It's officially autumn and it's the perfect time to get out in the forests of the south of France and have a rummage through the undergrowth for seasonal mushrooms. Be careful which varieties you eat though… 87 people have already been taken ill in France for eating the wrong ones.
Following the warmth of September and then the heavy rainfall of October, conditions for mushrooms couldn’t be better. From oyster to girolles, cèpes and even morilles, ’shrooms are thriving this autumn on French soil.
So much so that reported cases of poisoning are remarkably high, leading the ANSES (Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation) and the DGS (Direction générale de la santé) to release a set of guidelines for those hoping to snaffle a chanterelle without getting sick.
- Only pick mushrooms in peak condition.
- Only eat mushrooms you are sure are safe. Some can be extremely toxic and closely resemble edible mushrooms.
- If you have the slightest doubt about intoxication, do not eat them. Take them to a specialist (some pharmacists may be able to help).
- When picking, make sure to take the entire fungi so as to better identify the type.
- Keep your mushrooms separate after picking.
- Clean your mushrooms thoroughly before you eat them.
- Do not give mushrooms to small children, pregnant women or the elderly unless you are completely sure of their safety.
- Do not pick mushrooms from polluted areas (road sides or industrial and waste management areas).
- Be careful how you store your mushrooms. Keeping them in a plastic bag will speed up purification.
- Keep them in the fridge and consume within two days from harvesting.
- Be sure to cook your mushrooms well before eating.
- Never eat wild mushrooms raw.
However, if you’re confident in your identifying abilities, there’s a new tool in France to help your harvest prosper.
Christophe Boutet from Besançon is the creator behind a new online map that points out where mushrooms can be found and what species are growing there. Other users can add their harvesting spots too and local posts include:
“Cèpes, girolles, lactarius, champignons de Paris (portobello)… A very good stop with new growth every day,” from one passionate mushroom hunter just north of Antibes.
“Sanguins (saffron milk cap or red pine mushroom),” written in by a fan in the hills above Mandelieu.
“Disgusting mushroom… Phallus impudicus (common stinkhorn),” by someone unlucky enough to encounter this stinky fungi to the south of Montauroux.
“Chantelles in tubes,” from one poster in the Tanneron region.
Responding to criticisms from members of the public who said mushroom harvesting sites are guarded secrets that have been kept for generations, Christophe told French newspaper L’Est Républicain, “I campaign for transparency in institutions. For me, a society that doesn’t share solidifies. I want to demystify things that are relatively common.”
As many as 10 different sites in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region have already been listed so get outside and explore!
To visit the interactive map, please click here.