Girolles are one of the first mushrooms to appear on the UK’s culinary calendar.
If you’re very lucky, you might find a rare morel or a scarlet elf cup, which grows in freezing conditions in the early part of the year unlike most of themushrooms we pick here. But trust me, the first funghi you’re likely to spot on a seasonal menu is a girolle.
I’ve always used the French word for these orange beauties, but other countries refer to them as chanterelles. This can get a tad confusing, though, as there is another type of woodland mushroom called a chanterelle, only these appear later in the season and have various varieties in the family.
What I do know for certain, though, is these early season meaty mushrooms are one of my favourite edible funghi. With their bright golden colour they are easily-spotted but, like all funghi, you need to know what you are looking for, as there are many lookalikes out there and even finger contact with the wrong variety can transfer ugly toxins into your foraging basket.
We still haven’t got a culture of foraging in the UK, but it’s certainly catching on in the foodie community. I reckon it should be on the school curriculum along with cookery to encourage kids to get out into the woods and hedgerows and find some real food that’s free, nutritious and doesn’t come in a packet.
I love any kind of wild mushroom and they add a seasonal touch to any menu. It’s exciting awaiting the next variety to poke through the ground and hit the kitchens.
A couple years ago, I got a shock when I nipped into my local Tesco to grab some basic bits and bobs for the weekend. There was a basket full of morels selling for £2 per 100g. Now I’ve never seen a wild mushroom in Tesco, let alone a morel. I thought this was some short-lived experiment so I bought all 15 packets, but returned a couple days later to find they had re-stocked.
A couple of months later I found girolles for the same price and that’s cheaper than I can buy wholesale. So there you go – there’s no reason not to make wild mushrooms a regular part of your repertoire.