Its the end of September 2013 and as autumn approaches a very magical thing happens in Lagorce woods, Cèpes grow. For this to happen there are a few key restraints and events that need to be withheld / happen….
Firstly the temperature can not drop below about 7 degrees overnight (a bit of a given in these parts at this time of year, we can often have Cèpes grow as late as mid November!
Secondly we need a big storm – after the hot dry summers we need a little moisture to leave a nice humid bed of soil for all the different strains of fungus to start to grow.
The time after the storm is really important, we don’t want the weather to go too hot as the ground will dry out nor too much rain as this inhibits the Cèpe from growing – we need the right conditions for 7 – 10 days after a storm.
Finally for a plentiful crop of Cèpes this 7-10 day periods end should coincide with a new moon (no moon in the sky at night) or to a lesser extent a full moon.
Once these conditions are met its time to get up early ( before everyone else) and get into the woods for a good hunt – not forgetting a long wooden stick ( mop handle does the trick for me!) and a wicker arm basket ( not in short supply after wedding season at Lagorce – If you don’t mind looking like this seasons flower girl – not a great look for a man in his mid 30′s!!).
Keeping in mind that you never find just one Cèpe, you need to find a ‘patch’ where the mushrooms consistently grow season after season, this is where I come in very handy on our culinary courses – I know my woods like the back of my hand due to a huge crop in 2006 – I was going out day after day for about a week - I ended up with around 30KGs.
Obviously there are a few more technical bits of info that can help you gauge where you are in the cycle, starting with Mycelium followed by the mere des Cèpes and at least at Lagorce the Bolets (an edible mushroom not too disimilar to a Cèpe, one generally eats just the head on this mushroom) arrive just before the Cèpes.
Please note this is not enough information to go looking for mushrooms on your own – there are a lot of mushrooms in the woods in France and an untrained eye can be drawn to the wrong mushroom quite easily and can be mortal. If you are staying at Lagorce at any time during Cèpe season please feel free to ask me (Edward) to take you into the woods to see if we can see any – these mushrooms can still grow outside of these restraints, but are rare.
There are a few different strains of Cèpes but at Lagorce we are lucky enough to have the best in our woods, what the French call “ Tête Noir ” – Black headed Cèpes.
In my next post I’ll be talking you through how to clean, conserve, cook Cèpes and a really easy local recipe with a bit of a twist…..