In October many French country people were busy gathering various types of fungi to dry, bottle or use in their cooking.gathering of edible fungi will resume in the Spring and I shall look forward to gathering Girolles or Chanterelles one of my favourites.
As they have been something I have come across in French life as well as in my studies of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) I have decided to publish my thoughts and research on this topic.
When I arrived in France back in October the grass in front of the house was covered with an abundance of different mushrooms and low and behold I was thrilled to find a cluster of Cèpes (Boletus edulis) outside the back door. They are considered a prize find, an ingredient in various foods. B. edulis is an edible mushroom held in high regard in many cuisines, and is commonly prepared and eaten in soups, pasta, or risotto. As they are so valued anyone owning woodland where cépes are abundance there are signs forbidding people to pick them and French Law would support the proprietor in prosecuting someone found picking mushrooms on their land.
The French are very secretive about where their mushrooms are located and are even reluctant to tell their close family and there is only one French friend who will allow me to go collecting mushrooms with her.
Cèpes have a distinctive appearance and can be usually recognised easily. However, some mushrooms can be confused with similar poisonous species and if unsure when picking them in France they can be taken to the local Pharmacist who is trained to identify Mushrooms which are edible. The mushroom is low in fat and digestible carbohydrates, and high in protein, vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre.
Many years ago I remember when I was working as a junior paediatrician several children were admitted following eating ‘magic mushrooms’ which grew on the local hillside in Wales.
‘Magic mushrooms’ is a slang word for psilocybe semilanceata or ‘liberty cap’ mushrooms (the most common type of ‘magic mushroom’ in the UK) and contain the psychedelic drugs psilocybin and psilocin. These mushroom, when eaten produce hallucinations and sometimes, can cause disorientation, fatigue,vomiting and can give abdominal pains or diarrhoea. There are records of their use in different parts of the World by many ancient civilisations. When these children were admitted together there was absolute chaos on the ward as they effected the children in different ways. Fortunately, no child had any long term effect.
They are Illegal to use
If you want to know more about the effects of these and also to draw attention an excellent website regarding any drug abuse:-
While medicinal mushrooms have been used in China and Japan for more than 3,000 years to boost immunity and fight diseases such as cancer, only in the last decade has their power begun to be recognized in the West. In more scientific terms, a number of compounds in fungi have been found to stimulate the function of the immune system, inhibit tumor growth and boost intestinal flora. Particularly, mushroom substances called terpenoids help kill bacteria and viruses and exert anti-inflammatory effects, while complex chain-like sugars called polysaccharides have been shown to exert antitumor and immuno-stimulating properties. – The Natural Foods Merchandiser, March 2005
I managed to buy some white Chanterelles ( Cantharellus subalbidus)
from the market carefully gathered by an expert and I carefully prepared them and fried them in crème fraiche, seasoned with garlic and parsley as instructed by my expert (stall holders in the market love to advise you how to cook their produce) and served with chicken escalope.
Our ancestors would certainly have eaten them and they would have been gathered by peasants throughout history, with these and truffles, peasant food wasn’t too bad, although of course such food is seasonal with chanterelles being found mainly in the spring and autumn or in the rainy seasons. Traditionally mushrooms particularly chanterelles have been assumed to be aphrodisiacs, with the 11th century Normans in Britain feeding them to grooms at their wedding feasts. The minerals they contain along with the amino acids and vitamins, probably make them good for the libido, especially for men with erectile dysfunctions.
Chanterelles have an affinity with certain trees and particularly birch, beech, oak, and pine in descending order, as they seem to like birch trees best, but they also seem to quite like larch and sweet chestnut trees too. They grow in soil which is damp, but not swampy or marshy ground.
If you go picking them, make sure that you wash them thoroughly and clean the gills. This is best done with a soft toothbrush.
They are great added to soups and stews and go well with eggs, but can be used to accompany any meat dish. Treat them as you would any other mushroom as far as cooking goes. Personally I love them and am always happy when I find them either in woods or in the market as I did this Autumn and the man proceeded to give me a lesson on how mushrooms grow and how important the climatic conditions have to be – the temperature, air pressure, amount of rain and sun and the consistency of the soil and the site where they grow . The spore starts to grow about a metre below ground and a fine filament a couple of millimetres thick grows upwards to the surface and if the conditions are right will form a fungi.
Like other mushrooms they contain vitamins A and D as well as some of the B-complex ones. They contain all the essential amino acids and glutamic acid is believed to boost the immune system and may help fight cancer, infections and rheumatoid arthritis. There is evidence that it inhibits blood clotting, which is valuable in the fight against heart disease. As for minerals, they contain potassium which regulates blood pressure and the contractions of the heart muscle; copper, manganese, magnesium, calcium, zinc and selenium which is good for the mood and the brain
I wanted to include this mushroom which you will see on the shelves of your local supermarket and has particularly good cholesterol lowering properties.
Pleurotus ostreatus, the oyster mushroom, is a common edible mushroom. It was first cultivated in Germany as a subsistence measure during World War I and is now grown commercially around the world for food. The oyster mushroom may be considered a medicinal mushroom, since it contains statins such as lovastatin which work to reduce cholesterol.
Pleurotus Ostreatus) is a fleshy, gilled mushroom growing in shelf-like fashion on wood that is a good food and promising medicinal. Protein quality is nearly equal to animal derived protein. Low fat content is mostly of the good unsaturated kind. Also contained are carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins B1, B2, plus minerals, especially iron and an antioxident. This mushroom shows activity against cancer and high cholesterol. It has shown activity in the following areas: antitumor, immune response, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibiotic.
Shiitake Mushrooms 香菇 xiāng gu
The Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) is an edible mushroom native to East Asia, which is cultivated and consumed in many Asian countries.
Fresh and dried shiitake have many uses in the cuisines of East Asia. It is thought that have been used in cooking since pre-historic times in China,Japan and Korea. In Japan, they are served in miso soup, used as the basis for a kind of vegetarian broth, and also as an ingredient in many steamed and simmered dishes.
More information can be found on:-
A 1980 study found that a virus in shiitake mushrooms could produce interferon, effective in treating cancer but also to boost the immune system. When I was studying Chinese herbs (TCM) during the Swine flu epidemic and on the weekend I attended the tutor was very keen to advise us to make a soup to protect us from catching the flu. The tutors claimed that in China that as it was so difficult to vaccinate such large numbers of people instead shops were urged to stock large quantities of the ingredients especially thee Shiitake mushrooms so that every household could make the soup. I will share this recipe with you should you need it in the coming months.
At that time I duly got home and made the soup and emailed to my student children.. No- one caught the flu!
Recipe For Chicken and Mushroom Soup – ideal on coming back from work, after exertion especially to boost the immune system
4 Chicken thighs
12 Garlic Cloves
4 inches Ginger
2 Red Chillies
12 Shitake Mushrooms
5 Stock cubes
2 litres water
Dried Goji Berries soaked in cold water (optional)
Chop onions,garlic and ginger and fry lightly in oil until soft
Fry chicken thighs until golden brown
Chop chillies and mushrooms and add to above
Add water and stock cubes bring to the boil and simmer for 1-1.5hrs.
Before serving add the Goji berries.
Whilst I have written about several types of fungi, which can add a lovely flavour to our food and at the same time have remarkable health benefits please beware of their potential poisonous properties and never pick them unless you are absolutely certain of what they are.