the medical emergency services on 15. Ten anti-poison centres also exist in France.

Food without fear

Assuming that your mushrooms have been expertly identified and you can eat them without fear, here are some easy ways of using them:

  • Cèpes are delicious sliced and added to fried potatoes for the final 5 minutes or so of cooking, along with a couple of chopped garlic cloves. Sprinkle with parsley at the end.
  • Large-cap mushrooms can be stuffed with a mixture of lardons (chopped bacon), onions, garlic, cream cheese and breadcrumbs and baked in the oven for about 30 minutes at 180C. Serve with crusty bread and salad.
  • Add cèpes or girolles to a risotto just before starting the process of adding liquid.
  • Chop and fry your favourite variety of mushroom with onions and garlic, add a little chicken stock and cream and serve on toast, sprinkled with chopped parsley. This also makes a good sauce for pasta.
  • Mushrooms also make excellent soup, with the addition of onions, stock and a touch of cream. I like to add some chopped thyme, which I think goes well with mushrooms.

This is making me feel hungry, so I’ll see you next time.

mushrooms in the kitchen - PhotoXpress

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About nessafrance

We moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I'm fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs. I also write historical novels and short stories.
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10 Responses to Mushroom Feast

  1. Pingback: Life on La Lune French Christmas Quiz 2017: the Answers | Life on La Lune

  2. Lovely post – thank you!! Like you, I am hopeless at finding mushrooms, they’d have to jump out at me waving their hands. Except of course, the poisonous ones, I can find those easily!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Osyth says:

    We took the view that we should concentrate on finding just one type at a time. So we started with Chanterelle (there are two faux one not good and the other REALLY not good) and then coulemelles (which are heavenly) and then Bolet (cèpes de Bordeaux) whence we stopped because we migrated to the US and so far I haven’t been brave enough to branch out in Grenoble though the Pleurote in the market are divine and I am currently being rather greedy with them. I always think that Agatha Christie could have written a French pharmacist with a grudge into one of her Poirot stories with great aplomb ….

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Funnily enough, I have just been over on your blog catching up, after a shamefully long time. I tend to stick to those mushrooms I can identify (which are not many). Yes, The Mushroom Murders would make a good title for one of her Poirot stories. Maybe someone has written one already?

      Like

      • nessafrance says:

        Nothing like a bit of displacement activity to while away a damp Friday afternoon. Yes, someone has written a book with that title – actually, a cartoon book. There is never anything new under the sun…

        Like

  4. We had Amanita Panther mushrooms (deadly) at the top of the garden, but also a few Amanita Rubescens in our field, which is apparently delicious if you cook it well. So, I took one perfect specimen to the chemist, just to check it out, and they stood back in horror saying it was the Panther! “C’est mortale!!” But I know they were wrong, but still didn’t dare cook them 🙂 The Amanita family is really the one to avoid out of all of them but I was disappointed at the lack of real knowledge at the pharmacy … Italians are so mad about mushroom hunting that I could have asked a neighbour there for confirmation, but our French neighbours were just puzzled. I stick to Parasols and Cepes

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      If in any doubt at all, it’s best to be prudent. I don’t trust my identification skills at all. They always look different in real life from the photos of them in books. Cèpes are easily identifiable, so they’re okay, but the ones that grow on our land are the yellow-ish ones that aren’t good to eat. I wonder if fewer people are picking mushrooms in France these days and so the pharamacists’ knowledge is falling into disuse.

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  5. And there are the most delicious morilles, of which the places they grow are kept secret ! Many thanks, Vanessa !

    Liked by 1 person

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