It’s mushroom season in France
I’m a huge lover of mushrooms; such a perfect gift from nature! They come in all shapes, sizes, textures and flavors! People in France get crazy excited about ‘mushroom picking season’. It’s practically a national past time.
Mushroom season in France starts (depending on your region) around mid-August through mid-September – so only about one month. Oui, it is très short! This would explain the ‘mushroom frenzy’ so to speak.
Now before you get all excited, let’s set some ground rules. Mushroom picking is serious business in France, so we need to follow the laws and play fair. You are permitted to pick mushrooms in any public domain, unless otherwise posted. However, you may not enter on any private property. If you’re caught you could face a fine and also surrender your mushrooms¹ to the owners of the property.
There may be a limit as to how many mushrooms that you can pick in one day. Best advice is to check with the local Mairie about the guidelines before you start. You can take your basket of mushrooms to most local pharmacies where there are trained staff to help detect toxic and poisonous mushrooms. Each year it is recorded there are 1,000 mushroom poisonings². Some varieties can even be fatal, so there’s no room for error here!
Now on to the fun! Generations of French people have been combing the land every season for the best mushrooms to be picked! It is a very competitive sport. Don’t expect anyone to tell you where to go to find these fabulous fungi. It will never happen; even family members aren’t told where the ‘hot spots’ are. Many grandmothers can be found with flashlights and wicker baskets sneaking out of the house at 5:00 AM to collect their yearly stash.
Mushroom foraging is an all-day event and can go on for days at a time. People are happy to spend their day digging through dirt and leaves. Some hard-core mushrooms addicts even take vacation time off work to do so. I told you this was serious business.
Over 3,000 varieties of mushroom can be found in France. Of these, only a few are edible. Some of the favorite edible finds would include: Girolles, Cèpes, Morilles, Bolet, Chanterelles, Mousserons, Oronges, Coprin, Sanguins, Pleurote, Coulemelle, Pied de Mouton and (I saved the best for last) the beloved Truffle, my personal favorite.
So now I’ve figured that once you have your ‘shroom stash’ at home you’ll want to know how to clean them. Well, there’s a few ways to do it. Let me explain.
The traditional French method is to brush them or wipe them with a damp cloth, because they say the mushrooms absorb moisture and don’t cook the same if you wash them in water. Oui, they do absorb water, but in small amounts. If you wash them in advance and let them sit out at room temperature for a few hours, the effect will be negated. If you wash them and use them immediately, they will still cook up fine. It depends on how you want to use them.
If you want to develop a caramelized sautéed mushroom, then the less moisture the better. You can counter this by using fewer mushrooms in a pan and sauté them in small batches. The moisture given off releases the heat energy of the pan due to evaporation. So, the smaller the volume in the pan the more energy it takes to cook them.
You may also peel them if they have nice rounded tops. So get cooking!
I hope that this inspires you to get your fill of mushrooms this season, it’s a must!References:
1. Article 547 du Code Civil, sur le site Internet de Comment ça marche.
2. Risques d’intoxication liés à la consommation de champignons et recommandations de cueillette et de consommation, par sante.gouv.fr.
Image Credits: All photographs by Tina Chevallier-Popineau
1. A variety of Mushrooms at the Liberation Indoor Market in Nice, France.
2. Mix of Mushrooms from a local Vender at the Cours Saleya Market in Nice, France.
3. Sanguins & Cepes at the Liberation Outdoor Market in Nice, France.
4. Cepes at the Liberation Outdoor Market in Nice, France.
5. Girolles at the Liberation Outdoor Market in Nice, France.
6. Mousserons & Pieds de Mouton Mushrooms at the Liberation Indoor Market in Nice, France.