Truffles in Umbria…..or Cumbria ?

I couldn`t resist venturing up to my nearest lake for a foray through the woodlands this morning , it was just too nice to stay indoors.I guess i`m a lucky guy because within 10 minutes i was out of the house, out of town and looking at this fantastic view on my way to the forest car park.

So after parking up and getting my wellies on , a quick walk through the trees and down to the river Ehen , wow , fantastic morning , dry conditions and perfect temperature around 18 deg  and after a few days of rain and then three days of glorious autumn sunshine it was perfect to spur the mushrooms on.

Soooooo , about those Truffles…the black expensive ones that grow in the Perigord area of France and , Erm….that region in Italy , Umbria…..or was that “Cumbria” ???

Oh dear , i seem to have stumbled on to my very own supply of Black gold here , do they really grow so far up north ? Maybe even a secret Truffle spore root project secretly tucked away in the Western lake district woods….. Maybe i could be on the way to being a very rich guy….. Maybe not

Ok …Ok … So they`re no really Black gold , or even Cumbrian truffles , so i`ll call my truffles “Dumbrian” ones .They`re actually Puffball Fungi , common earthballs or if you really want me to be posh…. Scleroderma Citrinum. They`re not really poisonous but eating them will cause some pretty disturbing stomach pains and definitely a very runny bottom….so best left alone.I believe that once they`re peeled and looking very “trufflesque” theyve often been used to garnish some dishes for food photography.I can believe it looking at them , but they dont smell quite the same as the real deal.

So onwards and upwards and just around the next tree , here`s the view that greeted me.

A beautiful display of Saffron milkcaps Lactarius Deliciosus.These area really easy to distinguish from the others as they ooze a sweet milk when snapped in two.I`m not really a fan of these ones so i passed them by and left them for others to collect. Right beside them was the mushroom hunters prize catch , The Cep / Porcini / Penny bun mushroom ( Boletus Edulis ) , Tiny one or two day old specimens , perfect for the pot and the michelin restaurant chefs ideal choice of size too….Take a look at this little beauty….

Through a few trees and i came across a small pinewood , there were a few specimens of Slippery jack  ( Suillus Luteus ) dotted about. They`re not the worlds best mushroom but if conditions are right and they`re not too slimy on top then they`re easily peeled and quite tasty added to soups and stews.

The mushroom below tends to get quite a few victims and beginners every year.It`s a member of the Bolete family ( Boletus erythropus ) not entirely poisonous and actually edible when cooked , BUT , it has to be cooked to lose its toxins as it`s poisonous when in its raw state.An easy way to tell is when its cap is snapped in two , it immediately begins to turn blue…..Best left alone.

So , over to my next find…My prize catch of the day and one to reduce an Italian to tears…On the spot. It was so easy to miss this one as it was hidden in grass under a pine tree , not exactly the textbook location or tree that its normally found underneath.Their normal habitat is under Oak , silver birch or Ash so was quite surprising to find it where it was.I parted the grass and revealed this awesome monster Porcini mushroom , i unearthed it , cleaned it and held it aloft while i said a little prayer to the God of fungi.

I even took him down to the river to pose for me and my Canon EOS ( The one thats going on ebay as i keep falling out with it ). He died a noble and clean death and enjoyed the view of the river, lake , mountains and trees while i plotted how i was going to eat him when i got home. ( it was definitely a him by the way ).

So now i`d found my prize , all i wanted to do was to get back home to cook the monster mushroom.But on the way back there was still quite a few mushrooms on the route to the car.Here`s a couple of shots of the Brown birch mushroom ( Leccinum Scabrum ) those definitely make the basket , theyre really tasty.

A couple of others that i left alone were a poor example of a wet shaggy ink cap mushroom , too old to use but the pic came out nice. The old classic fairy tale mushroom , the “Fly agaric ” , don`t touch or eat unless you wanna play with the fairies.Apparently a thumbnail piece of dried skin will have you tripping away and heading to loopy town for a few days….Ask the hippies for more info. Also a solitary Chanterelle mushroom , which wasn`t going to escape….I`d eat it with scrambled egg , even if i found no others.

And so away home back to sunny Whitehaven to cook up lunch….and into the kitchen. Here`s the beauty in all his glory and seconds away from the knife.Ive also lined up a few examples of how they grow over a few days.

The smallest one will have just popped up overnight , its only a day old.The second and third are one to two days old and the biggie….well i would think thats about 5 days old.Correct me if i`m wrong please but i think im almost right with that one.

Most of todays mushrooms were sliced thinly and layered on to newspaper and put on shelves in a low oven.About 3/4 hours and they were totally dried at a temperature of 75 deg.If anyone`s doing this at home then put a wooden spoon in the door to allow any moisture out. The large specimen was sliced up  and brushed with olive oil and butter , black pepper and sea salt then grilled both sides in a hot pan.Splash of lemon juice and parsley then straight on to toasted sourdough bread……Oh wow , it tasted amazing….Kevin died for a good cause.

And as for that lonely little Chanterelle , it made a perfect topping for those delicious local eggs with Cumbrian dairy cream.

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4 thoughts on “Truffles in Umbria…..or Cumbria ?

  1. Everyone likes different techniques baconboy.Im get my guidance and help off Dominic Davis who shot hestons fat duck cookbook , he keeps me right….and all the blurring is done with a 1.8 canon lens and very little photoshopping , mainly just brightness and contrast changes. Cheers Alan

  2. A thoroughly enjoyable read Alan. A great balance of topics; food, photography, walking, scenery etc. I imagine that being a very pleasant day indeed.

    Pretty sure I’d end up ‘high’ (or worse) if I went foraging for wild mushrooms unaided.

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