Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mad about Mushrooms

This post took a while in the making cos I keep finding new mushrooms photos to be added but I think I'm going to stop for now & if there are any more, I'll just post again else I might never get this published.

Quite a few of you have asked me about my mushroom hunting jaunts so I thought I'll do a post on it. I'm certainly no expert & I'm still learning as I go along. But here's what I do know :

1. Use a wicker basket to carry your mushrooms. The theory is that it will allow the spores of the mushrooms to escape to start new patch & will also keep them fresher. Mushrooms sweat & if you keep them in a plastic bag, you'll reach home with a wet mess (I know this cos I speak from experience).

2. Cut not pick. Although we use the term to pick mushrooms, we actually don't pick them from the ground. You should always cut them at the stem just above the ground. That way you will not disturb the mushroom spawn allowing it to grow back. Besides it would be easier to clean without the load of mud attached to them. There are special mushroom knives out there but a regular knife would suffice. And for mushrooms like the mousserons that have small stems, it's easier with a pair of scissors.

3. The best time to look for mushrooms is when there is warm sun after a bit of rain & preferably when there's a full moon - apparently that's when mushrooms sprout most.

And the most important of all, if you don't remember anything else, remember this

4. When in doubt, don't pick. Only pick those that you are 100% sure without a doubt. For beginners, it's always best to go with someone who know what they are doing. In fact that's how I learn. It's very different comparing mushrooms in the wild to a picture in a book. Mushrooms have many lookalikes & sometimes dangerous cousins. It's better to err on the side of caution - you'd rather throw away what could be perfectly good mushrooms than get really sick.

Just to give you an example - I picked quite a few what I thought were chanterelles or girolles & called Rene to check. But when I told him where I found them, he said they are not known to grow in that type of vegetation. So I threw them away instead.

In France, you can also bring your mushrooms to the nearest pharmacist to have them verified - they are trained to tell you what's edible or what's not.

Very often mushroom hunting will take you into the woods & off the beaten track. Stay clear if hunters are in the vicinity & even if you don't find any, just enjoy your forage in the forest.

The woods behind our house turned out to be very fertile ground for mushrooms. I went earlier this week & here's what I found.

The one on the right's called Amanite tue-mouche
It's rated 2 skulls in my mushroom book ie. dangerous

The one on the right looks like wood ear fungus

These were what I thought were chanterelles. I probably wouldn't have died from eating them but might have gotten a very bad tummy ache

I love how they seem to sprout out of nowhere

These look like something that you would find under the sea

With the exception of the faux chanterelles, I didn't pick any of these. Some of them might be perfectly good mushrooms but until someone tell me otherwise, I'd stick to what I know best even tho it may be limited to a handful of mushrooms. Better safe than sorry.

No comments: