Posts

Spain, France and Italy are paradise for truffle and mushroom lovers in winter, when prestigious white and black truffle festivals and lively wild mushroom markets abound! Piedmont’s legendary white Alba truffles, the iconic Périgord black diamonds or the amazing array of wild mushrooms in Catalonia are best enjoyed at source at these authentic local truffle and mushroom feasts!

Typical fresh black truffle and wild mushroom pasta in Italy

Freshly picked Catalan wild mushrooms

 

Both truffles and mushrooms love the dark and damp, though there are many differences between these beloved fungi.

 

Truffles are a tuber, which is a type of subterranean fungus, so do come from the same kingdom as the venerable mushroom. Unlike mushrooms (of which most tend to resemble an umbrella in shape), truffles, whether of the black or white variety; look similar to a misshapen potato in size and form.

 

Truffles are only found growing underground beside the root systems of oak or hazelnut trees, preferring precise conditions of moist, warm days and cooler nights, which the heavily wooded areas of France’s Provence and Dordogne, Italy’s Piedmont and Spain’s Aragon, provide.

 

In season, we have many harvest festivals celebrating truffles & mushrooms here in Spain, France & Italy. Perhaps the most prestigious one is the International Alba White Truffle Festival in Piedmont, that takes place from October through to November. From there, you can travel to Tuscany where in November you can taste more exquisite white truffle at the San Miniato Truffle Fair. In France the black truffle is the star of the show. The best black truffle festivals are in January, the Sarlat Truffle Festival in Dordogne and Sorges Truffle Festival in Provence being the most important. For an unforgettable truffle experience, join us on a private gourmet truffle and mushroom hunting tour, where you will not only experience the lively truffle markets, truffle and mushroom cooking demonstrations and other gastronomic events, but also hunt for these delicacies yourself! Funnily enough, the completely unknown area of Teruel in Spain not only produces some of the best black truffles in the world, but also is thought to produce the largest quantity! Away from the international buzz, this is the perfect place to feast on truffles at excellent local restaurants without the exorbitant price tag.

White and black truffles once they have been dug out from the earth… they taste much better than they look!

 

While in Spain truffle-hunting, why not feast on wild mushrooms as well? The Catalan region at the foot of the Pyrenees provide excellent conditions for mushroom hunting and is well known among European mushroom lovers. If you would like to experience mushroom picking in Spain, join us for a Mushroom Hunting Getaway Tour, immersing yourself in its damp, woodland world. Feel underfoot the crush of fallen leaves and the scent of rain and earth as our expert mushroom hunting guide takes you to his secret spots to pick some tasty and nutrient-rich fungi.

Two truffles hunters hard at work in the forest close to Alba, Piedmont

 

Some glorious Spanish chanterelles ripe for picking…

In terms of cuisine, the humble and versatile mushroom is widely used in Spain in meaty stews, creates a rich risotto with arborio rice and white wine in Italy, or pan fried with garlic and herbs as an accompaniment in France: really, the choices are many!

 

When you taste the flavour of truffles, they are best enjoyed fresh and of course, uncooked. Come and enjoy the truffle season with us, feasting on freshly harvested aromatic thinly sliced truffle atop pasta or polenta in Italy, on an omelette in France or atop a hearty filet in Spain.

 

When it comes to ‘hunting’ both types of fungi, experience and knowledge of the best spots is crucial and our guides are true experts. Then for mushroom hunting a good set of eyes is enough, whereas finding truffles requires the expertise of a trained dog as well; to lead you to this culinary gold, and then for the ‘hunter’ to dig them out.

Either way, truffle & mushroom hunting in Spain, France & Italy is a fun and very authentic experience, so come on board and let us organise the perfect truffle and/or mushroom hunting getaway tour for you!

Italian wild mushroom risotto with pangratatto

 

Mushroom hunting

The mushroom hunting season in Spain is once again upon us and Autumn with all its glory and reddened leaves brings with it too the rain and dew necessary for wild mushrooms to thrive and grow.  The tradition of gathering mushrooms is deeply rooted in Spain but it is here in Catalonia and in the Basque country that mushroom picking is at its most popular.  On our Mushroom Hunting Getaway Tour  you can experience this fantastic tradition first hand with an expert who will have you foraging in the forest.  In our region, the mushrooms’ greatest fans revel in  hunting, recognition and consumption of the species.

Maybe the clue is in the scientific name “Lactarius Deliciosus” that this wild mushroom is edible.

It is worth noting that, in Spain, the boletus edulis mushroom, 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 Níscalo mushrooms.  In the kitchen, very often roasted or stewed, Rovellons can also be served to guarnish  a meat dish or stew.  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 mushroom hunting is not merely limited to culinary or commercial reasons. Equally important, if not more so, are the leisure or sporting aspects which means that, when the autumn rains come, large numbers of people, families and friends, go into the forests to enjoy a pleasant walk while filling their baskets with mushrooms.  Cars seem to be abandoned in unusual spots along the country roads but their owners will be foraging in the forest nearby.

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 or passed down by generations. As a matter of fact, in Spain,  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 mushroom picker!

It's not all about looking pretty, as not all the wild mushrooms you will find are edible. It is wise to go with an expert!

It’s not all about looking pretty, as not all the wild mushrooms you will find are edible.  It is wise to go with an expert!

The mushrooms that grow in Spain do include unfortunately, toxic species, some very dangerous. Ignorance and confusion with edible species that have 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”!

Peep Oh!!! Mushrooms are more than likely hidden under braken, fallen leaves, broken branches or even enveloped in moss

Sometimes easy to spot, mushrooms very often hide

 

Enjoy a unique and authentic Gourmand Breaks private mushroom hunting and picking experience with a local expert on our Mushroom Hunting Getaway Tour