Saturday, 28 September 2013

I'm a fungi really!

Today I found our first ceps (Penny Buns) of the season. A reason for great celebration. Not quite the 2Kg found by my friend Baptiste or the table full of chanterelles found by Fugue, but we’re happy with them as this marks the beginning of the mushroom scramble that takes over the region in mid-autumn. I therefore thought I’d blog about mushroom hunting.
Finding, cooking and eating wild mushrooms is one of life’s great pleasures however I feel it’s time for a DISCLAIMER. This is NOT a set of instructions on how to hunt for wild mushrooms. All the mushrooms mentioned here have “look-a-likes” with side effects ranging from a bad belly to death and a nasty one at that, as you first suffer from sickness and bad guts, recover then die a week later as your liver and kidneys shut down! If you want to go, get several books and book yourself onto a course. Don’t read this then go out picking, you have been warned.
We’ve been dining on parasol mushrooms for about a fortnight now. They are a great mushroom, easy to find (pasture and roadsides), fairly distinctive and taste good. We dried some last year and often add a couple to soups and stews. Fresh, good with butter and garlic, dipped in batter and fried or in a soup.

Three stages of the parasol. They are particularly good in their infancy (Bottom left)

Last year we got lucky finding several ceps and another edible bolete, Bay Bolete. The ceps are the most prized of all the wild mushrooms fetching a hefty price both dried (porcini) and fresh (If you’re lucky enough to have a market who stocks them.) You might fool the likes of you and I with a Bay Bolete but a grizzled old French paysan will not be tricked.  Superficially they look the same but there is much more contrast between stem and cap of a cep. That’s not to belittle the humble Bay Bolete which is just as tasty but when you know exactly where to find ceps and have been eating them for years you can afford to be picky!

The little basket is also this weeks top tip recovery!

I tried Hen of the Wood for the first time this year as well. A very impressive bracket style mushroom found on old oak trees and stumps. Texture like chicken as the name suggests but with a strong mushroomy flavour. We’ve also found shaggy and/or common inkcaps. However as the common one causes problems if you drink alcohol (including within the last 36hrs) and I can’t tell them apart I’ve not tried them! I also found morels but never got round to eating them as they were looking past their best, but at least I know where to find them next year.