Ceps Boletaceae

Ceps (Fr. cêpes), also often known by their Italian name porcini, are the most widely sought after wild foraged mushrooms. They have the advantage of being easy to recognise and having few species that will poison you. There are only a couple of poisonous species possible in this area. None are deadly, and foragers will be put off them by their appearance or taste long before ingesting enough to cause digestive upset. Many ceps stain very unappetising colours such as blue or black when broken, and some taste very bitter. Breaking a small piece off the cap and watching for staining, plus tasting the piece then spitting is an essential part of checking the identity of these mushrooms. Staining or bitterness is not an indication that the mushroom is poisonous per se -- numerous ceps that stain or taste nasty are non-toxic -- but it does mean that you are unlikely to make the mistake of eating the poisonous ones because they will be amongst those that you reject as they don't look or taste nice. Ceps with red pores and flesh that stains blue should always be avoided.

Be aware that mushroom foraging is often only allowed on weekends or sometimes not permitted at all. Like any wild foraging you should only take enough for personal use. There will be signs indicating what the rules are. Ramassage de champignons interdit means it is not permitted to forage for mushrooms. To pick mushrooms gently pull all of the mushroom up including the base of the stem. A little delicate excavation to get all of it intact is better than cutting or breaking the mushroom off. With the whole mushroom in your hand you can be much more sure of the species identity, and you have not created a wound which will allow bacteria into the network of mycelium that the mushroom sprouted from. This mycelium network will go on to produce many more fruiting bodies (ie mushrooms) over several years.

Mushrooms in the Boletaceae family are easy to recognise because they do not have gills, but a sort of sponge made up of pores called hymenophores under their caps.

The best field guide for identifying mushrooms in this area is Champignons de France et d'Europe Occidentale by Marcel Bon, published by Flammarion.

Tête de nègre Boletus aereus
This species doesn't have an English name. The French name means 'negro's head'. The cap is dark brown, the pores greyish white to yellow. It is rated by some as the best of the edible ceps. Not particularly common.

Tête de nègre in hornbeam forest, Loches. Note the typical dark brown cap and short thick light brown stem.

The same mushroom, cut in half and showing the white pores and a myriad of diptera larvae tunnels in the stem.
Edible Cep Boletus edulis (Fr. Cèpe de Bordeaux)

Edible Cep Boletus edulis (Cèpe de Bordeaux in French) being examined, with a Bay Bolete B. badius (Bolet bai in French) tucked in behind waiting for the same scrutiny. Both are prized edible varieties.

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