Sunday, 9 October 2011

Magic Mushrooms!

A few weeks ago I spent a whole afternoon photographing mushrooms that had sprouted overnight following a few days of rain. There are said to be over 3000 different types of mushroom in France and although I've only captured a tiny fraction of these there are many types I've never seen before … so many different shapes, colours and sizes!

Mushrooms can sprout here at just about any time between March – November and more often than not after wet weather. Only a few of the many types are edible and although it was a plan to gather some to fry up and accompany a choice piece of steak for my tea, after being totally confused by the pictures of what you can eat, what folk say you can eat and what I'm actually seeing, I've decided not to risk a pricey trip to Montmorillon A & E and to stick to 500g box of button champignons from Aldi!
Maybe next year I'll get my wicker basket out, and yes it does have to be a wicker basket! Such is the interest in gathering edible mushrooms here that every region, department and local commune in France have set down rules to guide the would be fungi forager. The following is more or less standard when setting out -

  • Mushrooms must be a certain size before being picked so that they have a chance to release their spores
  • Tools of any sort are forbidden with the exception of knives
  • A knife must be used to cut the stem so as not to damage the mycelia (underground bit!)
  • Mushrooms must be carried in a wicker basket to let the spores fall out and help propagation

Typical French pragmatic quirkiness! On the darker side it's thought on average 30 people die every year from consuming dangerous mushrooms (mainly due to the infamous death cap mushroom)

No idea whether any of the mushroom pics here are edible or dangerous and I'm hoping some bright fungus lover will help me out and save me the time of tagging these pics!

Last but not least, I stumbled upon this monster (below) whilst walking in a field. It's a Giant Puffball and most definitely edible. I was so intrigued by this specimen that I did pick it (no doubt violating several local byelaws!) and carried it home, a feat in itself because it was the size of a football!

In the end this beast remained uncooked because when sliced open it was a bit yellowish inside, not a good sign - shame, they're supposed to be quite tasty fried in batter!

If you're in France and not sure whether a mushroom you've picked is edible, take it along to any pharmacy - they're all trained to identify the good and the deadly!

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