Six tasty autumn mushrooms you can find in French forests

September and October are mushroom season in France. We explain which delicious fungi you can pick and eat, and how to do so safely.

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Cep Mushrooms

Ceps (cèpe) have a stocky, balanced shape and an earthy, undergrowth-like smell. Their shape makes them easy to spot, especially on patches of moss where they often grow.

In terms of flavour, they are popular with top chefs and the general public in France. They have firm flesh and a strong smell.

(Image: Henk Monster / Wikimedia Commons)

Black Trumpet Mushrooms

Black trumpets are known as trompettes de la mort, or trumpets of death, in French. Nonetheless, they are edible.

They have a frilly, black cap and grow together in bunches, making them look a little like flowers. The youngest mushrooms are darkest in colour and are the best for use in cooking.

Their season peaks around Toussaint (November 1), and they taste delicious with parsley or in an omelette.

(Image: Ken-ichi Ueda / Flickr)

Blue Foot Mushrooms

Blue foot (pied blue) mushrooms are named for their pale, violet hue visible on the stem and underside of the cap.

While their colour makes them look slightly otherworldly and even toxic, they are safe to eat. They are more brightly coloured when young, fading to beige as they age.

Blue foot mushrooms have firm flesh and an intense, fruity taste and smell. They go well with fresh pasta, red meat and game.

(Image: John Carl Jacobs (JCJacobs) / Wikimedia Commons)

Girolle Mushrooms

The girolle is one of the most popular and well-known autumn mushrooms in France, and one of the most-searched-for by mushroom pickers.

They have a yellow-orange colour that is easy to spot against the dark, damp forest floors.

Girolle mushrooms have a firm cap and stalk, and a light, fruity taste. Small quantities can go a long way in poultry dishes or paired with crème fraiche.

(Image: Strobilomyces / Wikimedia Commons)

Hedgehog Mushrooms

Hedgehog Mushrooms are known as pied de mouton, or lamb’s foot, mushrooms in French. They are paler than girolle mushrooms and have distinctive, spiky gills under their caps.

They have a less pronounced flavour than girolle mushrooms but are easier to find as they grow from August to October and are easy for pickers to spot.

Hedgehog Mushrooms’ light flavour means they go well in all kinds of dishes including quiches, tarts, omelettes, with white fish and white meat. They mix well with crème fraiche to make sauces.

(Image: Katja Schulz / Wikimedia Commons)

Red Pine Mushrooms

Red Pine Mushrooms (le lactaire délicieux) are more common in Spain than France, although they do still grow in French forests.

They are easy to recognise as, once cut, they release a red-orange liquid from their white flesh.

Red Pine Mushrooms are often cooked in a pan with olive oil, without being washed beforehand, with a sprinkle of parsley on top.

(Image: H. Krisp / Wikimedia Commons)

Advice for mushroom picking in France

Only eat mushrooms that you have picked if you are certain that they are edible. If you are unsure about what you have picked, show your wild mushrooms to a mushroom specialist or a pharmacist who should be able to identify them, before cooking or eating them. In case of doubt, throw mushrooms away rather than eating them. Each year in France 3-4 people die from eating poisonous mushrooms.

Food safety body l'Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l'alimentation, de l'environnement et du travai (Asnes) has cautioned against using mushroom-picking smartphone apps. In a Tweet, Asnes says there is a “high-risk” of error when using apps to identify wild mushrooms.

They also advise:

  • Only pick mushrooms that are in good condition
  • Separate mushrooms that you have picked by species, so any poisonous mushrooms do not touch others
  • Avoid picking mushrooms near polluted sites
  • Avoid putting mushrooms in plastic bags as this makes them go off faster
  • Wash your hands well after you pick mushrooms
  • Take a photo of the mushrooms you pick so they can be identified if they do make you ill
  • Keep mushrooms in the fridge in a dedicated container

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