Sunday, September 26, 2010

Where oh where are the mushrooms?

The end of the mushroom season is coming upon us quickly now, but, where or where were the mushrooms?

The fact is that this has been a terrible no-mushroom mushroom season. I have been living in Sologne – Loire Valley since 2000 and this is the worst year for fungus lovers.

Generally speaking from May to November Sologne Loire Valley is a Mecca for mushroom enthusiasts. In a “grand cru” year I have found not just the stellar standards such as “girolles” (chanterelles) and “cepes” (ceps) but also “pieds du mouton” (hedgehog fungus), “rosé des près” (field mushrooms), “coprins” (shaggy ink caps), “trompettes de mort” (black trumpets), “coulemelle” (parasol mushrooms) and the list goes on.

Just to name a few of the more exotic species that I have had the luck to find and savour:

“langue de boeuf” (beefsteak fungus) – this mushroom is well named in both languages. Beef’s tongue in French and beefsteak in English it is, indeed, shaped like a cow’s tongue and the size, roughly the same. And I cook it like a beefsteak, sliced thickly and grilled quickly.

“Chou-fleur” (cauliflower fungus) This large sponge-like mushroom is delicious cut into morsels, dipped in batter than lightly sautéed.

(orange peel fungus) The great thing about this funny looking one is that is lovely to see it’s brightly coloured orange on a drab winter’s in the forest! I throw it into whatever mushroom dish I am making to give colour and add just a bit of difference to the taste.

As for recipes here is one of my favorites, it is unusual, easy and parasol mushrooms (“coullemelle”) grow all over France! Collect just the caps of this mushroom after they have flattened out. They usually need very little cleaning. Depending on how many you will be cooking you will need one or two beaten eggs in a shallow dish. In another shallow dish mix breadcrumbs, herbs of your choice and Parmesan. Dip the whole caps first into the egg then into the herb cheese mixture. Lightly sauté them in olive oil. I serve them like small pizzas as an appetiser or as a side dish with dinner. In the French and English reference guides there are marked differences in the culinary appreciation of certain mushrooms.

It may not be too late this season, who knows, with just a little rain and sun…we might still have a season.

If you can’t find an expert to go with you take a reference book. I usually take both a French and an English one with me. Do not go racing through the forest picking every mushroom you see, most will be of no culinary interest or toxic. Pick only those that match what you find in the reference book. If you are picking ones that you do not know be sure to put each type in different bags so there will no contamination from a potentially toxic mushroom.

Here in France each pharmacist is equipped to be able to confirm your pickings during the season. This service is offered free so remember, if the pharmacist is busy please go back later. Michel, our pharmacist is very knowledgeable but once in awhile one of my finds has searching in his mushroom enclypedia and sometimes even then there are times he is not sure!

But remember not all mushrooms are edible and never never eat one if there is the least doubt.

Kristi Anderson is the orignal owner of Tea and Tattered Pages and until February 6, 2010 ran a bed and breakfast near Orléans. kristi anderson le saint jacques le coin perdu 15, place de l'église 45240 Ligny le Ribault