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Continuing with our visit of the Val de Loire …

People in the area did not just live in caves (see our hotel in caves here and here), they use it to store wine and to grow mushroom.

Apparently, more than half of the mushrooms cultivated in France come from this area and Anjou (just a bit down river).


We went to a museum of mushroom which has a production facility attached to it. The museum part was quite boring. It started with collections of objects that are mushroom shaped – essentially anything that has a cap and a stem.


The other part of the museum, just inside the entrance of the caves, shows samples of different kinds of fungi preserved in plastic. There were lots of text accompanying the exhibits to educate the public about the varieties, as we all know, many of which are poisonous, and some are hallucinogenic.


Many people here enjoy country walk, mushroom picking and then eating their harvest. Some toxic mushrooms look just like the normal pale white innocuous boletes type but can kill or at least send people to the emergency room. My friends told us that many villages have a local expert who can recognize the toxic ones, and people are encouraged to show their pickings to the expert before eating it.


The really interesting parts start deeper inside the caves. The museum keeps a small collection of live fungi beside those cultivated commercially.




Below is black poplar mushroom – Agrocybe aegerita, a species that is really easy to cultivate, even at  home as a hobby.


This is Coprinus comatus, the shaggy ink cap, lawyer’s wig, or shaggy mane, a common fungus often seen growing on lawns, along gravel roads and waste areas. According to Wikipedia … The gills beneath the cap are white, then pink, then turn black and secrete a black liquid filled with spores (hence the “ink cap” name). This mushroom is unusual because it will turn black and dissolve itself in a matter of hours after being picked or depositing spores. When young it is an excellent edible mushroom provided that it is eaten soon after being collected.


Hericium erinaceus or 猴頭菇 (monkey head mushroom) is a choice edible when young, and the texture of the cooked mushroom is often compared to seafood. It often appears in Chinese vegetarian cuisine to replace pork or lamb. I have never heard of it let alone eat it.


Trametes versicolor – turkey tail fungus – too tough to eat but believed to have anticancer properties.


Each species has a unique requirement of substrate (wood, compost, etc) and temperature and humidity (essentially the natural environment of the caves). We forgot the name of this species.


One of the more bizzare-looking species is lingzhi (靈芝or reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) which is well known in Asia as having medical properties and a symbol of good fortune. They look like strange tongues or paws reaching out from a block of wood or rock.


I (Chris) have not seen a living species before. Even if I did, since it has that shiny sheen and smooth surface, I would have thought that it was a cheap plastic model of the real thing. The top and white tip were covered in a fine layer of spores.


In our next post, we will show photos of the cultivation areas.




  1. The monkey head mushroom are sold as a dried form in Chinese grocery stores like Kamsen. The mushroom that looks like white coral is quite pretty. Isnt Truffle a kind of mushroom too?

  2. The monkey head mushroom has a chewy texture.

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