Mushroom season

by | Jun 24, 2022 | Bulgarian life, Food & recipes | 6 comments

It’s been a dry month, with hardly any of the afternoon storms that usually punctuate June. Which is great. The garden has enjoyed the abundant heat and sunshine. But it’s not so great for picking mushrooms. Every time we’ve been mushroom hunting this season the woods have been too dry.

Finally, we had a whole weekend of heavy rains (right when we’d planned to spend the weekend weeding – oh well). So we waited a few days, then went into the woods to snaffle about.

And we struck gold, finding lots of porcini mushrooms (ceps/penny buns) and even a few chanterelles.

Our first chanterelles.

Now, we’re cautious mushroom pickers. We steer clear of anything white. We don’t pick anything with a traditional cap and gills because they all bloody look alike to me, and I can’t tell the edibles from the dead-ibles. You really don’t want to fuck with some of the poisonous mushrooms, so I steer clear of anything that has dangerous lookalikes.

Which basically leaves us with just a few mushrooms that we’re genuinely confident picking. Porcini is one of them. They’re easy to spot, fairly common in our local woodland, and they don’t have any deadly lookalikes.

We’ve also started picking chanterelles, albeit only very recently. Chanterelles do have a poisonous lookalike, the false chanterelle, but we’ve been learning to tell the difference and it’s (mostly) pretty clear-cut. Besides, it won’t kill you, the false chanterelle, which is reassuring. (It’ll make you chunder your guts up and possibly hallucinate, so it’s still a no-no, but at least we won’t die if we eat them by mistake.)

I’d also be pretty comfortable identifying a chicken of the woods, just because they’re so unusual looking and don’t really have any lookalikes. But I’ve never actually seen one in the wild. I live in hope. A few years ago a friend cooked us some KFC-style fried chicken of the woods and I still fantasise about that meal. *drools onto keyboard*

The thing with mushrooms is, the field guides aren’t totally reliable. There are two photos of each mushroom if you’re lucky (often only one pic) and, in my experience, they rarely look exactly like the mushroom I’m holding in my hand. The book we have mostly shows mature specimens, but they can look quite different when they’re younger. The chanterelles we picked – and yes, they were definitely chanterelles, no chundering for us – looked different from the typical chanterelle picture you’d see, purely because they were still quite young and hadn’t fully developed their frilly edges.

It’s a shame because we saw so many beautiful mushrooms in the woods, and I’d love to be able to confidently identify them. Maybe I should get one of those identification apps? Does anyone have any recommendations?

For now, we’ll stick to the porcini and chanterelles that we’re comfortable with, and keep dreaming of finding a chicken of the woods. *drools again*

Anyway, what did we do with our mushroom haul? We had them for breakfast, sauteed with lots of garlic and herbs and served on sourdough toast. Totally worth all the mosquito bites we acquired while in the woods! Speaking of which, it rained yesterday morning, so we’ll be off into the woods again this weekend. I’m already praying to the mushrooms gods for a decent haul.

Do you pick any mushrooms? If not, what else are you picking off the floor and eating this summer? Do tell.


  1. Katt

    I’m more inclined to steer clear when we t comes to mushrooms unless they’re in a clear container in a supermarket. I think last year at least three people died in the UK from eating mushrooms that they’d harvested. Over here my neighbour showed me a photo of some very dark looking mushrooms that I think she’d found but they didn’t tempt me, she has harvested nettles in the past and I’m with her on that I used to gather nettles for soup in the UK but haven’t seen any here

  2. Auntie Bulgaria

    If you can learn to identify porcini mushrooms (ceps), they’re a very safe one to go for. There’s nothing in that family that’s deadly. But yeah, beyond that and chanterelles, we steer clear of other mushrooms. It’s far too easy to get it wrong.

    You haven’t seen any nettles here? Christ, our garden is full of them!

  3. Bobby

    It’s interesting you drool over a potential chicken of the woods (a rather bland woody mushroom imho), while you have chanterelles and potentially manatarka and bulka mushrooms…?

    I wouldn’t trust an app with a mushroom. Get a field guide and preferably go on a mushroom pick with a local, who’s a know gubar.

    Ok, now you also have homework in bulgarian 😀

    • Auntie Bulgaria

      Manatarka is hands-down my favourite, but to spot a bright orange chicken of the woods? That would be a good day. I thought it was delicious. And yes, I do think we need a better field guide. Our little pocket-size book isn’t great…

  4. Simon Hill

    My wife confidently said to me, “Don’t worry. I am Russian, so we know all about mushrooms. These are just like the ones we used to pick in the Crimea, when I was a little girl.” Anyway, we still ended up in the A & E ward of the hospital in Veliko Tarnovo. The good news? Bulgarian ambulance drivers practise on the Formula One circuit. They are fast! The standard procedure when you poison yourself is an injection in a fairly obvious place and then drinking lots of water mixed with charcoal. Yuck! Then we had three days of rushing to the bathroom and not always getting there on time. I love eating mushrooms and the best place to get them is KAUFLAND.

    • Auntie Bulgaria

      I remember reading about that, you poor things. Oh well, it was an adventure and a learning experience! But don’t worry about us. We only stick to the same two mushrooms (porcini and chanterelle) that we’re very confident with, and we wouldn’t branch beyond that without an expert guide. (A real expert guide, that is!)


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