Autumn is nearly there and with it, mushrooms start to appear in the forests. One thing French people love to do on Sunday afternoons, when the weather is lovely, is to go hunting for mushrooms. Walking in the forest, while enjoying its relaxing sounds and lovely smells, is such a lovely thing to do. Here is our lowdown to mushroom picking.
Before you go for a walk
If you go for a walk in the forest on a sunny afternoon during the week-end, there are chances that you’ll meet people with baskets and sticks. Don’t be alarmed, these people are only after… mushrooms. It is a popular occupation during the months of autumn, so much so that in order to protect the forest biodiversity, some rules were created. For instance, some part of a forest might be private so you need the authorisation of the owner before picking anything. If the forest is public, then you are allowed to take up to 5 kilos of mushrooms (this could change depending on where you are.) Don’t take more than 5 kilos or you could be fined up to €45,000!
It is also very important to know your mushrooms; you wouldn’t want to end up at the hospital, right? You can always turn to reference books or download an app that can help you identify them. If you are a beginner, the best thing to do is to go with someone familiar with edible and toxic mushrooms. Local associations often organize outings that can help you familiarize yourself with mushroom knowledge – including the best spots and picking techniques.
This leads us to your hunting tools. A wicker basket is perfect to collect the mushrooms. Don’t use a plastic bag! This could ferment them and make them toxic. You might also want to use a stick to search for them in order not to touch any possible toxic mushrooms. You can then pick them up with you hand or use a knife. The ideal day to go mushroom hunting is on a lovely sunny day, a few days after a rainy day so do not forget to bring your boots and rain coat just in case.
While out looking for mushrooms
One important thing to remember is that you should pick mushrooms responsibly and not just take anything you see. If you don’t know the mushroom, leave it there instead of throwing it away later.
You also don’t want to pick the ones near a road or a polluted zone: mushrooms absorb pollution present in the ground. The old ones are also best left – they are important as they help the mushrooms reproduce healthily, they also won’t taste nice and could even be toxic.
And when finally you find a good mushroom, cut them at the base and leave the root in the soil so that it can regrow next year.
When you’re back from the forest
When you get back home, unless you were accompanied by an expert, you should always check your mushrooms before cooking them. In France, your local chemist will be happy to test any mushrooms that you have picked to ensure they aren’t toxic.
It is also best to eat the mushrooms while they are still fresh – a maximum of 2 days after picking. If you do not want to eat them right after collecting them, you can always dry them, freeze them or put them in jars.
A few mushroom spots
Wherever there is a forest, there is an opportunity for you to find mushrooms. But some spots might be especially interesting. In Montsoreau, a village ranked among the most beautiful villages in France, you can visit the Saut aux Loups mushroom farm. Here the mushroom harvest is not done in the forest but underground!
In the forest of L’Ill’Wald, located in the center of Alsace, you will find yourself in a most magical place: a mushroom paradise! Indeed, thanks to its particularly humid climate, mushrooms thrive in this forest and you’ll be able to find up to 80 species hidden among the fallen leaves.
If you are a girolle or a St George’s mushroom lover, then you must definitely go to the Forest of Hesdin in the Nord Pas de Calais! You might see some fairies in this wood as it is home to some hallucinogenic mushrooms so be sure to check your harvest before eating any!
Un champignon = a mushroom
Une forêt = a forest
Se promener = go for a walk
Un panier en osier = a wicker basket
Un bâton = a stick
Un couteau = a knife
Des bottes = boots
Un manteau imperméable = a rain coat