If you love mushrooms, as I do, then having a mentor who shows you exactly which wild ones are edible and which are not is something of a privilege. The season for hunting out and finding mushrooms is taken very seriously in France and in the Dordogne this is especially true.
I was very fortunate to take part in many mushroom forays over the years and the best experiences I have ever had are in the Dordogne. These were very early morning starts when Madam Petit and I would set off with our flashlights, mushroom sticks and baskets in hand in search of cépes and truffles. My mentor had a lovely old mongrel who would accompany us on these walks deep into the forests and woodlands. He was exceptionally clever at finding clearings where the black truffles were growing.
Between ‘Quatre Pattes’ (this was the dogs name) and Madam Petit, I learned how to recognise the trees where cépes were likely to grow and I also became aware of the how this wonderful mushroom ‘sniffer dog’ changed his attitude when he knew just where we needed to delicately dig to find the truffles. For me this was a very exciting time because it felt as though we were finding treasures and in a way this was very true.
On one occasion I remember coming back to the house to take a young horse for his daily walk around the park that was in front of the main house. To my surprise I found Madam Petits’ husband lying on his stomach in the grass. I stopped to ask him if he was indeed alright to which he replied ‘I have just discovered a truffle patch’ and pointed out some flies which were hovering over a small area in front of where he was lying. He had found truffles just a few hundred yards from the house! It was a real find and it was the hovering flies that had given the game away.
Wild mushrooms and truffles are superb culinary delights there is just no denying this fact. Madam Petit not only taught me how to find them but also how to cook and preserve them as well. These were lessons which I took to heart and which I have used on many occasions since when preparing wild mushrooms.
Autumn in the Dordogne is the mushroom season but it is also a beautiful time of the year in this part of France. The autumnal colours of the woodlands are very beautiful and I often wish I was more adept with a camera to capture these gorgeous landscape colour tones on film because nature is very clever when it comes to choosing the perfect colours for a seasonal scene.
The Dordogne is a beautiful open region of France that has so much to offer. It would take a lifetime and more to discover every little treasure that is found here. Starting out from a specific place and working your way around the many delightful towns and villages is the best way to discover and explore any part of the world and this is especially true of the superb region known as the Périgord.
- Found by: Trained pigs or dogs
- Season: from fall to spring
- Avg. Weight: from 20 to 100 grams
- Record weight: 1.5kg
- White Truffles: best in pasta or salads or fried eggs
- Truffle slices: used with meats, under the skins of roasted fowl, in foie gras preparations, in pâtés, or in stuffings
- Popular products: oil and vodka