Living (or dying) off the land?

As I strolled through some nearby woodland taking in nature’s beauty, I was suddenly confronted by one of her gastronomic delights in the form of what I believed was a majestic boletus edulis, or cèpe, almost blocking my way. Now I’m certainly no expert (as you are about to learn), but this was a beautiful specimen bigger than any I have seen before, and would you believe, worm and maggot-free.

Although I had pre-arranged dinner plans for the next couple of days, I couldn’t resist plucking said mushroom which I lovingly cradled in my hands back home, to pop in the fridge for another day.

Well, on subsequently showing my find to an envious neighbour, apparently a self proclaimed mycologist, I was suddenly overcome with generosity, and before I had time to contemplate any regrets, I found myself parting company with my treasure.

Three days later I learnt that my neighbour and her family of four had spent two nights in hospital suffering the dreadful gastric effects symptomatic of eating boletus satanas (Satan’s cèpe). This particular poisonous variety starts life a creamy white colour, but over time, it turns ochre rather similar to the edible cèpe such that misidentification can and indeed did occur.

Fortunately my neighbours made a full recovery and we can now even laugh at our combined complacency, although wild mushrooms will definitely be off the menu for all future dinner parties.

So, just a cautionary tale as the cèpe season will soon be with us. I’m sure I don’t need to preach the dangers of foraging for mushrooms as there is plenty of sound advice abounding, but mistakes can still happen.

Bon appétit

Hi Barbara - Would probably put me off pizza for life, or at least blue pizzas ha ha

Modern pharmacists have as much knowledge of edible fungi as anyone else. If you take some mushrooms to the pharmacy to have them checked, they take some book on mushrooms to verify.

But for the cêpes / satan's cêpe there's a very simple, foolproof method. Just break of a small piece of the mushroom-head, if the inflicted "wound" turns a blueish green then it's the satan one.

My French wife's grand-mother (92 and bent as a windswept tree) is taking me on mushroom hunting raids. There's a lot to learn,but a sauté of freshly picked mushrooms is worth all of it....

During a visit to our local restaurant the owner who speaks perfect english and once had a restaurant in Canada asked us if we had been mushroom picking explining that if not sure keep all mushrooms seperate do not let them touch as spoors can contaminate and take them to a pharmacy in town that will identify

Bugger, missed it. Let me know the next time you decide to go mushrooming.

ouch, I went out this morning, filled a shopping bag of wild mushrooms, mostly ceps and chantrelles, but other things in there tooo, made a soup, and am thankfully still alive to tell the tale.

Although I was on the roof in my underwear, winging the national anthem of Cameroon for a couple of hours this afternoon.

I eat quite frequently with our local pharmacist & he can't even make up his mind what he wants for lunch.

"The only good fungi expert is a live one" Old Breton saying. (not really I just made it up)

We have a nine year old kid here who my wife helps with his English. He is reckoned to be an expert on fungi but as I keep pointing out to him "you are only nine sonny, plenty of time yet to get it wrong"

A word of warning re: asking the pharmacy to check them : we took some freshly picked mushrooms which we thought were ordinary field mushrooms (brown gills, creamy white stalks and stems) to our local pharmacy as the creamy white parts were whiter than we thought they should be and the gills a bit paler. He had a reassuring and impressive mushroom display in the window. He assured us they were fine. They were not, they are what are known colloquially in English as "Yellow Stainers" - after a while the base where you cut them bears a yellow stain. We were fairly sick, though not dangerously.

I particularly recommend a brilliant book by Roger Phillips 'Mushrooms' for help with identification, also his website We've used it lots and have for years enjoyed collecting cèpes and chanterelles (girolles) every year - and genuine field mushrooms! Lucky you if you find a Caesar mushroom - it's fit for an emperor !

I rely on my brother-in-law. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of them, the type of place which type grows in, how to cook them and probably how long you have if you eat the wrong ones. If he lived a bit closer I would consider hiring him out for the day!

Bolet de satan is instantly recognisable as it goes bright blue if you scratch it. So if you aren't sure scrape it a bit with your trusty mushrooming stick.

Martin always take your mushrooms to the have them checked out.

What on earth would have happened if you popped them on one of your


I, too, was going to ask if it's possible to have it identified by someone at the pharmacy as they do in Italy. Good to know, in case we ever find something that looks remotely edible, but for now I'm happy to pay for a punnet from the supermarket as I know they will be safe.

I would never eat a wild one without having it checked first by the local chemists - they can tell you what it is and if necessary, to avoid it all costs!

Am I wrong, or can you take them to the pharmacy for identification?

You can take mushrooms to the chemist and they will tell you whether they are safe or not to eat. Bon appetite!


We are always being given mushroomy things! by the local chasseurs but knowing nothing about fungi & being ever the pessimist I have hit on a foolproof plan. I feign lack of hunger, let my wife try them & if she is OK the next day my hunger seems to return:-)