The mushroom walk is an unmissable must-do during a weekend in the Ardennes! Organized by specialists in all corners of Wallonia, mushroom walks are treasure hunts for adults, an appetiser for gourmands and an autumn cure for everyone!
Mushroom Walk, what is it exactly?
A mushroom walk starts with a nice morning meeting with an experienced mycologist guide. Then you go on a not very long walk to the best woods and the best meadows to find the tastiest mushrooms. There are explanations about mushrooms: their name, their characteristics (so you do not confuse them with their poisonous brothers), little anecdotes about their, more or less, beneficial uses, and stories of fricassee and omelettes that make you want to sit at the table right away…
So to be less poetic: a mushroom walk is a guided walk with a mycologist who informs you about the edible and poisonous mushrooms of the region that you are visiting. The walk is quite short, organized in groups, and lasting from two to four hours.
Always with your favourite mycologist
I would like to insist on this point! Do not think you’ll become a specialist after a day. The study of mushrooms is very complex. There is nothing more similar to an edible mushroom than a poisonous mushroom.
During the last walk we did, the guide showed us a mushroom and told us: “When I was young, I use to eat big quantities of this mushroom! Today I would not dare to eat a single one! Mushrooms are excellent indicators of pollution. They absorb toxins. Mushrooms that were edible 20 years ago, can be completely saturated with pollution and unfit for consumption today!
Our guide told us many stories about mushrooms. Even the best, can be wrong … Without a mycologist, it is impossible to know these distinctions!
Mushroom walk: children allowed
Yes, there is a risk that your children may run around and stomp on some mushrooms. A little focus or awareness before the start is needed. That being said: a mushrooms walk with the kids is really magical!
All of a sudden, it is like you are the same age as them! Everyone searches in the undergrowth for the edible mushroom that… almost always turns out to be of no culinary interest (thank you, specialist!). Children have lynx eyes that can distinguish mushrooms between two dry leaves. They marvel and ask questions that you do not dare to ask…
This is the perfect opportunity to give them a taste of hiking in the Ardennes. However, you should bring something to eat and drink, something to clean hands with, and a change of pants if they get wet…
Mushroom Walk in Chevetogne
The appointment was at 10 am at the Esplanade of the Provincial Domain of Chevetogne. The mushroom walk is free, but you need to pay a fee to access the domain. Fortunately, the Domain of Chevetogne is an Ardennes-Etape partner: so get a discount at the entrance with the Ardennes-Pass Guide! [lien vers partenaire]
As an anecdote, the Domain of Chevetogne is sublime, spending a day of mushroom walk + picnic + bike ride to the playground is perfect. The Domain of Chevetogne is also huge! We were late by a good 15 minutes… Oops!
The volunteer guide, José Gilles, is patiently waiting for us with some other participants. He is a little annoyed because it is a little too warm. The mushrooms will be a bit shy this morning. Explanations, documentation, stories of misadventures … are all shared during the walk. We are invited to come back next month to enjoy the experience with another volunteer mycologist.
This was my second mushroom walk. The first took place in the woods of Jalhay. Each walk is different and each guide addresses mushrooms from their own angle. I love it!
Joining a mushroom walk
Tourist offices organize mushroom walks throughout the Ardennes. With a simple search on Google, you can find a mushroom walk near your holiday home.
Remember to register in advance. In any case, call to check if there is still room. The number of participants is often limited to offer a good experience for everyone. Sometimes, the walk is cancelled because the weather is not ideal for the walk: it could be too hot or too cold…
Your mushroom walk checklist
Each time I went on a mushroom walk, I arrived as “a tourist”, meaning that I didn’t prepare at all.
If you want to look like an experienced and savvy traveller, here’s what you should consider bringing with you:
- A wicker basket with a flat bottom. Mushrooms cannot be stored in plastic bags and they should not mix either. Maybe paper bags are a good alternative if you do not have a basket.
- A knife to cut the stems of the mushrooms. In this regard, did you know that one should not cut the mushroom by its stem? You need to pull the mushroom out and then cut the stem! This is what one learns during a mushroom walk. The mushroom is the fruit. The plant is under the surface. When you tear off the mushroom, you limit the risk of infection and, therefore, you protect the plant!
- A small soft brush to clean the freshly torn mushroom before putting it in with the others. If you do this, it will save you some work; because otherwise, you could “contaminate” your whole crop with a dirty mushroom…
- A recent edition of a book about mushrooms. This is optional. Obviously, I arrived at the walk without any of this. However, a couple who took part in the walk in Chevetogne had such a book with them. It was great because they marked the pages of the mushrooms we saw and they could understand better what the mycologist explained.
- The basics for any walk: something to drink, something to eat…
Autumn and mushrooms
It is no secret that autumn is the most popular season for mushrooms. You can eat mushrooms every weekend in September and October if you feel like it.
On the other hand, did you know that you can also pick mushrooms from April? Some mushrooms only come out in spring, just after the last frosts. Others are available all year long if you know the right meadows…
Talk with your guide. If you have a passion for mushrooms, it’s also worth it to come in another season!
Mushrooms are seasoning, not food
I really liked this remark from our nice guide at the Provincial Domain of Chevetogne and I wanted to use it as a conclusion.
A mushroom walk is a great activity to do with family or friends. Just for the pleasure of being outside, to breathe the fragrance of the woods in autumn, to see the fabulous light of the sun in this season, and to feel like a child again. It’s interesting and fascinating.
And as I am a big gourmand, I always think about satisfying my stomach!
The mushroom walk is, therefore, a full experience to meet the needs of the human being… Just keep in mind that the mushrooms you pick must be consumed as an aromatic herb. Mushrooms are seasoning, not food.
That being said, I wish you a fabulous mushroom walk! Share your experiences and tips!