The Autumnal Joy of Mushroom Picking
Autumn brings the pleasure of mushroom foraging—whether it’s stumbling upon wild porcini, spotting morels, or dusting off a cap. But how can you ensure you don’t bring home a toxic variety? Where can you find a delicious Lactarius deliciosus? Here are 20 tips for a chef-worthy forage!
1. Know Your Mushrooms
Even with familiar species, mistakes can happen. There’s not just one kind of bolet, for example. Always research before you pick and eat!
2. Guidebooks Are Key
Carrying a mushroom guidebook is useful, if not essential.
3. Tech-Savvy Foraging
For the tech enthusiasts, there are mobile apps available for mushroom identification.
4. When in Doubt, Don’t
If unsure, don’t pick or touch the mushroom. Safety first!
5. Separate the Unknown
If you ignore tip #4, keep unknown species separate in your basket with some absorbent paper. Cut mushrooms at the stem rather than pulling them out.
6. Pharmacies Aren’t Always the Answer
Don’t rely on pharmacies for identification as not all pharmacists are mycologists. Instead, seek out local mycology clubs for guidance.
7. Online Forums
Websites like champis.net are great for sharing knowledge and getting answers to your mushroom-related questions.
8. Where to Find Porcini/Cèpes Bolets
Look in coniferous, deciduous, or mixed forests, especially in regions like Aveyron, Lozère, Gard, and Aquitaine. Check around the bases of wild oak trees.. Avoid porcini that grow under pine trees; these are know to be fatter and too spongy.
9. Gear Up
Dress sensibly for the woods (hiking shoes, comfortable clothes) and bring the right tools (a knife with a brush and a curved blade) and a basket.
10. Know the Law
Mushrooms belong to the landowner on private property. In forests, prefectural decrees may regulate foraging. Avoid roadside areas!
11. Use Your Senses
Use your senses to find and identify mushrooms—their smell can be a distinctive clue.
12. Seasonal Awareness
Each mushroom species has its season, ranging from a few weeks to several months. Porcini, chanterelle, morille are available at the same time. The ideal mushrooms environment shall be wet and somewhat sunny. Though here, mushroom picking shall only happen at the time of the full moon. Just like root drops do best when planted in the waning half of of the moon’s cycle. The gravitational pull of the moon brings more moisture to the surface of the soil and creates perfect conditions for plump porcini, in much the same way as the the moon affects the tides.
13. Off the Beaten Path
With experience (and caution), seek out rarer species, always with a guidebook in hand.
14. Animal-Eaten Mushrooms
Avoid mushrooms that have been nibbled on or are too spongy. Just because an animal eats a mushroom doesn’t mean it’s safe for humans.
15. Beware of Lookalikes
Some species have similar-looking poisonous counterparts. The guide “200 Edible or Toxic Mushrooms” can help distinguish them.
16. Steer Clear of Deadly Amanitas
Avoid deadly amanitas at all costs. Some amanitas are edible but of limited culinary value, except for the slightly sweet-flavored yellow amanita.
17. Proper Storage
Mushrooms perish quickly and should be stored in a cool place, separated, and not in plastic bags which promote bacterial growth.
18. Cleaning Mushrooms
Clean the porcini with a damp cloth or use a brush. Separate the caps from the stems. Stems shall be peeled. Unlike many believe, most mushrooms can be washed under water or quickly soaked in lukewarm water. Lay mushrooms on tray lined with paper towels and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
19. Finding the Right Recipe
For great mushroom recipes, keep it simple. Wild mushrooms are very easy to cook and the best way to prepare them is sautéed for about 10 minutes (do not overcrowded the pan), in some fat like duck fat, butter, oil and season towards the end with salt, pepper and persillade (a mixture of chopped Italian parsley, shallots and garlic).
20. Preserving Leftovers
Some mushrooms can be dried or frozen for later use or turned into velouté/soup.