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Boletus edulis

Things I love… No. 43

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These were taken on the market in St. Gallen this morning but on a recent trip to Zürich I passed by a stand selling so many different kinds of edible mushrooms I was reminded of Beatrix Potter’s book on Fungi. Better known for her children’s stories, she was also a renowned natural history illustrator.

The mushrooms in Zürich inspired me – their names almost untranslatable; Maske Ritterling with a purple mauve velvet base; earth brown Steinpilz like the above; then the sponge-like balls of the Laub Röhrling. I was inspired equally by the subtlety of the colours, the fullness of form and the beauty of the names.

A few years ago in the month of  September we spent two weeks with friends at their house in a beautiful village in Provence. Our friend Henri is an architect, inspired by the great Frank Lloyd Wright and also a passionate ‘mushroom-hunter’, so we went to look for chanterelles which we found in abundance in the nearby woods. A dangerous feat as it turned out – not only did it take plenty of patience to find these tiny orange trumpets but one could also meet face to face with a wild boar… or worse still, get mistaken for one. The Chasse had begun!

We gathered a couple of handfuls of these earthy and slightly apricot smelling fungi. Alfred Vogel taught us, while picking wild herbs in the Engadin mountains, to always leave some to regenerate – one never takes everything one finds. Wild-gatherer’s etiquette. Ensuring sustainability…

Henri grilled the chanterelles later that evening over the big fire-place in the centre of their open-plan living room, using the same wood, which had already been cut the previous year, under which the chanterelles had been growing, reminding me of the ancient hippocratic teaching of the law of similarity: ‘Similia similibus…’
Sumptuous!

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