Posted by: kathandroger | November 19, 2014

First forest fungal foray.

I have always loved mushrooms, but have also been scared stiff of eating poisonous ones. The French, of course, love the things, and have developed a sixth sense for detecting them where the foreigner can see nowt. My friend Bernard was taught many years ago to identify all things edible on the forest floor, and loves nothing more than a swift forage. Now, Bernard is retired from the Pompiers(fire service), and tells me he once used to be very fit. He is now often crippled by a bad back and can do very little physically. Little that is unless it involves either a days’ hunting or several hours bending over in the forest! Accordingly, I offered him a respite from his disability by requesting a tutorial in grubbing about in difficult positions, and he affirmed immediately. We went off in his old white van (it is essential to have an old white van for hunting either animals or champignons in France) and were soon in a nearby wood. Bernard told me to be quiet as we shouldn’t really be there but everybody does it! Woods in France are very dense, and as the day was cloudy, I had no idea in which direction we were going, but we soon stopped under some chestnut trees and oaks. I picked up a few nice chestnuts, which is not,apparently, the done thing when one is after champignons, but my guide soon identified some edible fungal treats. They were “trompettes”-dirty brown spindly things which looked to me like lots of the other multiple mushroom melange. Bernard is a man of few words when in pursuit. The only words that morning were “bon” and “pas bon” which meant I had picked edible fungus (rarely) or deadly poisonous threats (frequently). We also found some “pieds de mouton”, which are supposed to look like sheeps’ feet, but if my sheep exhibit feet like that they are straight off to the zoo for strange animals. After about a couple of hours the invalids’ back was in good order still, and we had two basket loads to take home and proudly present to the also incapacitated wife.IMG_2837All had gone very well so far and my guide drank his customary beers and left us, with the helpful advice that all the crop needed thorough cleaning before being eaten or put in the freezer. He also added that to kill any bugs it is worth washing them in a dilute vinegar solution for a couple of minutes. Bloody bloody mushrooms! After what seemed like a lifetime of brushing bits off, surgically shortening stems, and discarding unwanted leaves, I really couldn’t be arsed to wash the things.

Well was it all worth the effort? We ate the sheeps’ feet for lunch and most of the trompettes in a lovely risotto later that day. We still have a bag or two in the freezer. Taste was good but nothing really exceptional, and certainly not as good as most of the veg we eat from our garden. Variety is the spice of life, and I shall probably go on the hunt again, but I shall not engage in mushroom mania.


Responses

  1. More or less my conclusions about the foraging business. A really good cep is really something, but they are fairly rare (ceps aren’t, but really good knock your socks off meaty flavoursome ones are). Nutrition wise you use more energy foraging for them than you gain by eating them too. The upside is that it can be a hugely entertaining afternoon out with French blokes who are fantastically knowledgeable about the forest.

  2. The full name of the “trompettes” is “trompettes de mort” – death trumpettes. In spite of the name, I believe they are edible. You have to be careful with some of the poisonous ones that you don’t get any juice on the edible ones, and poison yourself that way!
    Parasol mushrooms are good, too. Often grow by the roadside and get pretty big, by which time they may be full of bugs. Not worth the risk, unless you’ve a Bernard on hand.


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