Fall is here and with this season the time for mushrooms: the land fills with people looking at the ground, searching among the fallen leaves and the soil covered with green for this delicacy, to add to stews, to cook on grills or pans or add to salads or deserts. It is important to be careful, because if the person does not have the basic knowledge to differentiate one type from the other, may incur in serious health risks. Thus the importance of the Awareness Sessions, that grow along side the mushrooms, and extend allover the region. Their usefulness is not only gastronomical but also, pedagogic.
The mycological associations move many people every year, which participate in awareness sessions, meetings, conferences, where participants not only learn to search for mushrooms but also, learn to distinguish between the different kinds of mushrooms. Not all kinds are safely edible. Participants also learn to treat the resources properly. You learn to use a basket for collecting mushrooms, as opposed to bags. On the one hand they will keep the mushrooms fresh and allow the spores to fall back into the ground, which is necessary to continue their growth in the fields. After the end of summer, most of the locations at the north of Extremadura will include something related to mushrooms in their programs of celebrations. Just to mention a few: the Toña Piornalega, the Otoño Mágico (Magic Autumn) of the valley of river Ambroz, the Otoñada held at the valley of river Jerte, and the newly launched elotoño.com of the Sierra de Gata. The conferences, workshops and similar activities reproduce like mushrooms and generally with increasing public interest. Others have gained success and popularity such as the Jornada Micológica at the Cuacos de Yuste, which has congregated for eleven continuous years, the meeting called Sabor Micológico de Coria, and conferences and mushrooms samplings in Las Hurdes, Tierras de Granadilla, also numerous activities of the Asociación Micológica Placentina (Mycological Association of Placencia). There are many more groups and it would be difficult to mention them all through these lines.
Many of the events organized by these mycological groups or associations include a field trip into the woods to collect mushrooms and also the cooking and tasting of the priced harvest. Some times the cooking and the feast will take place in the outdoors. Sometimes the mycological events will be held at the best restaurant of the district, which will include exhibitions of the mushrooms and sampling of dishes that range from the simplest, most traditional ways of cooking this wonderful food to the most sophisticated and innovative gastronomical preparations.
For some people the harvesting of mushrooms is a way of life to earn their daily income, for others it represents an extra to their regular earning, which is highly regarded specially in times of economic crisis. Thus, it is important to stress the proper use of the land where mushrooms grow in the wild. To stress the importance of using the proper equipment, such as baskets that will allow the spores to remain at the fields. To stress the importance of colleting samples at the right stage of maturity, not too young but neither old, which should be left in the field to complete their reproductive cycle. There are many varieties of mushrooms that grow in our fields: boletus, níscalos, umbrellas, huevos de rey (eggs of king). The Níscalo or chanterelles is the most popular and widely eaten in Spain but in Extremadura the Boletus is the preferred variety. Many delicious preparations are made with mushrooms.
Extremadura has large extensions of wooded land such as the huge chestnut groves of Hervas, the largest in Europe. These lands are ideal for collecting “Rebozuelos” (Cantharellus cibarius) and many other species. Along the North of Extremadura the sites with greater mushrooms tradition are the valley of river Jerte and La Vera. The Sierra de Gata is characteristic for the variety of the species found there, more than the quantity of samples.
The enormous extensions of wilderness at the North of Extremadura, a region in Spain which is to the west of Madrid, close to bordering Portugal is ideal for the development of a great variety of edible mushrooms. The Pine forest, the Chestnut Groves, woods full of Oaks and Cork Trees, rivers and mountains provide the ideal ambient for these species. Experts recommend collecting mushrooms with a knowledgeable person. Also, the option of collecting mushrooms with a photo camera is interesting. The person shares enjoyable walks, learns from nature, and discovers interesting natural corners and vegetation. We can become experts without incurring in any the health risks.
Original article by Marian Castillo
Translated by Susana Windt
Published in October, 2015