Wild Mushrooms, an Autumnal Passion in France


cèpes at the market

Autumn in France means the arrival of wild mushrooms overflowing from the stalls of market vendors. However, not everyone purchases their champignons des bois… foraging in France’s majestic forests is still very much a passionate hobby of the French and on many autumn weekends French families can be found, wicker basket in hand, meandering through the woods in search of these fungal delights. Whether you would like to take part in this culinary pastime or would simply like to savor them on your assiette, here is an overview of French wild mushrooms, some common dishes they are found in and where you can go foraging near Paris.

freshly picked girolles

French Wild Mushroom Species 

One of the most common forest mushrooms of France are cèpes (ceps). They have a typical mushroom shape, with a white stem and a light to medium brown cap, they are also one of the safest to forage as no poisonous species resemble them. Their “meaty” flesh and hearty flavor makes them popular with French chefs, often sauteed in butter and accompanying meat dishes.

Another favorite are girolles (chanterelles), yellow in color and with a thin wrinkly cap. With a  more subtle flavor than ceps, they frequently appear on autumnal menus, especially in creamy sauces or sauteed. Their bright color makes them easier to spot while foraging.

A more unique seasonal mushroom is la trompette de la mort, literally translated as a “trumpet of death” or black trumpet in English, which is, contrary to its name, not deadly. Nevertheless, true to its name, you can spot them thanks to their horn-like shape. They have an earthy, smoky flavor often sauteed with cream, added to a potato purée or included in an omelet.

Pied de mouton (lamb’s foot or hedgehog mushrooms) are of a soft beige color and have a wider, thin cap underneath which are spiky gills. They work well sauteed, or as filling for quiches or tourtes.

Les bolets à pied rouge, marasmes des oréades and coulemelles can also be found on menus and market stalls at this time of year. 

Chateau de Compiègne

Photo: Chateau de Compiègne

Where to Forage Near Paris

Wild mushrooms dot forests throughout the country, however, you don’t have to go far from the capital to find them. One of the best mushroom picking locations near Paris is the Forest of Fontainebleau. You can pair a walk through these former royal hunting grounds found southeast of Paris with a visit to the Château de Fontainebleau, an important royal castle from the Renaissance to the First Empire.

The Forest of Compiègne, to the northeast of Paris, is another excellent location for foraging. In addition to seeking out champignons in the woods, you can visit its château, a Neoclassical castle which is lesser visited than others yet has significant links to both Napoleon II and III. Nearby you can also visit the site of The Compiègne Wagon, the train carriage where both the Armistice of 11 November 1918 and Armistice of 22 June 1940 were signed. 

Foraging Tips 

For a first time outing, it would be best to go with an experienced expert or hobbyist forager. If you do venture out on your own, there are certain government regulations you need to consider:

  • Mushrooms must only be picked when they are of a certain size
  • Foraged mushrooms must be carried only in a wicker basket
  • You can only use a knife to cut the mushroom stem 

Mushrooms should only be picked if you can identify them. The good news is, if you’re uncertain of the species of mushroom, you can take them into any pharmacy in the country where they can be identified.

We can arrange custom private tours to the castles above which can include foraging or custom market tours in Paris which can focus on mushrooms and other seasonal French cuisine. Learn more about another autumnal favorite, pumpkins in this previous article on our blog.

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