Ceps (Cèpes)

ceps or Boletus Edulis or Cèpes wild mushrooms

One of the most famous foods in France are called 'ceps' or 'Boletus Edulis' 'Cèpes'. These are wild mushrooms that are edible and grow all over the contryside in France. Be careful, as wild mushrooms should not be collected unless you know how to identify them. If you do find mushrooms and your not sure if they're edible, in France you can take them to any pharmacy for identification.

It has been proposed to be one of the safest wild mushrooms to pick for the table as there are no poisonous species that closely resemble it. Perhaps the most similar would be the 'Devil's bolete' (Boletus satanas), which is a similar shape but has a red stem and stains blue on bruising.

Cep is a large bolete with a dull brown cap, it has a dirty white pore and stout and swollen stern, it is found during summer through to autumn, solitary or in small groups on soil under broadleaf or coniferous trees.

It is a delicacy and quite expensive in France. When my husband and boys go foredging in the woods near where we live, it is truly a treat when they return with cep. Luckily we have friends here, who have lived here all their lives so they know exactly where to go to find them year after year.

If you do find cep or even a nest of cep, called 'nids' in France, choose only the young and firm. Cutting the stipe with a knife is alleged to run the risk of the left part rotting and destroying the chance of it growing again. Fruiting bodies are instead collected by holding the stipe near the base and twisting gently.

Peeling and washing are not recommended, use a soft brush to clean them and check thoroughly for insects.

There are many kinds of bolete in France with different shapes, sizes and colours. There are two main species, one is the 'cèpe de Bordeaux' the less expensive of the two. It has a firm, blackish head. The other is 'Tête de nègre' (negro’s head) is much rarer than the 'cèpe de Bordeaux', it is by far the most appreciated by gourmets, as well as the most expensive. Usually smaller than the 'cèpe de Bordeaux', it is also distinctively darker in colour.

These wild mushrooms normally require long slow cooking to bring out their flavour, ideally before you use them in a dish, dry them out in your oven very slowly to get rid of the moisture, then stew them very slowly in some oil. Then they're ready to saute, to deepen their flavour and make them digestible.

You can eat them raw, slice thinly and dress with lemon and oil or add to a salad. I prefer them cooked in dishes as their deep woodsy flavour comes through. Because they're expensive you can also add a few regular mushroom and still get the flavours, only not as intense.

See recipes involving Ceps:-

Ceps with ham and vegetables
Ceps with Potatoes and Garlic


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