…. In fairness, Emily Dickenson was not specific about which mushroom was ‘the elf of plants’ but I like the poem and it fits the moment.
Two Brains, The Bean and I strolling into the square last week were stopped in our tracks by Didier, one of the characters of our village. He is the most delightful and gentle man, reminiscent of Steinbeck’s Lennie in both stature and his mode of dress – typically dungarees with a long sleeved collarless vest under and a hat, woollen tea cosy in winter and cotton with a little peak more hunter-worker than baseball in summer. I should be clear that he has tonnes more wit and hopefully is not liable to break necks nor baby animals with over-zealous caresses. He lumbered over towards us gesturing and grinning and delightedly told us that the Girolles (you may know them as Chanterelles) have arrived and exactly where in the masses of forest surrounding us to look for them. Indeed, he reported, one local had bagged 17 kg of the golden lovelies that very morning. Our joy at this sharing was two-fold … in the first instance we happen to love edible fungus and Girolles rate very high on the richter scale of delicious mushrooms, but the more important delight came from the fact that we were being treated to information that would not normally be shared with random strangers. Actually, the information is guarded jealously by locals who prize the flavour at their own tables and make a good profit by selling to restaurants and market stalls and shops …. it made us realise that we are slowly slowly ever so slowly fitting into our community.
Girolles, Chanterelles call them what you want are amongst the nicest fungi to eat. Delicate on the tongue, some say they smell of apricots – I can’t say I quite recognise that, but their colour is spectacular – amber-yellow, on the apricot side of orange, and their shape beauteous … the way the narrow gills flare upwards to the crown, forcing it inside out and the raggedy edges – like a tiny shiny golden shamrock when they first appear and when fully mature like the thinly beaten bell of a primitive hunting horn.
We have picked three bags full between Didier’s sharing of the good news and the writing of this little blog – parsley from our balcony to finish the gently sauteed darlings and then bound in eggy splendour enriched with a dollop of creme fraiche they make for a delicious omelette – the more so for the scrabbling in the woodlands, the sun speckling through the canopy of leaves, the ground slightly damp and the air scented faintly musty.
If we could train only The Bean to seek them out how rich we would be but absent her interest in any such sport, we will content ourselves with the delight of spotting the little elves in moss and grass and the thick carpet of years and years of dead leaves. Later in the week we will stroll into the bar and thank Didier with a drink and a smile.
PS: Remember, there must always be a PS, there are two types of mushroom, Le Fausse Girolle (literally, false Girolle) and Lactaire Orangé Fauve which are easy to confuse with a Chanterelle the first is edible but only when cooked and the second, though not deadly will make you ill if eaten. Alongside a good book and the advice of a local (whom one hopes is neither trying to fool you nor kill you) in France you should take fungus to any pharmacie where they will identify them for you with authority.