The forests of France are rich with food in the autumn – berries nuts and mushroom are plentiful, and for those with a penchant for foraging, now is the time to grab a basket, pull on some comfy footwear and go walk about.
The French are a nation of mushroom pickers and, at this time of the year, taking to the woods to find funghi for eating is a national past time. Of course not all mushrooms are edible, every year in France there are plenty of instances of poisoning and it can be lethal. However, lots of French pharmacies offer a free mushroom checking service – simply take your haul in and ask them to confirm what’s edible and what’s not.
If like me, you don’t want to risk it, simply enjoy the walk in the forest and buy some fabulous wild mushrooms at the market!
Always use a wicker basket when collecting mushrooms, the spores can escape through the holes helping to promote new growth…
This is a time for eating light lunches such as delicious potted chicken (if its cold, serve it with warmed baguette, if it’s warm serve it with salad) and tasty hot dinners like boeuf bourguignon and spicy pumpkin pie.
Truffles come into season and appear at markets in autumn. These rather smelly, weird looking “fruits of the earth” are revered by the French and can certainly add a certain something to ordinary dishes like scrambled eggs.
Grapes are harvested along with figs and olives, and in small villages throughout France the tell-tale smell of fermenting apples is evident as home made cider is in full swing. Apple festivals abound and distillation takes place for brandy, cognac and various other liqueurs now that summer’s bounty is ready for enjoying.
In homes everywhere, fruit, vegetables and nuts are prepared for storage, a link to the past when fridges and freezers and flights from countries where the sun still shines were not an option.
These preparations may not be necessary but for many French households they remain a way of life, a firm nod to the heritage and traditions of yesteryear that are still incredibly important.