Do you like wild mushrooms?

So that’s it then.

I’ve slung the flip-flops to the back of the wardrobe, put away the sun-loungers and washed the last pair of shorts.

I love this time of year.

The leaves are still green on the trees, there’s a fresh, succulent growth of grass, some roses are having a last-minute flush and the Michaelmas daisies cheerfully clash with the last of the rudbeckia.  It’s the “bel arrière-saison” –  the beautiful back-end of summer, to put it less elegantly in English!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s harvest time and this year’s torrential spring and late summer have given us bumper butternut squashes, apples, pears and raspberries, but grapes have been dismal and 2013’s Vin de Cahors may not be a classic vintage.

The figs never fail us, white and red, and we have so many of them we can’t keep up with the harvest.  Picking them becomes a dodge-the-hornet exercise and so many drop to the ground and quickly ferment that the lingering, vinegary smell of over-ripe fig hangs in the air.

The horses benefit willingly from this bounty.  They get very little “hard”, pelleted or grain feed, just enough to carry their biotin and linseed supplements, but their buckets are fairly liberally topped up with apples and carrots and, in season, stoned plums, peaches, pears and figs as and when our trees produce.

Don’t worry, we’ve been doing this (in moderation) for many years with no ill-effect and until you’ve seen the expression of ecstasy on the face of a horse enjoying slices of juicy pear, or a ripe fig you have not seen a happier horse.  (I must do a post about treats – or “positive reinforcement”;  a controversial subject, but I think you can guess  my approach …!)

The downside – of course there is always a downside! – is that now the hunting season has kicked in, the populations of deer and wild boar, abundant in these parts, are frequently on the move and take not a blind bit of notice of our mains-fed, reinforced electric fencing.

Yesterday I was out inspecting the grazing to see where to move the horses next, when I saw that the “sanglier” had turned over many more patches of grazing than were obvious from the fence.

To one side of the house is my favourite paddock, we euphemistically call it the “orchard”.  It used to have quite a few old fruit trees, but now only half a dozen are left

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Most of these, left to their own devices, shed a hail of small, juicy, bite-sized apples which attract the piggies in particular

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You can just about make out the light green windfalls in the grass – I can’t keep up with collecting them!  So whilst the wild boar help themselves, they also go worm and insect hunting and turn over huge divots of turf in their search.

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I was trudging round treading in the worst of the damage when I came across a few wild mushrooms, chanterelles, almost hidden in the moss at the bottom end of the field.  As soon as I kneel to pick a mushroom, I usually find I spot the next clump, and so I found more …. and more ….. so many more I had to fetch a knife and more containers

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They were so caught up in moss, grass and leaves, it’s taken about three times as long to clean as to pick them.  Still, I’m delighted with the haul.  Once cooked down to take off the excess liquid they freeze well and go wonderfully in all sorts of dishes.  I know cèpes are more prized, but unless you pick them very, very fresh they are usually full of creepy- crawly inhabitants who have already worked a series of galleries in the stems and spores.

However, plenty of people love the things and, when conditions are right, there will usually be a couple of cars parked in the woods.  Sometimes we get a bit fed up when we see the same cars, day after day for hours.  We pay high local taxes to be surrounded by our 25 acres of land, most of which is woodland, and while we don’t begrudge locals picking enough to eat and store themselves – share and share alike – seeing people depart with a boot-full to sell feels a bit like taking advantage.

While I was outdoors with the camera I wanted to capture some of the last displays in the garden and this combination of a deep indigo salvia with a pink gaura, a chocolate-leaved eupatorium in flower, purple sage and some barely visible echinacea caught my eye

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………… just before I noticed that the box hedging had developed box blight in patches.

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Urggh,  I had hoped that wouldn’t happen, as that part of the garden is open and sunny but some of the patches which have been shaded by other vegetation or get less sun seem to have succumbed to the fungal infection.  Now I’ve spotted it in the early stages let’s hope it can be kept in check!

Last job of the day was to haul lots of choking weed out of the pebble pond …. well I suppose there are some things in the garden I prefer not to be green!

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Hope you are enjoying the fruits of early autumn in your garden … or in the shops!

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About cavaliereattitude

Englishwoman, transplanted to SW France in '86, blogging - with a large dose of humour and self-deprecation - about life with my husband and our horses, the never-ending renovation of an ancient and crumbly stone farmhouse and the attempt to carve a beautiful garden and productive pasture out of a woodland wilderness.........
This entry was posted in Gardening, Horses, Living in France, Musings, Rural Living, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Do you like wild mushrooms?

  1. rontuaru says:

    Oh my! Your property is to DIE for! A gardener’s delight for sure. But I Know it didn’t just happen to be that way. You’ve worked hard to mold and shape it into what it is today. And it’s just gorgeous. Here, people can “post” their property, which is to put up signs that prohibit trespassing, hunting or helping yourself to the bounty on someone’s property. Is there no such option there? I wouldn’t be too thrilled to see people absconding with something that grows wild on my property, especially since I also have to pay taxes for the privilege of having it! Fantastic pictures!

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    • Very kind compliments – thanks Rontuaru! – we’re just so lucky to live in a lovely part of a beautiful country, it’s hard to go wrong! The local council and some landowners post signs, but the less scrupulous mushroom hunters take the signs as a sure indication of a good hunting spot! We’re finding that young people are not really interested, so as and when the oldies no longer come, we have fewer “trespassers”, but I did once lose my rag when I was out in the horses’ field and a man came over the fence and, bold as brass, started picking field mushrooms in full view. “It’s not self-service here, Monsieur” I managed to squawk and he just shrugged, said “OK” and took himself off. The cheek!
      Though if someone actually knocked on the door and politely asked, “Would you mind if I picked a few?” I’d probably say yes. In the old days the custom was that if you hunted game or found mushrooms whilst crossing someone else’s land you would bring them a share. Now the money’s good that never happens!

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  2. subodai213 says:

    Oh my GOD. Look at all those chantrelles. Oh gosh do we love wild mushrooms. Yours look perfect and THANK YOU…I had no idea they froze well. We are also enjoying a wonderful season of wild ‘shrooms, here in the Pacific Northwest. Dennis cooked them up with eggs. No, not as divine as truffles and eggs, but still, it’s pretty hard to say no to fresh shrooms in one’s scrambled eggs.

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  3. I’d love to know what ‘shrooms you’re finding! The chanterelles are my absolute favourite but E found a lovely patch of hedgehog mushrooms recently, (they have all sorts of common names, but the pale ones with the distinctive, spiky spores underneath) there’s a big puffball in the garden looks like the top of a skull at first glance and trompettes de mort (horn of plenty, I think, should be along soon ….
    I always seem to have better luck sweating them down and freezing than drying or bottling!

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  4. subodai213 says:

    I don’t even pretend to be able to identify the edible from the non-edible mushrooms. Even though I’m a biologist, and even though I have a most excellent guide that discusses incredibly minute details in ID’ing the non poisonous ones, still…….every year we hear about some one who dies (or almost, which is most cases is worse) because he or she picked-and ate- the wrong ones. Most of the time these are Laotians or Hmong immigrants who choose to disobey the harvesting season, even though the signs are in half a dozen languages, all E. and SE Asian. These are also the same folks who will pull a gun on you in a newyorkminute if you’re walking/riding on PUBLIC forest lands and happen across them illegally harvesting (a nice term for ‘stealing’ or ‘poaching’). A permit to harvest costs only ten dollars, but they refuse to even pay that. They consider that patch of ‘shrooms THEIRs. which means, sadly, that they’ve pretty much wiped out the patches where ‘shrooms used to grow.
    So I buy the wild ones from the Farmer’s Market, where the ones available have been legally (and sustainably) harvested. . They have: chantrelles, black trumpet (which I don’t really care for), oyster, lobster???, shiitaki, maitaki, sometimes lion’s mane, and of course, Morels. This year was an INCREDIBLE year for morels, I’m told. I don’t really care for morels, they’re much too strong tasting for me. And every once in a while they have the King Of the Shrooms, truffles. No, sad to say, they’re not your French truffles, but still…I’ll take an Oregon truffle over no truffle any day of the week.
    There’s a man who’s name escapes me, but we graduated from the same college (The Evergreen State College ((better known as Starfleet Academy or “that hippie college”.)) Um, Peter Stamett? He’s established a business called Fungi Perfecti. He has hundreds of species that he’s learned to culture and ships the spawn all over the world.

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