In the past week some parts of the Westcountry have witnessed a rich harvest of delicious fungi thanks, perhaps, to the mild and humid late summer conditions.
Boletus edulis, better known as the penny bun or cep, is an elusive but fabulous fungi that only seems to come to fruition in England for a few days every year – if at all.
The solid textured, slightly sweet and nutty mushroom literally seems to erupt from the earth in a few magical hours. A day or so later, if damp or overly cold, it will have turned to a maggot-ridden mush.
Those few days and magical hours occurred this week in an unexpected cep bonanza. I filled my rucksack while on a walk across Exmoor – and, later, my frying pan.
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Look for places where beech or oak trees protect a sunny, grassy spot. If you find a mushroom with a top that looks like a baker's bun, and a white stalk that fattens as it reaches the ground, then you may well have found the best lump of fungi you'll ever throw into a pan.
Check and double-check your find in books like Roger Philips' Classic Mushrooms and other Fungi of Britain and Europe before eating, but do not be too daunted as the cep is easier and safer to identify than even the common field mushroom. All members of the boletus family have easy-to-recognise fruit-bearing pores which form a foam-type underbelly.
When the cep is young and fresh its pores are an off-white; the boletus you should not eat are red. Others do weird things like turn blue once you have torn or cut the white flesh. Some of these are safe to eat but only if you cook them for ages in boiling water. I prefer to simply give them a miss.