Autumn Foraging Update… or ‘What’s up?’

Early autumn update: Time for ceps!


Depending on where you are from, some of you may know this mushroom as the penny bun (England), cep (France), porcini (little pig – Italy), steinpilze (stone mushroom – Germany), or even Karl-Johans-svamp (Sweden)… in fact there are dozens and dozens of recognised names for this species around Europe, which attests to its universal popularity throughout history. Between 20,000 and 100,000 tonnes are harvested globally for the commercial market per year, commanding high prices, yet this is not an uncommon mushroom.

In England, the cep or penny-bun can fruit in two or more waves if weather conditions are correct. This year in our local south-west woods we have already seen a light fruiting of ceps, many in the vicinity of oak trees, during early August.  Now, as we head into the first week of September, there is plenty of rain and things are looking good for the next wave. We may well see a third wave as we head into October, by which time they will most likely be more prolific in association with beech woods. This is the typical pattern it seems with the cooler conditions triggering this later ‘wave of ceps’ a week or so earlier than elsewhere, further to the north. A combination of acid soils, underneath oak or beech with birch and holly both present, seems to produce the best results, although forestry spruce plantations and underneath pines can also be very very productive places to look and should not be overlooked.

Each year we pray for that vital autumn rain that will produce this magnificent second harvest across the region!

CepCAP: Yellowish brown to reddish brown… but predominantly brown, looking just like a bread bun on a short, swollen fat stick – hence the name ‘penny bun’.  Often there is a paler margin around the edge. 

SIZE: typically 10 to 30 cm across – that’s over a foot! Underneath there are no gills but instead (like all of the mushrooms in the bolete group) a sponge like layer, comprised of the tubes, which are only visible when you cut the mushroom in half, and the visible surface of ‘pores’. The pores of this mushroom are very small, they are round, very pale yellow when young – almost an ‘off-white’ colour, ageing later to a dingy olive brown. 

FLESH: All parts of the cep’s flesh smell a little sweet. The flesh tastes sweet and nutty, young specimens can even be sliced and eaten raw, something that is very unusual for most wild mushrooms. Eaten in this way they are delicious with a restrained drizzle of lemon juice and a little salt. The cep’s white flesh does not change colour when cut or bruised. many other similar boletes do go through distinct colour changes, particularly to blue, but not this one!

Cep stemSTEM: The stem of the cep can be very very fat indeed, often with more usable flesh in it than the cap itself! The upper stem surface is covered in a very fine, pale/white, raised fishing-net pattern or ‘reticulum’. This white fishing reticulum is a distinctive feature.


If it doesn’t have it then it’s not a cep. If it isn’t at least white-ish then it’s not a cep. No reticulum, darker brown reticulum or reddish-brown reticulum all indicate other species, not all of them are edible, so beware!

FACT: The tasty cep contains lovastatin, so can help to lower cholesterol. It also contains mood stabilising compounds such as serotonin, melatonin and tryptamine that are found in the human body and could possibly help to alleviate depression. It is delicious and drys well, particularly the ‘sponge’ from underneath the cap, which makes a terrifically flavoursome and high in protein stock powder.

While we are all making the most of late summer, I wish you all a wonderful autumn filled with mushrooms and the joyful crunch of autumn leaves beneath your feet. I hope to see some of you in the forest this autumn!

best wishes,
Fred the Forager!

5 thoughts on “Autumn Foraging Update… or ‘What’s up?’

  1. Great to hear your courses are still running; we often think of you and Natasha when we’re out in the forest. I can across a fine specimen of a cauliflower mushroom last weekend while walking in Leith Hill; it’s been cleaned and broken into segments and frozen ready to add to a future soup, I’m looking forward to trying it.
    Hope you are both well. Cheers Maxine and Geoff x

    • Hi Maxine & Geoff, we think of you too and all of the wonderful days we spent in the woods together. Very glad you are still following the silent hunt, as are we. Many new species recorded this year so far and still loving it every day. Would love to catch up with you sometime… may go foraging next season?
      Fred & Natascha

  2. Hello
    I’m looking for a mushroom foraging course for my husband and I this autumn. We live in twickenham and I’m hoping to find a location nearby. Do you have any corses available and if so where. Thank you

    • Hello Taya,

      Sorry it has taken me a week to reply. All of our autumn courses for 2020 are full but new dates for 2021 will be going live in just a few weeks. Keep an eye on the website as they do book up very quickly and I hate to disappoint.

      Best wishes
      Fred the Forager

  3. Great to hear you are well and still running the courses and medicinal conference. We’re still foraging around the country and thoroughly enjoying the peace of the forest. Hopefully we can join you again sometime soon. Would you by any chance be running a course specifically on russolas at any point? If so there are three possibly four people already definitely interested.

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