The mushroom hunting season is upon us and Autumn with all its glory and reddened leaves brings with it too the rain and dew upon which wild mushrooms really thrive and grow. The tradition of gathering mushrooms is deeply rooted in the Iberian Isles but it is here in Catalonia, Spain and the Basque country that mushroom picking is at its most popular. In our region, the mushrooms’ greatest fans in recognition, hunting and consumption of the species can be found. It is worth noting that the boletus edulis, commonly known as Porcini, has made a huge comeback in recent years and is one of the most hunted of the mushroom species. The most common to be spotted, however, are the Rovellón or the Níscalo mushrooms.
Mushrooms are the most important ingredients for the preparation of many of our traditional Spanish dishes; in some they are the main, or even the only, ingredient. What could be better than a dish of freshly picked wild mushrooms, gently but rapidly cooked in a combination of Virgin Olive Oil, Butter, Garlic and Parsley, which needs nothing more than a hunk of fresh bread and a glass of good wine? But the interest in mushrooms is not merely limited to culinary or commercial reasons. Equally important, if not more so, are the leisure or sporting aspects which mean that, when the autumn rains come, large numbers of people go into the forests to enjoy a pleasant walk while filling their baskets with mushrooms.
Spanish mushroom hunters often keep their picking location secret in order to avoid less enthusiastic pickers from pillaging the area for monetary gain. Much like secret fishing spots, mushroom picking areas (which vary from season to season) are only shared with close friends. As a matter of fact, friendships are known to have been broken on account of picking spots being revealed by unreliable partners or a picker being spotted on a week day at a location disclosed to him by a senior picker. In order to understand what is considered appropriate etiquette one should know that an amateur picker will not become the primary hunter in an area he has recently been introduced to by a senior picker!
The mushrooms that grow in Spain do include unfortunately, toxic species, some very dangerous. Ignorance and confusion with edible species with a similar appearance, means that each year, when the mushroom season arrives, there are cases of poisoning, some even fatal.
Enjoy your mushroom hunting, but it is important you go with someone who really “knows their mushrooms”!You can enjoy a unique and authentic mushroom picking experience with a local expert on our Mushroom Hunting Getaway Tour.