Shiitake are the number one mushroom in East Asia. They have been used there for a long time as food and as a remedy. Over time, these Asian mushrooms have also conquered Western cuisine. Many cooks prefer the dry variant of Shiitake, as this is the one that can display the umami taste, that flavour that is also characteristic of Kikkoman Soy Sauce. Those who want to convince themselves of this tasty experience can try these little brown delicacies, for example, stewed with vegetables as a side to poultry, meat or fish.
Truffles are the most expensive mushrooms in the world and the fungus par excellence. Both black and white truffles appear only very rarely. In the forests of France, Italy and Australia, they can be found relatively frequently. Especially the black truffle is often used to prepare fish and meat dishes. On the other hand, the white truffle is only grated on the food already prepared since, if it were cooked, it would lose its characteristic aroma.
What to watch out for with mushrooms:
Mushrooms should have a smooth, undamaged surface. The cut surface of the stem should still be fresh and should not look wrinkled. Dry, firm and velvety: this is how fresh mushrooms feel. If they are wet or slimy, it is better to throw them away. Fresh mushrooms give off a pleasant forest smell. Do not use mushrooms that smell musty. Prepare the mushrooms preferably the same day of purchase. If you buy them for the next day, clean them well and place them on a clean tea towel in the fridge's vegetable drawer. Everyone knows the myth that mushrooms should not be overheated. But this is not a problem as long as two details are taken into account. After the first preparation, the mushroom dish should be quickly cooled and stored in the fridge. Then it can be reheated the day or the next two days without problem; Even so, it is better to do it at a temperature of more than 70 degrees Celsius so that the germs that may have arisen are eliminated.
It never rains to everyone’s liking, although (almost) it always rains to nature’s liking. Suppose the countryside looks beautiful with the arrival of spring. In that case, it is undoubtedly thanks to the fact that before, the generosity of the rain has seen fit to donate a little of its benevolence and thus contribute to the course of mother earth. If those rains have arrived in form and form, one of the most precious delicacies will make an appearance and delight the most sophisticated palates during the autumn. And that delicacy cannot be other than the mushroom.
There is a whole world behind the mycological phenomenon, and for the Sevillian northern highlands, the mushroom collection is a whole world. On a rainy and seemingly unpleasant morning, Rafael Rodríguez, an expert in collecting this fruit of mother nature, guides us through the Guadalcanal highlands. And first of all, a warning: “Who does not know them, do not even touch them.” According to the expert, the simple rubbing with a toxic species and subsequent carelessness can cause the poison to pass from the fingers to the lips. Likewise, he points out that this year the precious asset is scarce due to the little rainfall that, until now, has graced us with its presence.
Something that can never be missing from the collector is the wicker basket. If we do not do so, we can face an economic sanction from the Civil Guard. The reason, according to Rodríguez, is simple as well as insignificant. “What we are looking for,” he explains, “is that when we move from one place to another in search of mushrooms, the ones we already have in the basket are releasing spores and these fall to the ground through the holes. Left by the basket.” The spore is the seed of the mushroom and when it falls, what is sought is for new specimens to grow for the following year. However, Rafael disagrees with this theory. «If the spore does not fall on the mother, it does not grow. It is absurd that it falls elsewhere. If it does not fall on the trunk of the tree, it will not grow. Therefore, he adds, the best thing to do when cutting a mushroom is to shake it right where it is picked so that the microscopic spores fall on the mother and reproduce next fall.
The first specimens we find are poplar mushrooms (Agrocybe aegerita), a species of dark colour, pineapple-shaped and with an unbeatable flavour. They are preferred in the northern highlands, while in southern Extremadura, they prefer meatiness to thistle. It is a type of mushroom that is usually found in elms and poplars. More difficult, although not ruled out, is to see it in ash trees. It usually appears in one out of every 50 copies of this type. It is stranger to see it in wicker and fig trees, corresponding to the proportion, according to Rodríguez, of one for every hundred wickers and one for every five hundred fig trees. Of course, being in this last tree, it can reach twenty centimetres in height.
One of the classes that seem to have more depth in the area is the thistle mushroom (Pleurotus eryngii). A species born under the protection of thistles and that, as with the poplar, cannot grow if the seed does not fall next to the mother. It stands out for being meatier and because it can be seen even in spring.
In this regard, the expert assures that the ideal time to collect the mushrooms is at the time of year between the first half of October and the first frosts, which usually occur at the beginning of December. However, if spring is rich in water, accompanied by a waning moon, it can make them appear even at this time of year.
In the same way, there is the possibility of mushrooms growing throughout the year on what are known as moon trunks. Whims of nature that make the delicacy of the land can be enjoyed at any time.
But if something makes the mycological phenomenon special, it is necessary to know the specimens that are collected very well since a minimum mistake can be fatal. That is the case with the spice known as Amanita phalloides. A mushroom grows in the shape of a gray egg that was used in ancient Rome to poison emperors. Its consumption can be deadly, and it is possible to be camouflaged among poplar in some avenues.
Other toxic mushrooms in the area are not so lethal and can be recognized by various procedures. For example, the pheasant should be observed after cutting it. If it does not change colour, it is edible. However, if it turns purple, it should not be consumed. The gallipierna, meanwhile, has to measure more than ten centimetres. Otherwise, its consumption is not recommended.
Rodríguez prefers that these guidelines be followed, as traditional methods have proven to be unreliable. In particular, the expert remembers when it was said that they had to be fired with a silver jewel. If said jewel took on black colour, it meant that it was toxic. This method appears to be of little value, and it is recommended that experts in the field be consulted to avoid taking risks.
Once collected and transported as recommended, all that remains is to enjoy it on the plate. And if the variety of species is wide, even more, is the way to prepare. And it is that they can be enjoyed both in sauce, as with potatoes, rice, egg, tomato or stew, among other forms.