Feel like getting back to nature and foraging for your dinner? Most of us probably have a fear of fungi and prefer the safety of supermarket bought varieties – and with good reason, with so many incidents of mushroom poisoning reported every year. But if you’re feeling adventurous and you stick to our advice (below) for staying safe, you could be richly rewarded with your next autumnal supper. Why not give it a go?
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO PICK MUSHROOMS?
The best time to find mushrooms is after a spell of wet weather, the ideal conditions for their growth.
WHERE SHOULD I GO TO FIND THEM?
Mushrooms and fungi of all types can be found everywhere – from your own back garden, to grassy verges, hedgerows, forests, fields and woods. Many experienced mushroom foragers return to the same locations every year, but be aware – they can be very guarded when discussing their favourite hunting grounds!
WHAT ARE THE BEST MUSHROOMS TO PICK LOCALLY?
Bolets, Chanterelles, Pied de Mouton and Trompettes des Mort are the main edible mushrooms found in Switzerland and neighbouring France. It’s important to realise that most mushroom foragers I’ve come across only pick the species they know well and enjoy eating. Don’t be greedy and collect too much – other species eat mushrooms and they play an important ecological role in nature.
REMEMBER – DON’T TAKE RISKS
Every year, hundreds of people fall victim to mushroom poisoning in Switzerland, mainly due to not following the advice below:
Make sure you get any mushrooms you pick checked out at the SCAV (Le Service de la Consommation et des Affaires Vétérinaire, 22 quai Ernest-Ansermet, 1205 Genève) – open on Monday from 8.30am-10am and 4pm-6pm, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 4pm-6pm, closed Friday and at the weekend (these hours are from August until the end of October). From November to July you need to call to make an appointment on 022 546 5600. If you live in France (or are picking mushrooms in France) local pharmacies can check your mushrooms for you.
It’s best to cook your mushrooms before eating them, as unlike the supermarket bought common mushroom (Button Mushrooms/Champignons de Paris), wild mushrooms contain toxic substances if eaten raw.
Try to eat mushrooms only once a week, as they can be difficult to digest.
RECIPE FOR WILD MUSHROOM SOUP
My recipe for a delicious autumnal wild mushroom soup (using foraged or shop bought mushrooms):
60g shallots, chopped finely
a pinch of salt
400g wild mushrooms trimmed
570ml of water
290ml of chicken or vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground pepper
For the garnish:
100g of wild mushrooms
50-100gs of hazelnuts
A knob of butter
Sweat the shallots in the butter with a pinch of salt for 3 minutes. Do not let them colour.
Add the mushrooms and continue to sweat for 5 minutes.
Now add the water and chicken or vegetable stock.
Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes.
Prepare the garnish by frying the mushrooms and hazelnuts in a little butter while the soup is simmering.
Pour the soup into a liquidiser and blend until smooth. Place in a saucepan and using a hand blender whisk in the remaining butter. Correct the seasoning and serve garnished with the mushrooms and hazelnuts.