Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Mushrooms at the Markets

Good markets in the Loire Valley have mushrooms for sale. They fall into two categories -- cultivated (truffles, buttons and chestnuts in various sizes, several species of oysters, shiitake and wood blewits) or wild foraged (ceps and boletes, chanterelles and girolles, morels, trompettes de la mort and hedgehog). Expect to pay between €800 and €1200/kg for truffles (a ping pong ball sized truffle costs about €30), €10 - €15/kg for cave grown and €25 - €30/kg for wild foraged. Supermarket button mushrooms (champignons de Paris) are about €2.50/kg.

Black Truffles at the specialist market that is held once a month over winter.

The truffles come from inoculated oak plantations and are only available at specialist markets over the winter. There are no longer commercial species of wild truffle in the Loire Valley due to decades of using fungicides on cereal crops. The other cultivated ones are grown in troglodyte caves. From a few established producers they are a high end quality product much loved by chefs all over the world, and far superior to other commercially produced mushrooms of the sort that are pumped full of water to accelerate their growth and sold cheaply in large quantities in supermarkets. Loire Valley cave grown mushrooms are slow growing, resulting in a meaty mushroom that does not shrink with cooking and keeps for several days in the fridge without going slimy (keeping times vary between species, with oysters being the most delicate and blewits being the most robust). Cave grown mushrooms are available all year round. Experienced producers also supply the pharmaceutical industry, where mushrooms like shiitakes or certain oysters are used in supplements and skin care products.

Wild foraged Chanterelles at a greengrocers in rue Daguerre, Paris.

The wild mushrooms can only be gathered commercially by someone with a licence (and it is illegal to even give away wild mushrooms for human consumption if you are not licenced). Professional mushroom foragers usually do not sell direct to the public, but to a market stallholder who retails them. They are also strictly seasonal, with the peak being October, and come from the many forests in the Loire Valley, both broadleaf deciduous and softwood conifers. Weather conditions mean supply is very variable. Many people where we live (including us) also go out into the woods and forage for their own.

A truffle orchard. 
The reality of market shopping in the autumn in the Loire Valley :-).

Mushrooms being cultivated in a troglodyte cave.

Shiitakes growing in a troglodyte cave.

Chestnut mushrooms (champignons rose in French).

A selection of ceps and boletes gathered by us in our local forest.

Susan's friend Dominique teaching members of the public how not to die by accidentally picking and eating a Deathcap.

Hendrick the mushroom man with his cave grown mushrooms at the market in Loches. Sadly, he  retired in January, but this was where we usually bought our mushrooms.

Homemade mushroom ragout with polenta, made using a mixture of mushrooms bought at the market -- button, blewits, oysters, shiitake, porcini, girolles.

Homemade sautéed cave grown button mushrooms, onions and lardons.

Homemade cultivated White Ferula Mushrooms (a highly sought after and rarely grown type of oyster mushroom) in cream and garlic sauce.

A wild foraged Bay Bolete (closely related to ceps/porcini) prepared for cooking at home.

Yellow Oyster Mushrooms being cultivated in a troglodyte cave.

 

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For details of our private guided tours of chateaux, gardens, wineries, markets and more please visit the Loire Valley Time Travel website. We would be delighted to design a tour for you.

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1 comment:

Katie Zeller said...

Beautiful mushrooms. Foraging was very popular when we lived in Andorra. Here I rarely see anyone... and if the locals know about spots they aren't sharing.

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