Foraging for mushrooms

It’s the season for mushrooms so let’s get to grips with nature’s edible treats. Where’s the best place to find them and what do mushroom gatherers need to know first? Our Vapianisti are fungi experts and are here to explain what’s important – whether you’re foraging for your own or simply popping to the shops.  

While cultivated varieties like button mushrooms or oyster mushrooms are available all year round, wild or forest mushrooms only grow during autumn and winter. Our native woods are home to a range of edible mushrooms, including porcini, chanterelle and milk caps. 

As well as tasting good, mushrooms are super versatile so it’s little wonder we use them so liberally in our Vapiano dishes. “The Insalata ai Funghi is the perfect winter salad,” says our Vapianisti. “Lambs leaf, cherry tomatoes, radishes, champignons, scotch bonnet and oyster mushrooms all take this hearty salad to a whole new level. A sprinkling of Grana Padana D.O.P. adds the finishing touches!” Feeling peckish? Tuck into these tasty treats while the season is still in full swing.

Those still hungry for the taste of wild mushrooms after our Specials menu has ended can head out foraging themselves. But before you get started, there are a few things you should know.

Look and you shall find

Before setting off, it’s best to know where to look. Chanterelle mushrooms grow on loose soil in woodland, often beneath spruces or pine trees. Porcini are also at home beneath evergreens, but grow just as well in deciduous forests on moist, mossy ground. Porcini belong to the Boletus family so can be easily confused with similar varieties, in particular with the Bitter Bolete. Although not highly poisonous, they don’t taste great and may lead to digestive problems if consumed.

Only collect what you know
The golden rule is only ever collect mushrooms you can clearly identify. For almost every edible type of fungi there’s a poisonous counterpart that looks strikingly similar. If in doubt, toss it out of your basket! Take a good mushroom guide with you to double check. A loosely woven basket that lets the air circulate is best for transporting mushrooms. Plastic bags can make them sweat or cause them to become squashed, meaning they won’t last long when you get them home.

It’s all in the preparation
Poisonous or undercooked mushrooms can both lead to tummy troubles. While shop-bought champignons can be enjoyed raw, wild mushrooms should always be thoroughly cooked before eating. Use a brush or sheet of kitchen roll to remove any surface dirt or earth first. Washing mushrooms leaves them feeling slimy and causes them to go off more quickly.  

Mushrooms should be cooked as soon as possible, preferably a day later at most. If you do need to store mushrooms, keep them in a cool, dry place. Whether steamed with onions to create a flavoursome soup or added to a salad like our Insalata ai Funghi, the best time to eat mushrooms is now!

Amy, Vapianisti