Cêpes in the Forest

With the exceptionally warm weather recently and lack of humidity, the politically correct mushroom hunting season has yet to start. It normally coincides with the opening of the hunting season in France and that started this weekend.

Once the children are back to school and the temperatures start to fall again, add a little humidity and some moonlight and you have the perfect recipe for the French favourite mushroom to spore.

The Cêpe de Bordeaux (Bolet Edulis), Edible mushroom:![](upload://hpTpuQ4XbLyyVxE8HSc9m0Wa2lU.jpg)

So how do you find these little fellows? They prefer to lurk around at the base of oak and chestnut trees and they literally spring up overnight in the late August / September / beginning October period, following any rain showers.

They are quite difficult to spot as their cap is exactly the same colour as the leaves that have fallen around them. Once you do start finding the mushrooms, you get the second problem and that is correctly identifying them as they have very close cousins that hang about in the same kind of areas acting as decoys.

One of the many Non-Edible varieties:

A good way to learn how to tell the difference between edible and non-edible is to go mushrooming with someone who knows the difference. You will start to get the feel for the look of the mushroom.

Generally the edible cêpes have a fat bulbous stem white in colour as in the first image, whereas the non-edible variety have thinner stems which are more brownish white in colour as in the second image. The non-edible variety also bruises very easily, with the stem often discolouring fairly quickly.

The point to remember is that there are a plethora of non-edible mushrooms and you need to ensure that what you have picked is edible. The best way to do this is to take them to your local pharmacy who will confirm or otherwise the species, and whether it is edible.

When out mushrooming and with the vast tracts of forest available in France, please also remember that very often you are on someone else’s property, so respect it as you would generally respect the countryside. Second, when you are out mushrooming don't forget that it will generally be the main hunting season too and you are all playing on the same pitch - so be careful. If in doubt steer clear of any forest if there is a hunt on.

Once you have collected and identified your cêpes, there are a hundred and one things you can do with them.

To start off, you need to make sure all the creepy crawlies have left the mushroom. I have found no better method than putting the mushrooms in a clear mixing bowl and covering it with cling film. Within a couple of hours the beasties will all have come out of the mushrooms.

The French as soon as you mention cêpes cry as if in unison “Vous allez faire une bonne omelette.”

But that’s all far too boring. I prefer to caramelise some onions in the frying pan, add the coarsely chopped cepes until they start to sweat, some garlic, some parsley and add some double cream. This can be very easily be served with with a side helping of duck breast and some Sarladaise potatoes.

Cepes can be kept very easily either by cooking and conserving them in sterilised jars, but I find that by far the best method is simply to freeze them uncooked.

It's not exactly Cêpes in the City, but it can be good fun!

Happy hunting.

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When I went to short mat bowls today I found that one of our members can identify 100 types of fungi without a problem. He promised me that my coulemelle is fine to eat, so I will later this evening. Just when I find someone perfect to sort out my fungi I find that he and his wife have sold up and are moving next week - how unlucky is that?! I am going over to their home at the weekend to show him the photographs I took of fungi in my lane last Autumn and hopefully he will tell me what I can eat or not this year.

More like 'Beware of stampeding mushroom collectors' ;-D

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That must be the most inappropriately phrased invitation I have ever seen!

Like too!

Kerry "Like"


it definitely looks like a coulemelle or macrolepiota procera and they are delicious. Some cooking tips:

you remove the stem, because it is too woody to eat; don't wash the mushroom, but clean it (if necessary) with a soft mushroombrush; it is easier to tear them in the size you want (pretty large pieces) then to cut them; you need to have quite a lot of them to make a good dish as they reduce a lot once the water has evaporated.

Where I live in the Perigord Vert we have not seen them yet as it is too dry, but last year, once the rain started to fall in the fall they were very abundent. We picked many, many baskets full and in the end did not know what to do with them. Freezing them raw is no good, but freezing the prepared coulemelles works very well indeed. So throughout winter we enjoyed the mushrooms.

Mind you, they tend to grow every year at the same spot (like so many mushrooms), so try to remember these places or create a little secret mushroom notebook where you note all your successful treasure hunts. But.....keep it locked up and NEVER tell your neighbour!

If it wasn't so a) late, b)far, c) just one and d) got nothing to go with it, I would eat it. On the other hand, contact your lawyer and sue me if you're dead when you wake up tomorrow ;-D.

Must go Philips and Mabey books hunting, it is one of those times of the year. Mabey used to be almost a bible that I was rarely without. Philips 'Wild Food' has photographs on pages 122 and 123, open before me but I know the parasol well enough anyway. Eat before it goes soggy.

I've got the Philips Mushroom/Fungi guide somewhere but I've searched and searched and can't locate it. Are you sure enough for me to eat it, Brian? Or would you rather not take that responsibility? lol

Sandra, definitely a parasol. You really need quite a few, they are delicate but nice. Wow, must find my Food for Free and also Roger Philips 'Wild Food' because the pictures are better than Mabey.

We've found coulemelle too and also, if you are lucky, girolles. I enjoy looking for mushrooms but am not wildly excited about eating them, they all seem a bit bland to me.

I'd always check with someone who does know for certain.

I've just found what I think is a parasol mushroom - my neighbours think it's a Coulemelle - which is the same thing. I shan't eat it as I don't know for certain although it looks absolutely the same as the photo in my Richard Mabey book Food for Free.

It's annoying not to be certain as although it's a bit broken there's so much of it that it would make a good snack on hot buttered toast.

Thanks, Nick. It's just about my hamlet, animals, garden, interests etc. etc. It enables friends and family in the UK to keep up with what I do with my life away from them and lets me keep at least some of my photos in a place I can find them easily.

I like to add a squeeze of lemon juice to mushrooms too - it just lifts them a little.

I take your point, but where I think the French do do them justice is in a sauce or simply with garlic and parsley and then onto some oiled bread.

On the point of recipes, hohum and in for a pound as a penny. I believe that most of the French recipes are bland and highly overrated. It strikes me that there is more ritual involved in finding the things than in making any kind of culinary coup therefter. Now Italian use of fungi and yum, yum, yum and perhaps a yum for luck. They make exactly the same fuss, go to all lengths to hunt for the things and then they make it worthwhile. They also dry them and have herbs they put in as that happens so that the wonderful taste and aroma of Italian fungi are a dream.

Now you may all shoot me down, cross fingers and shout blasphemy and all that. I am going to hide behind my Swiss ITALIAN OH's frock!

Ermm yes...and I'm doing being "off" both very well - but I shouldn't be

Er, 'scuse me - weren't you meant to be off working or writing something...?

I think that's another reason they are so likeable, you can invent characters for them

Excellent, Nick. I will be on the look-out for little dudes wearing plain brown Bill & Ben hats with big fat white bottoms. Anything else will be left to grow peacefully.