While at our local bar here in the small town of Cocentaina an hour inland, yet a million miles from the mass tourism of Benidorm I asked the bar owner Vincente why he had the largest mushroom I had ever seen in my life in a glass sitting on the bar.
I mean this thing was huge kind of like three dinner plates sitting on top of another, yet this taupe colored monstrosity was sitting like a trophy for the world to comment on, which nearly every Spaniard did as the entered the bar.
Mushroom Hunting Season
You see here in Spain there are two things that the Spanish are passionate about one of them it will be no surprise to hear is football, but the other is mushrooms, and the quest to find the secret spots where they grow. In fact mushroom hunting is considered an essential part of life in Catalonia where groups of people from Sitges and Barcelona called in Catalan boletaire (mushroom hunter) will head inland even as far as the Pyrenees to find the perfect mushrooms.
The season for hunting mushrooms is around now in late October, and early November when the rains if by magic arrive to tell us that summer is over, and that it is time to get out those warmer winter clothes.
The Spaniards who live in the wettest part of Spain up north in Galicia where they have weather much more like the British Isles poke fun of the people here along the Mediterranean coast for being afraid to get wet. In some ways they are right, as we generally only get rain in the spring and in the autumn with a long hot summer in between. One thing you can guarantee though is that after the rain has gone people will be up at the crack of dawn to scourer the forests looking for these delicious fungi with the most sought after one being called Niscalos (red pine mushroom). These delicious mushrooms are prize find, orange in colourthey can be found growing around tree old tree stumps.
They are also quite valuable fetching a nice price in the market place of up to and sometimes over 10€ a kilo, and at that price are quite a valuable commodity.
Keeping it Safe
You must be careful though when mushroom hunting as just like in other parts of the world there are mushrooms that can kill you, or in the very least make you very ill.
This of course means that is an absolute necessity to go with someone who knows which mushrooms are good to eat, and which ones should be left alone.
If you cannot find someone to go with an easier solution is to arm yourself with a book which contains photographs of the mushrooms you are hunting for.
Then after you return with your days pickings still give them to someone to sort out the good from the bad. In Spain this is a tradition that has been passed down through the centuries so the majority of people know what to look for.
Returning now to where we started the story back in Bar Marvi, the owner took his giant trophy to the kitchen where he washed it sliced it up along with a few cloves of garlic. He then took a bottle of virgin olive oil and poured it into a large frying pan and cooked it while stirring all the time to blend the three ingredients together finally adding what looked like at least half a glass of white wine to the pan.
With a little bit of salt and a few slices from a fresh baguette this was a tapa to die for.
The article is provided by Jon Saymour, a travel blogger who live in Sitges, Spain and promotes the online interests of Sitges apartments specialist Outlet 4 Spain.