As time has slipped by and summer has given way to autumn I have begun to find lots of mushrooms during my (normally early-morning) walks. Like the French, I love mushrooms. In fact, I briefly toyed with the idea of starting a business cultivating the edible exotics here: the shiitake, oyster, portabello and so on. A quick health scare made me realise the fiscal foolhardiness of such a venture in very short order, so I filed the idea in the “nice, but impractical” drawer of life’s aspirations!
Following a few good heavy showers, conditions were perfect for a fresh bloom of mushrooms. Suddenly, market stalls were selling ceps (at exorbitant prices), and then Sainte-Foy-La-Grande’s Place de la Mairie was filled with mushroom sellers every afternoon. Meanwhile, the crop of mushrooms I was seeing on my walks continued to grow. I couldn’t identify them and, knowing how poisonous some mushrooms are, I declined to pick them (just in case). I took photos instead.
Here are some of the mushrooms I have seen:
I think that it is probably safe to say that given the local avidity and penchant for mushrooms, those that were left to rot were inedible.
I did learn, though, that in France it is possible to take unknown/ unidentified mushrooms into a pharmacy, where at least one of the pharmacists is supposed to be able to tell you whether they are safe to eat, or not. In fact, I’ve tried it. And in so doing was taught a simple rule of thumb that may be applied to white-capped mushrooms; this is to gently score the cap with a finger-nail. If the flesh underneath turns yellow, then don’t eat it. If it stays creamy-white, then you’re good to go. I have lived to tell the tale, which means that Graham hasn’t been paying the pharmacist to give me bum advice in the hope of killing me off in my prime!
A wander through the Jardin Publique 300 yards from Les Terraces recently yielded a good handful of field mushrooms the other day, which was an unexpected bonus. It was clear that there were more ready to fruit in a few days, so I was gutted to discover during a walk yesterday that the Services Techniques department (responsible for town maintenance) had mowed all the grass and decimated the crop. However, such is the prolific nature of mushrooms when the weather conditions are right, a few hours later there were several new pearly white caps appearing through the grass. I’m hoping that a foraging trip in an hour or so will provide a handful of mushrooms for tonight’s supper.