Fancy some Fungi

It’s been a bumper autumn for mushrooms and toadstools this year. We’ve never had so many popping up in our garden and woodland. One haul alone weighed in at 1.5kg and it took two batches of mushroom soup to use them all up.

Some of our field mushroom collection

We are very cautious in our gathering, sticking to field mushrooms. We have a guide to edible fungi but we still don’t feel tempted to take a chance on a more exotic specimen, even if it our book assures us it is non-toxic. We might just have made a false identification. It’s a shame because we’ve come across some whopping great toadstools that could well be healthy and nutritious and feed us for a week, like this one.

Big toadstool

The French would frown on us. At this time of year you will often see an elderly person by the roadside clutching a plastic bag and poking through the grass with a walking stick to find a tasty toadstool. It does seem to be a pastime for older people. In ten years we’ve never seen anyone younger than a pensioner on a mushroom hunt.

However, even they get it wrong sometimes. According to the newspaper Le Figaro, there are several thousand cases of mushroom poisoning each year, with around 2% of them fatal. And not only that but mushroom gatherers put themselves at significant risk from trigger-happy hunters. There’s a forest fairly nearby that is a hunting reserve and which forbids people to come mushroom picking in it, just to be on the safe side. Next time we cycle through there I’ll take a photo of the signs.

We’ve even had gatherers on our land. We bumped into the previous owner once, and have seen another old fella firkling around near the big lake a couple of times now. Some landowners get very worked up about this. One chap recently thumped a lady mushroom picker on his land. That’s obviously going a bit far, and anyway, the law is on the side of the landowner. According to Article 547 of the Civil Code ‘natural fruits (…) belong to the owner by right of accession’. Fungi filchers are liable to a fine of up to €750. There is also a 5 litre limit to any wild produce that anyone can pick.

This year we also have a fine crop of home-grown mushrooms. For a few years Chris tried to cultivate oyster mushrooms but without success. However, after a lot of research and infrastructure creation, this year he’s nailed it. We’ve been enjoying plenty of his delicious elm and oyster mushrooms.

Elm mushrooms fruiting

Now that the weather is colder, the wild mushrooms are fewer and further between, but we’ll be tucking into fresh mushrooms for a good while yet. And home cultivation has the added bonus of no one taking pot shots at you while you’re picking them!