Mid August in the Alps, and the absolute perfect time for recreating in the mountains. The summer rains have kept the subalpine an emerald green while the high peaks are often coated with new snow; a spectacular contrast. At EPIC EUROPE, we’ve been getting out on mountain bikes, road bikes, and on foot; the latter slows us down to a pace where we can take notice of the alpine flora and fauna, and also the many opportunities for foraging for wild food.
If you are like me, your hike will take a couple of extra hours, and you’ll arrive home with a bucket overflowing with fresh berries. I first noticed the blueberries last week and was so excited, I nearly fell off my bike! Take a look for them between 1500-2000 meters in slightly shaded areas.
A Swiss hiker once warned me not to eat them from the side of the trail because they most definitely had been “watered” by passing walkers. Yes, a possibility, but a risk I am willing to take; maybe I’ll pick a little farther off the trail!
If you want to be sure of their availability (and cleanliness), there are lots of local farms where you can pick your own. Phil’s Fruits in nearby Liddes is an oasis of fresh produce, and whatever is in season is up for the picking: apricots, plums, berries, tomatoes, apples, and pears; a great place to bring kids, as there are also lots of farm animals running around and cool places in the shade for a picnic. On Sundays, you can come for brunch and enjoy the season’s bounty, as well as lots of other local treats.
As the leaves begin to change and the days grow colder, be on the lookout for wild mushrooms as well. With the damp summer, they should be in abundance, especially the chanterelles on the north-facing slope of the Val de Bagnes.
If you want some assistance in your search, we recommend the fall white truffle hunt in Piedmont Italy, nowadays lead by a canine and not a pig (the pigs like the truffles too much) but no less exciting nonetheless. The “trifalou” (what the truffle hunter is know as in northern Italy) are very protective of their secrets, and have been know to blindfold guests for the approach or leave at ungodly hours of the morning. Some claim the moist ground in the pre dawn hours intensifies the smell and aids in the hunt. I think it just adds to the mystique and is all part of the fun. No matter whether you unearth them yourself or you pay exorbitant prices (nearly $2000/lb at the market in Alba weekends from October to mid November), the aroma and taste is always incredible, and well worth the effort. If you are hunting on your own, make sure to bag all species separately (the poisonous spores from one mushroom can ruin an edible one), and take your finds to an expert to help you identify them. In Switzerland, quite frequently your local pharmacist has very good knowledge of edible fungi.
If you are interested in foraging for wild food and mushrooms while enjoying a fantastic hike in the Alps, please contact usand we will arrange for a custom itinerary with one of our expert guides.
- “Myco club d’Entrement” (www.myco-entremont.com) leads guided hunts throughout the year.
-Check out www.vapko.ch to find your closest mycology (the study of fungi) expert, or club in Switzerland.
-On Sunday evenings from late July until the end of September there is an expert available at the “Salle du CAD” in Volleges from 19h-2030 to help identify.
-A good resource in N. America is www.mykoweb.com you can find links to your local club or lots of information on identification.