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Mushrooms from the Wild - Collecting Wild Fungi in France

Updated on September 28, 2012
Autumn is rich in the wild food harvest.
Autumn is rich in the wild food harvest.
Please note that all content and all photos, unless otherwise attributed, are the property of B L Walton and must not be reproduced without written permission.
Please note that all content and all photos, unless otherwise attributed, are the property of B L Walton and must not be reproduced without written permission.

Pick mushrooms fom the wild in Limousin S W France

Limousin in S W France is one of THE places to go hunting for mushrooms from the wild. You'll find mushrooms, but also all kinds of wild fungi.

Local people collect field mushrooms, but they seek the more highly prized cepes, big, fat round fungi called 'penny buns' in Britain, chanterelles, known as girolles in Limousin, and other edible fungi. Perhaps the most prized of all is the truffle, formerly hunted with pigs, but now truffle dogs are used.

Many of the locals know all the secret places where these fungi grow and the guard the secret through the generations. Still, you can find mushrooms and fungi easily, when the conditions are right. Come to Limousin in the autumn and enjoy the great mushroom and fungus hunt.

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My mushrooming story

This is how I first realised how rich the woods and fields are here for food from the wild. It was late October 2009 and I had a friend staying with me and we took our boys out walking in the hills around Videix. The weather was not its usual bright and sparkling self, but it wasn't cold and it wasn't raining either so off we set. We hadn't been walking for long before we began to notice mushrooms growing along the roadside. Of course we picked a few as we walked along. By the time we reached the road running along to the village of Saint Gervais, we were astounded to see the fields covered all over with a sprinkling of mushrooms, far more than we could carry. We made our way home and armed ourselves with carrier bags and baskets and set out to gather this marvellous wild crop.

That evening we gorged ourselves on mushroom soups and tarts. In the morning we gloried in fresh mushrooms cooked for breakfast sandwiches. We ate them as vegetables and put them into cassaroles. Finally, when we could eat no more, I cooked them and froze them. They came out of the freezer and I made them into soup right through the winter. This picture shows just a few of them.

Please note all photographs copyright of the author

Mushrooms are Healthy and Nutritious

A breakfast of lightly fried, freshly picked field mushrooms - What could be better? They can be used as an ingredient in a wide range of dishes, from sandwiches and salads to cassaroles and tarts. Much-loved by vegetarians and vegans, they are also a nutritious cooking ingredient and great for anyone on a diet to control their weight.

As part of your calorie controlled diet: Mushrooms are low in calories, (about 100 cal/oz), fat and high in fibre.

Nutrition: They are low in sodium, have 3 of the essential B-vitamins: riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid, and are high in potassium, which helps to lower high blood pressure and reduces the risk of stroke.

Health: Studies have shown that selenium is linked to decreases in prostate cancer and helps to reduce risk of breast cancer.

The landscape in Limousin is lovely even in early winter.
The landscape in Limousin is lovely even in early winter.
Lots of freshly-picked mushrooms for breakfast.
Lots of freshly-picked mushrooms for breakfast.

Field Mushrooms - Agaricus campestris

The landscape around Limousin is truly lovely. Gently rolling hills that are fresh and green for much of the year, lakes and rivers, wild flower meadows and woodlands. The farming methods are relatively 'old-fashioned' and few chemicals are used here resulting in a region teeming with wildlife, herbs flowers and funghi.

The local people keep fungus diaries, noting the weather conditions, so that they can calculate the exact time to go out foraging. In September and October you'll see cars parked at the edge of every wood and old ladies and men with baskets and sticks carrying their bounty home with them in sacks and willow baskets.

If you enlarge this photo you will see the Field Mushrooms Agaricus campestris .growing. The field mushroom comes from a large family, many of which are edible and is one of the more common one to be found in our shops and markets.

Select young mushrooms

When they are young the tops are creamy white with no visible 'skin' and the gills on the underside are the most beautiful shell-pink colour but start to turn brown with age. Always try to select mushrooms with pink gills - these are the best!


Ceps are a real favourite in the Haute-Vienne and the Dordogne
Ceps are a real favourite in the Haute-Vienne and the Dordogne

Cepes, or penny buns

Cèpes Boletus edulis

Part of a large group of edible and non-edible family the Boletus. Unlike the field mushroom which has gills underneath, the cèpe is yellow and spongy.

It is the cèpes the locals really prize. They know where they grow and guard the secret jealously! They grow around Videix and I have been lucky enough to find them, but take a short drive to the Dordogne, and you will find people selling them by the basket load!

Cepes - king of the Limousin fungi

Ceps
Ceps | Source

Chanterelles or girolles

Chanterelles Cantharellus cibarius

Frilly, yellow mushrooms that appear in the local markets and are known around here as Girolles.

A lovely collection of chanterelles

Chanterelles gathered in Limousin woods
Chanterelles gathered in Limousin woods | Source
Langue de Boeuf
Langue de Boeuf

Other edible wild funghi of our region

The French love their fungus, and they are looking for cèpes and Chanterelles but you can also find the Amethyst Deceiver and many other delicious additions to the pot.

Black Truffles (Tuber melanosporum)

The "black truffle" or "black Périgord truffle" is named after the Périgord region in France, not far south of us in Limousin. Indeed, Videix is situated within the Natural Park of the Perigord-Limousin, or 'Le Parc Naturel Régional Périgord-Limousin'. The Dordogne begins only 20 minutes from us. It grows in the oak woodlands and amongst the hazelnut trees both species typical of the Limousin-Perigord region.. Specimens can be found in late autumn and winter, reaching 7 cm in diameter and weighing up to 100 g.

The Périgord black truffle has been called "the diamond of the kitchen" (See the 18th-century French gastronome Brillat-Savarin) and in the Dodogne and Perigord they are hunted with dogs and, famously, with pigs. Highly prized, you must make an effort to try them when you are in this region.

Langue de Boeuf Fistulina hepatica

Beef Tongue fungus found in association with oak and chestnut trees. 'Meaty' in texture and peppery in taste.

Amethyst Deceiver Laccaria amethystea

Delicate little purple funghi that grow under a light cover of beech trees within our oak and chestnut woods. They are eaten in omelets in Limousin, but one that you have to find yourself, I've never seen them for sale here.

Visit France in the autumn and enjoy not only the mushrooms, but the fabulous autumn produce and craft markets, the apple harvest, and mile after mile of brilliant autumn colours in our chestnut and oak woodlands.

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Many towns in France hold funghi exhibitions where collections are made, identified and labelled. This one was held at Montbron, about half an hour from Videix
Many towns in France hold funghi exhibitions where collections are made, identified and labelled. This one was held at Montbron, about half an hour from Videix

Identification of wild fungi

Warning: Never eat any funghi unless you are sure that you can identify them correctly.

Every year in the autumn, the local French towns host an exhibition of fughi. The plants are collected, labelled and displayed in the local Town Halls. This is an excellent opportunity to see the name, description and plant all in one place and to be sure they are correctly identified.

Visiting one of these exhibitions is a wonderful way to learn, but go out and find fungus, buy a good guide to mushrooms, and always check with an expert before you eat them . In France the Pharmacist will give you advice.

You must also be careful not to pick where herbicides or chemicals have been used. If stock has been kept in the fields, cook the mushrooms thorougly. Parasites can be passed on by gathering mushrooms from sheep pasture.

How to Identify Field Mushrooms

Fist if it looks like a mushroom, smells like a mushroom and behaves like one - then it probably is one.Here are a few checks:

  • Check the colour of the top, underneath and stem - creamy white on top, pink or brown gills beneath.
  • Check the size, they grow up to 10 cm across.
  • Break it open and smell it - does it smell like a supermarket mushroom?
  • Rub the flesh gently, does it discolour or bruise? Mushrooms shouldn't turn any odd colours!
  • Where did you find it? Check the habitat. Field mushrooms tend to grow in the open, in fields and at the roadside, on the lawn.

Have a look at this video. (YouTube by eatweeds)

How to Identify Mushrooms and Other Edible funghi

Our newly converted gite is spacious with three en-suite bedrooms. It can easily sleep 7 adults.
Our newly converted gite is spacious with three en-suite bedrooms. It can easily sleep 7 adults.

Cooking with wild mushrooms and funghi

My French friend found and cooked these chanterelles.
My French friend found and cooked these chanterelles.

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