Mushrooms and Fungi

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There is little to beat the excitement of the arrival of new season mushrooms in my kitchen. Those trays of girolles, chanterelles, cepes and trompette perfume the air with the smell of damp misty mornings in early autumn. Wild mushrooms for me are autumn; they go hand in glove with game, make delicious risottos, soups and warm salads.
Mushrooms have long been the object of mythology and religious taboos and the picking of them a type of Russian roulette to the uninitiated.

Mushrooms are fungi, which live off organic matter living or dead. They favour damp dark places such as forests where leaves litter the floor. Some varieties grow along paths, pastures and woodland clearings and morels can be picked in the spring but it is those damp early mornings in our local woods that are most commonly associated with mushroom picking.

Mushrooms should be picked early in the morning to avoid being beaten to the chase by other predators, insects as well as other humans. Avoid very wet mornings, the mushrooms will absorb too much water and become tasteless as a result, they already hold a good deal of water, which is why they lose their volume during cooking.

There is a great reluctance by many to pick mushrooms and although the number of poisonous species is relatively small it is always advisable to go with someone who has a good knowledge of the subject.
Mushrooms do not last particularly well but do not worry if you find yourself with a glut of them. Many types dry extremely well or they can be pickled or frozen.

Picking and Preparation

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