mushroom

mushrooms

The main mushroom season in Britain is the beginning of autumn through to early winter. There are a few varieties, such as morel mushrooms, which do pop up in spring though.

There's much talk about the danger of eating harmful mushrooms - as a rough guide, avoid any varieties you can't identify.

Most mushrooms these days are cultivated, but many varieties still have their own seasonality.

MUSHROOM PICKING AND STORING

If you are going on a mushroom hunt, it's best to go during a dry, warmish spell, a few days after rain. Mushrooms are made up of mainly water - so don't pick them wet, or chances are that they'll turn soggy before they reach the pan.

They should be stored in paper bags, in the fridge. Keeping mushrooms in plastic-wrapped tubs makes them sweat and deteriorate.

Discard any mushrooms with holes made by insects, and clean the caps with a damp cloth or soft brush. Rinsing clean with water makes them sodden - they'll only release all the water when you come to cook them.

Salting mushrooms before cooking draws out juices, it's best to season at the end of cooking. Fry sliced button mushrooms in batches over a relatively high heat - that way, they'll brown quickly without stewing in their own juices.

Dried mushrooms such as porcini need to be soaked in warm water for about 20 minutes before using. The soaking liquor is full of flavour and can be used in the same way as vegetable stock.