Picking mushrooms is serious business in France. This family ritual can soon develop into a real love affair once you know where to look for the delicacies and can differentiate between those mushrooms you can eat (cepes and chanterelles are common in this part of Provence) and those which are poisonous.
If you’re like me you’ll welcome the rain we’re having in the South at the moment because after rain comes sunshine. And temperature plus moisture are the two essential conditions for the fungi to grow.
Before you start combing the fields and forests however, you should be aware of some security rules; France has at least 3,000 varieties and only a few of these are edible.
- If you’re new to picking mushrooms in France, then take someone with some experience along. You’ll not only have guidance on the different specimens but you’ll know where to look next time.
- Set off early: you’ll beat the crowds, make a day of it and get the best mushrooms.
- If you have to go alone make sure you have a mobile just in case you get lost.
- Beware of false friends. Although they might look very similar to your mushroom chart they may not be, so make sure you don’t put them in with the edible ones. In France you can take mushrooms to the pharmacy and have the trained pharmacist inspect them.
- This might seem obvious but no matter how tempting, avoid areas where the air might be polluted – road sides, industrial areas etc.
- Cut the mushroom at the base using a knife so as not to damage the mycelia and make sure they are a reasonable size.
- Don’t put your precious mushrooms in a plastic bag - this will only cause them to spoil – take a cartoon along or even better, a wicker basket.
- Make sure you wash your hands well on returning home as you might have touched some poisonous ones.
- Keep mushrooms in the fridge, prepare and eat within a day or two. The mushrooms you pick are best cooked, don’t eat them raw.
And don’t judge a mushroom by it name. Trompettes de la Mort, translated as trumpets of death is one of the earthiest, delicious and most wholesome mushrooms around.
How did it get its name? Only because of its color and trumpet shape.