The Man-Made French Caves Dedicated To Growing Mushrooms

Any visitor to France is sure to have many culinary stops in mind. An itinerary might include Bretagne for its infamous tart ciders and buckwheat crêpes, Normandie for mussels and other seafood treats, or Lyon for its range of gourmet cheeses (via Talk in French). And that's not even touching on the plethora of delicious offerings you're sure to find on any Parisian street. 

While the Loire Valley is known for its wine and rillettes — and its many beautiful châteaux — there are other delicacies hiding just below ground. Between visiting medieval castles and biking through wineries, foodies may want to consider stopping near Montrichard-Val-de-Cher. You'll notice a green sign indicating a mushroom farm, explains Conde Nast Traveler, and what you'll find about five kilometers down the road may surprise you. 

Mushrooms require cool, damp conditions to thrive, says World Atlas. And while typically that looks like the side of a tree in a shaded forest, it could also look like a cave.

From quarry to mushroom cave

Located 50 meters (or just over 164 feet) underground, Conde Nast Traveler shares that each year France's Caves des Roches yield over 100 tons of 'shrooms. But growing fungi wasn't always the purpose of these subterranean quarters. The caves are part of a network of quarries created when builders were in search of limestone, Atlas Obscura explains. Many of the region's famous châteaux were constructed out of this stone — also known as tufa, per Blois-Chambord — but in the 75 miles of the Caves des Roches today, mushrooms are the main export.

With a normal temperature near 53 degrees Fahrenheit, Caves des Roches provide exactly the cool, humid conditions that mushrooms love. And the results are evident: 40% of the world's pied bleu, aka blue foot, mushrooms come from here. The farmers also cultivate oyster, button, and shiitake mushrooms in the cave.

What else makes the mushroom cave unique — beyond growing mushrooms in a cave — is that quarry workers carved a gigantic village into its stone in the 1800s. So any visit to the site, which according to the Loire Valley's tourism website consists of a 30-minute tour, also includes a trip to a stone town. For a mere €12 adults can see the subterranean limestone town, plus a world of underground mushrooms ... and perhaps taste a few of them too.