By Gemma Wilson
WHILE autumn in Spain brings cooler temperatures it also brings with it the wild mushroom picking season.
Popular with both locals and tourists, mushroom picking is a favourite pastime all over Spain with about 2,000 different species to be found.
Edible funghi can be found on restaurant menus, in bars and cooking in homes, the natural delicacy a gift for the palate.
With an abundance of enthusiasts, mushroom hunting tours are a popular way for mushroom lovers to hunt and gather the prized possession.
David Nuyen, co-owner of Hotel Bandolero in Ronda, offers his guests the chance to forage in the woods with a local guide from nearby Juzcar.
“The tour usually goes for about an hour but if the group wants to go for longer than it can go longer,” David said.
“The last group we had were a group of people from Gibraltar that were up for the weekend,” he said, adding that you get to learn about the countryside as well, a great opportunity for both mushroom and nature lovers.
With the recent rain the temperature is now perfect for wild mushrooms to grow and flourish.
“You need to have rain and then sun after because it’s the humidity that is ideal for the mushrooms to grow,” David said.
Many locals forage for the mushrooms selling them to local restaurants.
“We had a man from Estepona who spent some time here last year and sold us the mushrooms he found which we included on our menu, incorporating them into dishes,” said David.
Depending on the type of mushroom, popular ways to serve these delicacies range from lightly sauteing them with garlic and parsley, cooking them in soups and eating them raw, thinly sliced and served sprinkled over a risotto.
Wild mushroom lovers need to be aware though that some varieties can be highly dangerous if indigested, making it vital that you only eat mushrooms declared as edible by an expert.
One dangerous species is the false morel or brain mushroom, whose name comes from its striking resemblance to a brain.
It is highly toxic and can be deadly if eaten raw although many Spaniards will still eat it cooked.
It is recommended that you should always take a wild mushroom species book out hunting with you so you can identify what mushrooms you find and it’s best to wear gloves, placing the picked mushrooms in a basket.
Some pharmacists will also identify your finds but taking an expert out with you when you hunt is a good idea for amateurs.
With the season underway and the palates of enthusiasts watering, now is the best time to go out and gather these delicious delicacies.