A tour of the weird and wonderful array of summer mushrooms at Borough's greengrocers
The weather has gotten noticeably colder over the last week as September begins and with it, summer has started drawing to a close. But the array of summer mushrooms available at the Market remains spectacular—and, thanks to Mother Nature, some early autumnal varieties are starting to pop up too.
“This is an exciting week for greengrocers,” smiles Charlie, standing before the impressive display of mushrooms of all shapes, sizes and hues at Turnips. “We still have girolles, a summer mushroom, from Scotland, which are considered the best in the world—and obviously it means they’re nice and local.”
Paul Wheeler at Paul Wheeler Fresh Supplies is in agreement. He also has a stock of these yellowy, peppery-tasting mushrooms. “The girolles were late starting because of the cold and if it continues to cool off they will probably finish fairly soon,” he explains.
“There’s been a lot of rain up in Aviemore, where my supplier is in Scotland, which is good for mushrooms, but we need it to be warm too. I’m hoping for a few more weeks of them yet.”
Giant by name, giant by nature
With the sheer range on offer at the Market, it can be difficult to decide which variety of fungus to go for. But there’s one in particular that’s rather difficult to overlook—the giant puffball. Giant by name, giant by nature, just one of these weighty mushrooms is enough to feed a family of four.
“These are a summer mushroom that we get in from Norfolk,” Charlie explains. “You see them growing in places like golf courses. They look like little button mushrooms, but then they just explode overnight. You have to pick them straight away otherwise they’ll start to go black inside.”
Charlie recommends slicing one up and pan frying or grilling it “like you would a steak. It makes for a delicious vegetarian alternative, as it’s so thick and meaty.”
Though we’re still waiting for autumn to properly get going, both Turnips and Paul Wheeler have started to see the beginning of some exciting autumnal mushrooms from elsewhere. “We have caesar mushrooms in from Italy at the moment, which are in the same family as ceps but have a slightly earthier flavour,” Charlie continues.
“They’re a little bit bigger, a bit uglier and more dangerous looking, but very good. They’re very highly regarded and quite rare.”
Paul is also getting some mousserons from France. Commonly known over here as fairy rings due to their tendency to grow in rings, these are a small variety of mushroom with massive flavour. Try mixing some into Hayden Grove’s creamy garlic and mushroom tagliatelle.
But it’s not just the greengrocers at the Market who are getting excited about the mushroom season. Flip Dunning, owner of Pate Moi, is heavily reliant on seasonal mushrooms. “I only make one product, mushroom pate, and I use only fresh, organic mushrooms from a farm in Suffolk,” Flip explains.
“The late summer stuff is just about to hit now. I use a mixture of portobello, chestnut and button mushrooms, then as we get into the mushroom season, I add in wild mushrooms such as blewits—it depends on what I can get hold of.”
Though they can be quite delicate, the flavour that comes from adding wild mushrooms to the mix is “really intense. You can really taste their earthy flavour,” Flip continues. “Mushroom season is definitely the time to make the most of my pate.”
And there are several things you can do with it. Stir it into fresh pasta from La Tua Pasta, stuff chicken with it, “or a really nice way to use it would be to make a beef wellington. Add in some extra chopped wild mushrooms and it’ll be absolutely delicious.”