Why France May Be the Best Place to Pick Mushrooms

France is one of the best countries for mushroom picking
France is one of the best countries for mushroom picking | © Lucie Hosova/Unsplash
Alex Ledsom

After the grapes have been harvested and autumn sets in, it is officially mushroom season in France. This hugely popular pastime has strict rules but it can be a wonderful way to try to forage for your food. Here’s what you need to know and be aware of when hunting for mushrooms.

Why do the French love to pick mushrooms?

There are over 3,000 different varieties of mushrooms in France and mushroom-picking is a wildly practised activity for families and individuals alike. It’s hugely satisfying to be able to forage for food yourself and then prepare a wonderful meal. The most prized funghi is the truffle, which can sell for huge amounts of money and is usually shipped to the best French restaurants as soon as it is picked.

French mushrooms

How to avoid poisonous mushrooms

Forest funghi

What you need to know about mushroom-picking

There are specific government regulations regarding mushroom picking. You must carry your mushrooms in a wicker basket (plastic bags ferment and damage the mushrooms), they must be picked only when they are a certain size and they must only be cut with a special knife with a curved blade. What’s more, you must always leave some of the mushroom behind (cut them so that you leave the stem and spores in the ground) so that they can regrow the following year (if you find truffles, you must put some of it back in the ground for the same reason). You must also make sure that you are not on private property, which is obviously forbidden. If you can speak French, check out the government guidelines here. You can pick mushrooms on any public land and if you’re unsure, check with the local mairie (town hall).

How to prepare picked mushrooms

Most people brush them with a cloth – the key is not to allow too much moisture into the mushroom before cooking. If you do wash them, allow them to dry for a few hours before putting them in your favourite risotto, sauce and soup recipes (it gives a nutty flavour). Remove the pores from under the mushroom cap before cooking and you’ll get a better result when you cook them in smaller batches with less moisture.

Mushroom picking in France is hugely popular

The best times and places for mushroom-picking

Mushrooms are seasonal and in France, they are most likelyto appear from mid-August to mid-September. The best weather to pick mushrooms in is after rain, followed by sunshine (as fresh mushrooms might have grown overnight). Mushroom-picking can get very competitive, so no one will usually divulge the good spots! For truffles, you should definitely head to the south-west France. For all other mushrooms, explore the public forests. A good indication of whether there are any mushrooms nesting inside will be the number of cars parked on the forest edge; you might find that others have got there before you!

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