Mushrooms are Magic

It's that porcini time again. Porcini? you ask. Well, you might know them by other names. They're porcini to Italians, the French call them ceps and the British call them pennybuns and they are quite simply the best tasting of the hundreds of edible funghi growing wild and free in our woodlands and countryside, mostly from now until October. A close by friend just told us that she gathered kilos of these very expensive, quite rare mushrooms the other day. We promptly rushed out to our own secret places (nobody lets on about the location of their very valuable mushroom finds). We came away with very few early porcini but a kilo or so of the only a bit less desirable chantarelles. These are the ones up to 3 - 10 cm in diameter, buttery yellow, looking like wind blown inside out umberellas.

Porcini seem to have very much a mind of their own. Nobody has yet succeeded in growing them artificially and they make up their own minds about whether or not they will 'come up' in any particular year. One of our most carefully observed spots will only yield its not so little darlings on average every three or four years, but you never can tell. Anyway the search takes us into the heart of some pretty difficult places - real life walks on the wild side - and the finding is in every way most satisfying. Try a wild mushroom risotto recipe. Truly delicious. I enjoyed one last evening so I know.

However in case anyone reads this and is brave or foolish enough to sally forth without reading about funghi - DON'T! There are some deadly, and I do mean deadly specimens out there, the one mascarading as a chanterelle being amongst the more virulent. But apart from the eatability / poisonability issue I find funghi a fascinating study all by itself. Some of the thousands of species resemble others and some like no others and there's even one that looks exactly like nothing more than a penis in some state of considerable excitement emerging trimphantly from mother earth. Aint mushrooms magic!

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