Gourmet Adventures: Mushroom Hunting in Le Marche
"I'll be here at 5:30 am ... have the coffee ready!" commanded our "capo" (boss) Dottore Gaggi.
We knew what that meant: the conditions were right for a mushroom hunt, particularly for the ever-loved porcini! We knew we had the perfect guide, certified Mushroom Hunter & expert on everything. I’ll never forget our first hunt, foraging into the woods, we learned mushroom hunting is an art with three key secrets along the way.
Mushrooms return to the same spot year after year.
Many mushrooms grow in pairs; "where there is one, there is many," repeated the doctor all morning long. Quickly there after his basket was full! I couldn't believe how fast the doctor started finding mushrooms & porcini to say the least. "Ashley vieni qui (come here)" & sure enough another plump delicious fungus was waiting to be plucked from the ground! He would leave it there so I could examine the scene. The secret is to scan the forest floor, looking for irregularities in how the leaves are laying, as the mushrooms grow they cause the leaves to bunch up. Sometimes you're lucky enough to find them out in the open as well as growing at the base of trees.
Remember your location is a secret, out here never tell a soul where you hunt. Even out in the middle of nowhere, deep in the woods.
Which brings me to number two:
If you come across another hunter, it is customary not to acknowledge him - just pass by without notice. On our first trip out we didn’t know any better and as jolly Jason came across another hunter he eager proclaimed “Buon giorno signor, what a beautiful morning for mushroom hunting!” The old Italian grumbled about the bad weather & that there is just nothing to be found in these woods. NOT TRUE! Our baskets were overflowing at this point & so was his. Thus, never let on that you are doing well. It is highly recommended to use a deep covered basket with a lid, so no one can see in.
And finally, number three: know your funghi!
Jason & I are not experts on the many various funghi species. We rely on the experience & knowledge of our dear friend Dott. Gaggi. He “controls” the mushrooms & inspects each & every one to determine if they are safe to eat.
Recently on a beautiful fall afternoon, Jason & I decided to head-out for a walk & see what we'd come across. I was shocked! The leaf covered floor of the woods was filled with beautiful betolus (the latin word for the porcini family) - I was able to identify them by sight as the same family as the delicious porcini. I thought to myself as we headed home with a basket full of these juicy jewels...”Oh the doctor will be so proud! I’m a natural.”
Upon first glance he dumped the basket out, lit a cigarette and turned towards the house in disgust he grumbled "toxico."
"But...aren't they in the betolus family," I stammered - proud to use a little latin.
The doctor grinned "Yes my dear, but these are betolus satanas!"
Ends up we found kilos of Satan's Porcini - the Devils version of the wildly popular edible mushroom! Well with a name like that's its pretty cut & dry that this one should not be eaten! This is exactly why we have Dott. Gaggi inspect them all!
Since that first foggy morning we've been out dozens more times & have brought home loads! From the famigliola to the coral reef looking manine or fingers, each outing out we are more familiar with the woods, where they like to grow & what's edible.
After the inspection we add them to sauces, dry them or even stick them in the freezer to be used later as they conserve great!
Please contact us - either in the late spring or late fall if you'd like to go mushroom hunting. It is best to go mushroom hunting 10-12 days after it has rained IF it is humid & warm after the rains. We own La Tavola Marche, an Agriturismo in Le Marche, Italy.
Mushroom Hunts last over an hour & into the woods - off the trails. We return to the house & share in a bottle of house bottled red wine to warm us up after the crisp walk in the woods. Cost 25 Euro/person.
For more information, please see:
Ashley Bartner is the Living in Italy Editor for Wandering Educators
||Wandering Educators is happy to be celebrating Gourmet Adventures Month with these great travel blogs, each of which has their own idea for a culinary quest to take on your trip:|
||Deadly Gourmet Adventures: 5 Delicious Foods That Can Kill You||By Spot Cool Stuff|
||Thee Three Best Restaurants in Honolulu, Hawaii||By The Vacation Gals|
||Delectable Dishes in Saint Kitts and Nevis||By Wanderlust and Lipstick|
||Modern Pastry: Five steps to ordering in Boston's North End||By Gadling|