Wild About Mushrooms
by The Tapas Lunch Company
From the TLC Blog
It is that time of year. The time when fans of wild mushrooms in Spain get very excited.
Indeed in the town of Haro in La Rioja - a place more readily associated with red wine - they even have a wild mushroom fair in the town square. All shapes, sizes and types of wild mushroom are on display, including chanterelles, porcini and the oyster variety. Now wild mushrooms and a bottle of Rioja sounds like a good combination to me.
In Girona, a favourite city of mine in Catalunya, the forests are full of mushrooms. The weather this far north plays a part in that. They get more rain here than further south in Spain. The mixture of humid and damp conditions throughout the year leads to some fascinating funghi growing in this part of the country.
Porcini (Rovellos in Spanish) are seen everywhere. Chanterelles are also easy to lay your hands on. Niscalos (know as the Saffron milk cap in English) are plentiful. Here in Girona they call it the Pinatell. You will find them under pine trees and they are delicious to taste and a joy to cook with.
Orange in colour the mushroom is shaped like a vase. Cut into it and the sap or milk that come out will be the colour of Saffron, hence its nickname in England.
Further south in Spain I went out on Sunday and saw a few people bending down on a stretch of land. Were they exercising? No, as it turned out, they were picking wild mushrooms. They proudly showed me their collection and told me the kind of meals they would be making with them
Wild mushrooms in Spain are big business. There are even guided tours taking the interested on trips to see the mushrooms, buy or pick the mushrooms and even cook the mushrooms on site. Cooking lessons and schools based around the humble mushroom. Crucially these tours have experts on site to make sure you do not bite into something poisonous.
Nicolás Boullosa takes people on such tours of forests in Extremadura near the Portuguese border with Spain. He says: "Where there are ferns, there is humidity. There you will find mushrooms. I can tell the difference between the safe mushrooms and the poisonous ones by their colour, shape and size.
"My mother used to come to this forest often but now so many people come looking for wild mushrooms it gets almost impossible."
And appearances can be deceptive. Some mushrooms that look pretty, small and harmless are actually potentially deadly. While some ugly ones are actually a delight and perfectly safe to eat.
The Black Trumpet mushroom would not win any beauty contest in the world of mushrooms. Jet black and with some uneasy on the eye warts, the mushroom actually begins life a lovely snow white in colour. It matures into ever darker colours and is particularly aromatic. Add a little of this to certain dishes and you will will be able to taste its impact.
Spanish meals you will come across using wild mushrooms include scrambled eggs with mushrooms, chickpeas with mushrooms or a lovely combination of mushrooms with sherry. Those recipes are available on this site.
If you go picking wild mushrooms, be sure to know that what you have picked is safe to eat before inviting friends around for lunch.
Get it wrong and they may no longer be wild about you!