Description:Picking wild mushrooms in Provence & the Riviera
Mushroom picking has always been a great source of free food for locals throughout France and in Provence, but there are many different varieties of mushrooms and eating the wrong type can have serious consequences.
Edible mushrooms normally appear around September in France, but in 2011, due to a very wet summer having followed a warm spring, mushrooms started popping out of the ground in early August.
Every year in France, in August or September, it’s the same story. Dozens of people are taken to hospital with mushroom poisoning after failing to check that the mushrooms picked were safe to eat before feasting on them.
The symptoms of mushroom poisoning are generally diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach pains, but in extreme cases eating mushrooms of the wrong species can be fatal.
If you like to pick wild mushrooms but are uncertain of the different types, either find a knowledgeable local to accompany you (although 3 out of 4 poisonings are due to wrong identification by ‘knowledgeable locals’) or preferably take the mushrooms to a pharmacy, who should be able to identify them for you.
There are also certain rules to stick to for mushroom picking in France :
- Mushrooms belong to the owner of the land on which they are growing, so permission must be sought before picking *
- Mushrooms may only be picked once they have grown large enough to release their spores and propagate
- Mushrooms should be only be cut at the base of the stalk with a knife & never pulled or dug up
- Mushrooms should be carried in a wicker basket, again to allow the spores to fall out and propagate – preferably carrying different specimens separately in case of cross-contamination of a poisonous variety
- Don’t destroy mushrooms that you know to be poisonous
- Only pick enough for eating or conserving – wild mushrooms perish very quickly
If you become ill after eating mushrooms, go to the nearest emergency centre and, if possible, take along a sample of the mushrooms ingested.
In France, around thirty deaths occur each year through eating poisonous mushrooms, so it’s important to check that any mushrooms picked are edible. Here are a couple of websites that can help, but if in any doubt at all, either don’t eat them or get advice, either from the local pharmacist or a knowledgeable local.
- Société Mycologique de France – in French
- Atlas of Mushrooms – in French
- Roger’s Mushrooms – English language site to help identify mushroom varieties by Roger Phillips
* NB – When picking mushrooms in a forest, you should bear in mind that all forests belong to someone ! Either they are owned privately or by the State or a collective. The fact that there are no fences or signs does not mean it is common land and you should seek authorisation before picking. Failure to do so may result in a fine of €150 and if you have taken more than five litres, up to €750. (see article from Fôret Privée Française in French but with sections in English)
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