Once upon a time, Little Red Riding Hood left her cabin and went to the forest to collect mushrooms ….Well, I think that at this point, we should stop talking about the girl, and concentrate on the other protagonist of the story: the mushrooms.
We start in Spain, where multiple varieties grow given its diverse topography. Mushrooms are usually found in pine forests around Leon, Lleida, Sierra de Gredos, and Catalonia. Not all varieties are edible and if you have no experience we recommend not to venture alone into the Iberian forests to forage for these mysterious fungi. Always remember a mushroom is the visible part of a fungus that lives underground.
As an authentic Italian living in Madrid for the past25 years, I’m fond of the Porcini fungi or Boletus edulis. I like to eat them raw, with just a touch of Lerida oil and fine or Maldon salt.
Boletus edulis is a mushroom that is available fresh in the fall, mainly in central and southern Europe. This variety is one of the most prized for its flavor and texture. Their size varies, and it thrives on decomposing organic matter in forests and meadows.
There are several ways to prepare them: they can be used in stews, fried, roasted, baked, grilled on charcoal, or taken raw with extra virgin olive oil and coarse salt. They also come in vinegar or oil preserves.
A cream of Fungi Porcini—Boletus edulis mushroom—can tame the fiercest enemy, and if we add fresh clams, garlic, oil and parsley, it becomes a real delight.
The flesh of these mushrooms can be white or brown, with a firm consistency both in the stem as the cap, although older specimens are softer. They don’t have a particular aroma but have a well-defined and sweet taste reminiscent of freshly picked hazelnuts.
Its aroma depends on the environment in which it grows. They often smell of anise, fruit, radishes, freshly milled flour, or almonds. They can also taste like hazelnuts or coconut, or spicy and aromatic.
The flesh has a fibrous, sweet, viscous and granular structure. They are rich in proteins and carbohydrates and have a low-fat content. Mushrooms provide micronutrients such as potassium, minerals, magnesium, calcium, iron and vitamins A, C, B1, B2 and D.
As if this all that nutrition were not enough, they are tasty and delicious morsels. ■