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Mushrooms, beyond delighting gourmets in many recipes, are also synonymous with picking in the woods, good times shared in the wild in search of them.
Mushrooms, whether fresh, dried or even canned, are often sought after by discriminating gourmets who want to relish their incomparable flavour. Picking mushrooms has become more and more popular, becoming an activity which many individuals practice, roaming through woods and forests to find this rare treasure. However, despite its pastoral charm, picking mushrooms is a sport that can’t be improvised and which it’s best to be well prepared for.
Here we’d like to offer you a few pieces of advice to help you be organised for the big day when you’ll be able enjoy the fruits of your labour in the best conditions, either alone, with friends, or with family.
As you’ve probably already heard, autumn is the ideal season for picking mushrooms because lots of different sorts are appearing during this time. However, picking mushrooms is actually something that can be done all year round. The perfect time is then on a sunny day, preferably 2 or 3 days after some rainfall.
In order to harvest as healthily as possible, it’s better to avoid the side of the road or polluted places, as mushrooms have the particular ability to absorb any pollutants present in the soil. Places which should always be preferred are forests where you can find the greatest variety of types. Nevertheless, do make sure to inform yourself beforehand because forests may belong to private owners. It is therefore necessary to request permission from the owner in advance or risk facing a large fine (up to €750 in France). When it comes to public forests, we strongly advise checking any local regulations beforehand in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
First of all, it’s essential to take a guide which has information about the different types of mushroom in order to help avoid picking a mushroom which could be toxic or inedible. For those who prefer the digital format, such a guide can also exist as an app. To be as prepared as possible, especially in the autumn, you should think about taking waterproof shoes and warm clothing. To carry your mushrooms, we’d advise you to take a wicker basket rather than a plastic bag which tends to make mushrooms ferment quickly, potentially making them toxic. Finally, don’t forget to take your N°08 Champignon pocket knife, which has a specialized blade in order to cut mushrooms perfectly.
If you’re a beginner in matters of mushroom picking, we’d advise you to go with someone you know who has some experience and knows the area. For your first time, you could also find out about any groups in your area who sometimes organise trips for mushroom picking beginners, giving you your initial experience in this field. However, whether you go alone or with others, always make sure to have your basket inspected by a pharmacist who can confirm whether your mushrooms can be eaten risk free.
Morel, boletus or chanterelle... Once you've found your precious treasure, it's time to pick it and take it home to enjoy. First of all, make sure it's not limp, worm-eaten or too old. If it is, don't touch it, as it could be toxic. If you're confident about the quality of your future harvest, tear off the entire mushroom. Don't cut it, as the stem will help you identify the mushroom (by shape, color, etc.). Next, take your Opinel N°08 Champignon knife and cut the base of the mushroom flush with the ground, using the curved blade for easy cutting. In this way, you'll enable the forest to produce new mushrooms in the very place where you retrieved your prized possession. Scrape or dust it on the spot too, so you can place it clean in your basket.
Mushrooms work like sponges so in order to conserve maximum flavour we strongly advise against washing them with a lot of water. To clean them, if you haven't done so previously or if there's any dirt left, take your Opinel N°08 Champignon knife again. Your knife’s boar bristle brush will allow you to remove dust and dirt. If you don’t manage to get everything off your mushrooms easily using the brush, you can also use the scraper on the back of the blade to gently remove any earth or other residue on your mushrooms. Then wipe your mushrooms using a damp cloth and you’re then ready to use your mushrooms to put your finest culinary skills on display. Note however that mushrooms should be eaten within 48 hours after being picked, unless you’ve decided to dry them or even to can them.
Photos Credits : Thierry Vallier, Aurélie Jeanette, Sirgiu Nista, Sandis Helvigs
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