Monday, 24 October 2016

The Joy of Mushroom Foraging

I've rediscovered the pure joy of mushroom foraging! My Dad introduced me to it when I was little and we used to go into the pre-pyrenees mountains to look for them.  

Not sure what it is - but I'm guessing toxic!
Yesterday, after a week of photo exchanges on the family WhatsApp group, not only my Dad but my brother had been showing off their finds, I decided it was time to see what Mallorca had to offer. It's rained a lot this week so I thought it would be a good time.

Rovellons or esclats de sang- the prized mushroom of my childhood - like wet, mossy ground in pine forests. That's all I know really!

Cute but what is it?
Husband and I headed off mid morning to... ha, no true mushroom hunter ever reveals where he goes. Let's just say, it was in the south west of Mallorca.

It was Sunday and our destination was disappointingly full of cars. Cars filled the off road car park. Cars were lined up along the narrow country road. Our expectations were low. We didn't even take a basket. 

I've recently read, when collecting mushrooms you must use a basket so that the spores can scatter as you walk through the forest.

We got out of the car and immediately saw a mushroom beside the back tyre. It was not one I recognised but it seemed like an excellent sign. A few minutes down the road, we saw another bright yellow one. Definitely toxic, I thought.  Google agreed. A minute after that, we spotted another.

Beautiful but poisonous!
None of the four types of mushroom we spotted in the first five minutes of our walk were edible, and yet I was already jumping up and down with excitement. I felt high on nature, high on being on this grown up treasure hunt.

(I'm giving a business consultant feedback on her book about 'personal power'. There's a part about how we should raise our energy levels by reconnecting with our passions and dedicating time to doing things that makes us feel joyful. What was the last thing that made you really happy? Do it!)

Our plan was to join a hiking route, but half way before we got to the start, we decided to go off road and check out a mossy patch. Immediately we saw two more species of mushroom. The thorny bushes were vicious, cutting up our legs and arms, but we couldn't resist continuing.
Rovellons - edible and delicious!

My husband spotted the first rovello. It was a little paler than I was used to but I got down on my knees and scraped around it to check the colour underneath. There's a trickster mushroom called un rop which is almost identical to the rovello but white underneath. 

This one was pink underneath. Result!  Beside it there was a smaller one... and not far from it... another and another and another! It was incredible. We had only been walking ten minutes and we found 11 in one spot!

In the evening we fried garlic in olive oil and then added our mushrooms. The idea is you fry them until all the water leaves them. We had them on toast with a glass of red wine. It felt quite something to have foraged for your own dinner. 

After his first successful mushroom trip, my husband feels very confident. He thinks it was as easy as picking them up from the supermarket. Tomorrow we'll head out again and we'll see if it was beginners luck!


Extract from my book Shop Girl Diaries (Diary entry: 2nd October 2008)

It was just me and my Dad on the trip. Mum stayed to run the shop.
          We arrived in the village at night; the air smelt of earth and blown out candles. This was the village of my childhood. It was where I’d learnt that lizards lost their tails when in danger and a Calimocho was wine mixed with Coca Cola.
          In the morning the sun was shining.
          Time expanded.
          Old men sat on benches chewing toothpicks. They grunted and stared.
          Everyone who passed by was under scrutiny.
          Papa and I sat out on the balcony with our books, pens and newspapers.      
          The Spanish papers had adopted a tabloid tone for that week’s disaster. The stock exchange was collapsing; the banks were in trouble.
          Papa rubbed his hands together and looked excited.
          ‘I’m getting very worried!’ he said.
          I looked across at the sleepy plaza.
          The sun was out and a breeze was gently lifting the pants on the washing line.
          I could hear the clang of cow bells.
          It was hard to muster any worry in the pueblo.
          Perhaps If I’d had money I would’ve been a bit more concerned. It felt good not to own anything.
          In the afternoon we headed into the forest.
          I felt about twelve years old with my wicker basket and as free as a mountain goat.
          Rovellons are like big, fat orange buttons sown into the earth.
          There weren’t lots about and I was thrilled by each one I found.
          ‘We’re going back to our roots, aren’t we?’ I said. ‘We’re hunters again!’
          In the evening, Papa fried the mushrooms with garlic.
          ‘What else could we find in the forest?’
          I had a devilish desire to shoot a rabbit.
          ‘Cauliflower,’ Papa said.
          We followed the same simple pattern each day.
          I wrote endlessly, plotting my novel about the phoenix until my head hurt.
          It was perfect.


Lindsay said...

Lovely post and I liked the link to your Diaries. When I was a country girl we used to pick field mushrooms - yummy! We also loved finding puffballs - which are edible when young - but we just picked and explode them!

Emily Benet said...

Oh I just googled puff ball mushrooms! They look a lot of fun. I think I could get into this. I might branch out to wild asparagus and wild garlic, although they come out in Summer. I may have been born and brought up in the city but I definitely think my heart belongs to the country :)