When spring arrives in the Creuse the rain falls often, the weather begins to warm, and most importantly- the mushrooms begin popping up everywhere.
The Creuse is well known for it’s wild mushrooms, and there is a wide variety of species which are commonly harvested. From tiny white agaric growing in the meadows, to oyster mushrooms growing from dead trees, the land provides seemingly endless supplies of fresh mushrooms for anyone who cares to spend a few minutes looking. Two of the most common and sought after varieties in the area include Cèpes and Girolles (Chantrelles). It’s the delicious and plentiful Girolles that we are hunting today.
Girolles are found in leafy forests composed of oak, chestnut (my personal favorite location to hunt), or even ash trees. While many mushrooms grow relatively quickly, Girolles grow slower and the fruitbody (the mushroom) remains edible for up to two weeks before it begins to fade away- if the slugs haven’t gotten to it by then. Typically, the best time for mushroom hunting is after a rainfall; early in the day or in the evening before sunset. Coincidentally, those also seem to be the most pleasurable times to wander quietly through the woods…
The forests are quiet and cool as the sun rises in the morning, and a relief from the warm afternoons as the sun sets. The hunt begins and sacks are filled. The hunter becomes part of the woods: scent, sound, and sight all tools for gathering his spoils. Gathering fresh mushrooms in the wood is an experience of its own. It’s a past time in its own right, and the harvest is merely a result of a few minutes wandering both physically and mentally. It is for certain one of my favorite ways to start or end a cool, rainy spring day.
When the hunt is over, it’s time to head back home and make use of what the land has given. Girolles are good cooked almost any way, though I prefer anything with lots of butter and garlic. Cook them long, but slowly to make them tender and full of flavor. This morning, I decided on a simple omelet: sauté some shallots in more butter than seems healthy, add the mushrooms and cook until tender, then add the egg along with salt and pepper to taste. It’s a wonderful feeling eating a breakfast that came fresh from the woods (and the chicken coop) just moments before it was cooked.