Le Saut aux Loups Mushroom Farm
Had enough châteaux? How about some champignons?
The Loire Valley, known for its soft, white limestone or “tuffeau blanc,” is the perfect place for mushroom cultivation. The abandoned quarries left behind after building all those château are now used for growing a large percentage of France’s national production of mushrooms.
There are several mushroom caves open to the public throughout the valley, but we chose the Saut au Loups near Saumur. It was on the way to the Cointreau distillery! Here you can see that the entrance is located a couple of hundred feet up in the cliff face.
In the gift shop, they sell some of the varieties that they grow on site.
Inside, the tour is self-guided and starts with an educational area about the history and science of cultivated mushrooms. It’s kind of corny, but hey, it’s France.
Preparing the mushroom beds. 75% horse poop and 25% straw. Very educational!
Of course, there were the obligatory wax figures showing how the mushrooms were harvested on hands and knees back in the day.
Here’s a more modern set up for growing Champignons de Paris or button mushrooms. Traditionally this type of mushroom was grown outside of Paris until the city started to encroach and the producers moved to the Loire Valley.
There’s something very satisfying about seeing mushrooms in their natural habitat.
This is the shitake room. The exotic mushrooms are grown on a sterilized substrate packed in little bales and wrapped in plastic or paper.
Here’s a beautiful specimen! This is a pleuriote rose.
The rest of the tour was pretty much about taking sexy mushroom photos.
After the cultivation rooms, the rest of the cave was had some weird black light art installations. What this has to do with mushrooms, I do not know.
Flying baskets and an empty mushroom bed. French existentialism at its best. A very thought provoking tour.