Autumn is the season of change. It’s harvest time and if you’re in France, it’s the best season to visit if you’re a real foodie. Think great wine, flavourful olives, bursting figs and forests full of mushrooms, just waiting for be foraged. Pack your fat pants, we’re off to France on a gastronomic adventure!
France is king when it comes to autumn gastronomy. The wine regions are bustling with activity as vintners bring in the year’s harvest, olive fronds are pulled down close to the grown, weighed down by all the olives on their branches, the figs… big, juicy and fleshy figs are ready to be picked and for those wandering the forests, mushrooms carpet the soft ground, an oasis for foragers.
Mushroom picking is considered a national pastime (read: sport) and now is the time to get involved in the hunt! Want to try your hand a foraging in France?
The first stop is the book store, to find yourself a guide to edible mushrooms. Pack your hiking boots, a fine and sturdy basket, a torch, and some warm clothes for traipsing through the forests in the early morning.
Next, brush up on the “laws” of mushroom picking in France.
- Only pick on public land. Private property is off limits! If you’re caught picking mushrooms on someone else’s land you may have to pay a fine or worse… surrender your stash of mushrooms to the owner!
- There are sometimes limits to the number of mushrooms you can pick in a single day. Check with the local Mairie about guidelines before you start.
- After picking, take your basket to the local pharmacy, where trained stall can help detect any toxic or poisonous ones.
- Mushroom picking is a seriously competitive sport in France, so don’t expect any locals to offer any tips on where to find the best ones.
- Mushrooms must be collected in wicker baskets so that their spores can fall out and make more mushrooms.
- A knife should be used to cut the stem so there is no damage to the mushroom.
Mushroom foraging is typically an all-day event, but it can go on for days at a time. Digging through dirt and leaves is surprisingly addictive!
Weeding out the edible ones
France has more than 3,000 varieties of mushrooms but only a dozen or so are actually edible. There are the ones you should be looking out for:
- Pied de Mouton
- …and the beloved and illusive Truffle
NOTE: There are around 1,000 mushrooms poisonings a year in France, and some are quite fatal, so don’t take any risks.
While you can find mushrooms in just about every wooded area of France, the south-west seems to be particularly good so grab a cheap flight to Limoges and let the forage begin!