Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness'. (Keats)

Last week we had a family of French people staying with us. Turned out they were keen (and expert) mushroom hunters. They could hardly believe the specimen bolitus they had spotted all along the Highland roadsides, and with nobody gathering them. Where they live, they said, folk would be up at four a.m. and fighting with each other to secure such a gourmand's delight.

So today, in the rare absence of B&B guests, we took time out to revive our old interest in the hunt for oyster mushrooms, hedgeogs (mushrooms that is!), the glorious butter coloured, inverted umberella shaped chanterelle and the king and queen of all edible fungi - the one we call the penny bun, the French call the cep and the Italians the porcini. Latin name bolitus eduli.

We spent a couple of hours in the woods, trawling through the secret and difficult to get to places we knew of old could offer up their produce. What joy to find specimens such as we have found and picked. Things of beauty and of greatest good taste.

Of course we know how capricious can be the mighty cep; up in profusion under a group of certain trees one year and nothing the next or the next and ... x years later up again. No-one knows why, and nobody has succeeded in cultivating them thus far. Very mysterious johnnies, these nouth-watering monsters. However our French lady guest told us something we had not heard before. The cep only comes up, she said, when the moon is waxing and only in certain (unspecified) perfect conditions of weather.

Whatever - wild mushroom ragoute, here we come!.

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