03 November 2009

La Saison des champignons

What happens around Saint-Aignan when you get a lot of rain? Mud happens, yes. And the ponds start filling up with water again. And then champignons happen. That's mushrooms or, if you prefer, toadstools.

On Sunday we got 20 mm of rain in the back yard, after the 7 mm we had on Saturday. That's more than an inch total over the weekend. I was surprised when I checked the gauge Monday morning, because it didn't seem like it had rained that hard or that long Sunday afternoon. I'm not complaining, because we really needed the moisture, after a months-long dry spell.

20 mm of water in the rain gauge

I fact, there were 5 cm more rain in the gauge this morning. It must have rained overnight, bringing us to 1¼" in three days.

I've started noticing mushrooms scattered around the countryside on my walks out in the vineyard with the dog morning and evening. Sunday morning I noticed a bunch of big mushrooms at the base of the trunk of our biggest apple tree.

Champignons growing under an apple tree

That particular mushroom "bloom" comes back year after year. I'm sure if you search back through this blog you'll find other photos of it. I wonder if it means that the roots of the tree are being attacked by the fungus.

Mushrooms growing over the roots of a felled linden tree

Then yesterday I noticed that another mushroom cluster had bloomed out there. These come up in fall and again in spring around the stump of an old linden (tilleul) tree that we had to have cut down in 2003. The fungus is gradually consuming the remaining roots of that tree, and the stump has nearly disappeared now. One more wet winter, and all evidence of it will be gone.

The vineyard on All Saints' Day

I guess I ought to find our whether these two kinds of mushrooms are edible. Maybe somebody who reads this will recognize the varieties and tell me. It's unlikely, I'm sure, that they are good to eat, and of course they may be toxic or even poisonous.

Blackberry leaves

I plan to look through the pictures in my mushroom book this afternoon and see if I can find them in there. Omelette, anyone?


  1. Hi Ken,
    The pharmacist should be able to help you out. Take a sample of the mushrooms to the pharmacy.

  2. I understand pharmacists are trained to identify mushrooms and it's a service they provide. Not true?


  3. My French neighbour tells me that if the mushroom is pink on the underside then it is safe to eat - if it is black / brown then beware! He eats the mushrooms from his garden all the time. Personally I would not like to trust his "rule of thumb" and think that the pharmacy in St Aignan would be a safer bet.



  4. I only know Chanterelles, ceps, morilles, trompettes de la mort, roses (button mushroom); all the others I would ignore. Like for good wine, it all depends on "terroir". You should ask one of your neighbor to go with him/her next time they gather mushrooms.

  5. The mushrooms on the linden tree sure look like what we call straw mushrooms, the ones used in Chinese cooking. But please don't take my word for it. :-)

    The portobellos from the store have black undersides...

  6. I suggest that you have the pharmacist, neighbor, whoever, eat a few first; then see how they're doing the following day :-)

  7. One thing we learned when we went to the mushroom museum near Saumur is that the deadly poisonous ones look exactly like the perfectly edible ones.

    Just not worth the risk, however tempting, in my opinion.

    The mushroom museum was fascinating, BTW.

  8. Jean, I agree that it's not worth the risk. The ones in my book that look like the ones out in the garden are described as "à rejeter" -- to be rejected -- anyway.

    I've never tried taking mushrooms to the pharmacy. But even a pharmacists' word for it would leave me doubtful.

    Once a lot of white mushrooms came up under our one pear tree. A local woman said they were good. Walt ran the lawnmower over them the next day, because we didn't want to risk eating them. The woman came back and literally had tears in her eyes when she saw those mushrooms had been mowed down.

  9. Well, I second both John and Jean's sentiments :) Glad to know you're not going to be tempted, Ken :)


  10. I think the market is the best place to get mushrooms.

  11. Just came across your pictures of mushrooms under trees( apple) and old stumps (linden)

    The first one, apple tree, look very much like "honey" mushrooms, or armillariella melea. If they are-- and you should verify this with a local savant champignon!--they are very tasty especially if picked fairly young. They tend to come back every year.

    the others look like a species of inky caps (Coprinus) but its hard to tell--probably not edible or tasty if so.


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