I took to the woods to forage for mushrooms well before autumn had reared its golden-red head this year. I was in Sweden at the end of August, usually a time when I would be scrambling around the bushes with my granny-ish berry picker (a scoop with teeth which allows you to grab multiple lingonberries off a bush in one sweeping movement, leaving the bush in tact. Genius.) But, alas, their berry season was a bit of a wash out, as it was across much of continental Europe. The summer had been pretty wet but warm. Not so good for my berry antics, but optimal for my mushroom hunting.
On the damp mossy floors of the Swedish woods of Småland, the fungi were literally bursting from the ground. It didn’t take a great deal of hunting to come across vast patches of ground where massive ceps (or porcini) were crying out to be cut from their roots. There were plenty of other white caps embedded in the soil and odd looking dark-red spotted ‘shrooms covering the ground, but not being an expert in mushroom identification, I stuck to what I knew. Something I would strongly advise to anyone planning on foraging without a guide.
I wasn’t the only one taking advantage of the epic conditions to gather basketfuls of ceps however. A local hunter-gatherer had filled those giant blue Ikea bags with an incredible selection, some of which he was selling to the nearby restaurant, others were to become dinner. He was drying some, preserving others under oil – he was in for a winter full of wondrous mushrooms. If you want to see what I got up to with my basket full of ceps, check out my video below that we shot on location.
Here in London we are lucky enough to have access to some amazing wild mushrooms during the autumn season. Turnips at Borough Market showcase a vast number of them, from spindly black trompettes to pied de mouton, girolles and chanterelles. Natoora also have a good selection. Sauté them in butter,with thyme and garlic and top with some Neal’s Yard goat’s curd and you are in for a serious gastronomic treat.
My Side Orders column in Saturday’s Daily Mail features a selection of mushroom foraging-related items, so be sure to pick up your copy of Weekend Magazine on the 8th of November.
For other inspiration, check out these recipes:
The Guardian round up 10 Top mushroom recipes
This terrine forestiere from The Little Paris Kitchen still remains one of my favourite things to do with fungi.
And finally, a fun infographic on cooking and selecting mushrooms