The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Dry your own mushrooms

mushrooms dryingDespite being given the ultimate mushroom identification bible Mushrooms by Roger Phillips I still feel a little uncertain about gathering the mushrooms that I find in the garden and around the village. This is not to decry the book in anyway but a lot of mushrooms seem to look really similar to me.

Our friends Jocelyn and Miles have found this when they gather mushrooms in France. But they pick away with gay abandon.
You might be thinking “Are they mad? Or were they mad?”
No, they are pretty sane and take advantage of a free service that pharmacies offer all over France. You can totter in with your baskets and they will sort them into safe and poisonous. It’s a free service.

It is such a shame that we don’t offer a similar service in the UK.

Joanna’s Food had a fascinating post on an expert identifying the mushrooms in her garden a few weeks ago. Well worth a peek.

We are drying mushroom here at the cottage. Danny discovered a punnet of shitake mushrooms when he was foraging in what he calls the Tesco “condemned food section”. Dried mushrooms last for up to two years and are fabulous for tossing into a rich stew to add an extra dimension, or rehydrating in boiling water for five minutes to eat with pasta or a stir fry.

All you do is string the mushrooms on strong thread (use a darning needle). Hang the mushrooms in a warm airy room for a couple of weeks until they feel dry. Store them in a paper bag for a week or so to guarantee that all moisture has been eradicated and then keep them in an airtight box until you need them. If the mushrooms start to go mouldy in the airtight container they have not been dried enough so throw them away.

The trick to successful drying is to give them enough time to dry out completely – ours sit in the airing cupboard for ten days after drying on the thread. By the time that they go into the airtight container they look very shrivelled and unappetising but they puff up miraculously when added to boiling water.

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  1. I have had the Roger Phillips book for many years – it is really good. However, the best bet is to go with someone really knowledgable – an organised fungal foray (The forestry commission, NT, local nature reserves all do them) is always a good start – and learn how to identify two or three really good species…doesn’t really matter what, just know them with your eyes shut (so to speak). Once you can identify a few common edible ones (and the really poisonous ones) without fail, you can ignore the more tricky grey-area ones and still be able to harvest a good basket of ‘wildies’.

  2. We were with my cousin and he actually found two. He was literally dancing and singing with joy that he’d found them. He said the last time he found them was about six years ago. We found one broken, rotten one when we were blackberry picking a few weeks ago.

  3. Kate(uk)

    The Roger Phillips book is the fungus book of my dreams- wonderful.My mother and I used to eat (very young) ink caps and meadow puffballs, my father never dared and would just watch us- he said someone had to be well enough to take us to casualty. She was pretty clued up on identifying bona fide edible mushrooms as she had picked since childhood- but I wouldn’t dream of doing it! The inkcaps and puffballs weren’t fabulous,the puffballs, we felt, were a bit like eating gas mains, so we decided in the end to stick to mushrooms: just because something is edible doesn’t necessarily mean you would choose to eat it… unless you were really hungry and nothing else was available!

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pat,

    What a lovely picture, picking morels on Mother’s Day!

    Hi Celia,

    I am going to try putting peppercorns in with the dried mushrooms. I haven’t heard of this but the Italians are pretty clued up when it comes to storing stuff well.

    Hi Farming Friends,

    I am so keen to learn more about identifying mushrooms.

    Hi Amanda,

    I’ve searched and searched for puffballs but always drawn a blank.

    Hi Barbara,

    Glad to hear that you had the same problem as me. I am going to try and find a local forager, with a knowledge of mushrooms and learn from them.

    Hi Joanna,

    Your post is very interesting and I have thought about it on and off since I read it.

    Thanks for dropping by!

  5. Thanks for the link, Fiona. Still haven’t had any mushrooms here, despite better weather for them. Amanda I’m amazed the puffball didn’t taste of much, perhaps it was a little old when you found it … you need to pick them young and firm, then slice them into thick steaks and fry them with some garlic. Writing that makes me feel VERY sad that I haven’t yet found one this year 😉

    Very good tip for drying fungi, if we ever see any;)

  6. we went out on a mammoth walk the other day and found loads of mushrooms. i even took pictures of them in the hopes of identifying them with a book i got from my mil – no chance! no matter how hard i tried the difference between the edible, the do not eats and the poisonous was no way clear enough for me to risk it!

  7. Great tip, I shall fo that next time we have.
    I’ve only ever had the courage to pick and eat a giant Puffball that we found last Autumn. To be honest we didn’t think it tasted that great and it lasted for ages because it was so big, we felt we had to keep eating it.

  8. farmingfriends

    I agree mushroom do look very similar. I think anyone who can identify edible mushrooms is to be admired. Sara from farmingfriends

  9. Giant Puffballs and Shaggy Inkcaps (young – before they go inky) are the only ones I have cast iron confidence in ID-ing and eating. Puffballs are so huge perhaps next time we’ll try drying slices.
    When I bought a bag of dried Porcini in northern Italy, the girl in the shop told me to put a few whole black peppercorns in the packet as this would make them keep better. It works… or does it? Should have divided them into two bags for a controlled test! Have you heard of this?

  10. Fiona, I too wonder about the mushrooms I see here, but won’t pick as I too am afraid of them. I used to go mushroom hunting in the US. We would go every year around Mothers day(May) and pick Morels. I knew of a great patch. Was thinking of trying to look for them here next spring. They are about the only ones I am 100percent on identifying.

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