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Foraging for Porcini Mushrooms on the Isle of Man

One of the tastiest and easiest to identify mushrooms lives here in the woodlands of the Isle of Man. Recently I went with a friend to find and pick these delicious porcini mushrooms.

I am sworn to secrecy as to where these pictures of last week’s mushroom foray took place. Like most wild mushroom enthusiasts, photographer and media pal Bill Dale keeps his fungi hunting grounds locations a closely guarded secret. This is why it was a privilege to be taken with him in search of one of the most highly prized mushrooms of all – the Cep, which is also known as Porcini, or the Penny Bun.

Ceps are woodland mushrooms that can be found growing all across the Northern Hemisphere from the Isle of Man to Europe, right across Russia, and even in North America where the variety looks a little different but apparently has the same flavor. It’s a large mushroom that forms symbiotic relationships with tree roots and can be found in both coniferous and deciduous forests – that is, it grows happily alongside both Pine trees and broadleaf trees such as Oak and Beech.

Foraging for Ceps, also called Porcini, on the Isle of Man #mushrooms

Why Porcini are so Prized

The nutty and mushroomy flavour of porcini is delicious in pasta, soups, and rice dishes and when purchased in the shop is usually found dried. It can also be quite pricey – £100 per kilogram in fact. So the combination of demand and price makes it especially attractive to wild mushroom hunters!

This year will be known as a ‘Cep Year’ (or Porcini Year) since there have been more than plenty to go around. On our walk, We found probably about two dozen that had just gone over. Recently Bill came across about thirty porcini prime for picking. He took some of them home to dry and now has several quart-sized jars filled to bursting with dried mushrooms goodness.

Foraging for Ceps, also called Porcini, on the Isle of Man #mushrooms
An older porcini mushroom

Finding Porcini Mushrooms on the Isle of Man

About half an hour into our walk Bill spotted a clump of porcini. Though I’ve read in my books that these mushrooms like a bit of sunlight, every place that we found them growing was in the dark. Gloomy areas under pine trees that you had to crawl through to get to the mushrooms.

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Though most of the porcini we found were past their ideal sell-by date, we did find three good mature specimens. Good meaning that they weren’t riddled with insects. The image above shows me splitting one in half to make sure there weren’t any lurking beasties inside.

You could also tell that the mushrooms were very mature by how green the underside of the caps had become. In porcini the ‘tubes’ are originally white, then yellow, then turn green and sponge-like towards the end of their cycle. They’re still fabulously tasty at this stage though so I had no issue with taking them home.

Foraging for Ceps, also called Porcini, on the Isle of Man #mushrooms
Fly agaric are not edible but often signal that porcini are near

Porcini can grow alongside dangerous companions

Porcini were on the menu but Bill and I also came across scores of other types of mushrooms. Probably the most prolific was fly agaric. A familiar red ‘Toadstool’ that is often found in illustrations of faeries, gnomes, and other mythical beings. Interesting that it’s found in such magical company since this mushroom is toxic but also hallucinogenic. It induces feelings of floating but also has some nasty side effects including cramps, tremors, and muscle spasms. It can even be deadly, so please don’t experiment.

Foraging for Ceps, also called Porcini, on the Isle of Man #mushrooms
Honey fungus growing on a log

Autumn is the Season for Mushrooms

We only found one other type of boletus (a relative of the porcini), and no others that were edible. Quite a few interesting unknown types though! Instead of plucking these unknowns for our baskets, we contented ourselves with taking pictures of our photogenic subjects. Though there are only a few mushrooms in the UK that are truly dangerous, there are plenty that will make you very ill.

Foraging for Ceps, also called Porcini, on the Isle of Man #mushrooms
Most mushrooms with white gills are poisonous

The dark, damp, woods were a perfect place for fungi to spring up. They were everywhere though, including clearings and alongside paths. They were lurking among shamrocks and bedded down in pine needles and whispy moss. The diversity of mushrooms has inspired me to learn more about spotting edible species. I have two very good books on mushrooms that I’ve been thumbing through today.

Foraging for Ceps, also called Porcini, on the Isle of Man #mushrooms
Mushrooms often form mycorrhizal relationships with trees

Foraging for Porcini

I feel terrible for not being able to tell you where we found porcini on the Isle of Man. Maybe with the photos in this post, you’ll be able to find a similar habitat near you. Think plantations, both broadleaf and coniferous trees, and the edge of woodlands. If you look from summer to the first frost you might be lucky with finding your own! It’s raining today which is also fantastic for mushroom hunting. They like a wet spell followed by a warmer, drier few days.

An 18″ tall porcini that amazingly had no insect damage.

In my next piece, I’ll show how I’ve dried my bounty of Manx porcini and how to use them in meals. Porcini is one of the finest eating mushrooms — right up there with chantrelles and truffles in the culinary world. If you’re lucky enough to have found some yourself you’ll be in for a real treat. And if foraging for mushrooms is new to you, porcini are relatively easy to identify! Check out the video below for more tips on how to identify them

6 Comments

  1. I always amazes me by the different names of mushrooms according to the region they are in. Now the ones you have here and are calling Ceps we just refer to them as Boletes. I wish I knew for sure though which ones to eat. A friend had picked some and they turned bluish in color and looked bruised. I told him not to eat them; but he did and became quite ill. Lesson learned. I guess I'll stick with my shiitakes, wine caps and oysters. Thanks for sharing :) and have a wonderful day.

    1. Blue mushrooms sound a bit dodgy…I'd have steered clear of them too! Sometimes it's better to just stick with the mushrooms you know but then again, there are so many tasty wild mushrooms. Always better to educate yourself on what you're picking first though.

  2. We just went to a lecture on foraging mushrooms and promptly went out and found some. We found many questionable varieties and one we talked ourselves out of picking to eat. When we got home we found out that we had passed up russala :( oh well there is always next year!

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