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Mushrooms, magical creations of the forest

Wikispanishfood.com editorial team  

Mushrooms have been around since ancient times. Appealing but dangerous (legend has it that Emperor Claudius, Pope Clement VII, Buddha and St. Charles Borromeo all died from eating poisonous varieties), mushrooms provide some of the most refined pleasures of fine dining. They are considered a culinary gem in most of Spain.  

Mycology can be classified into three different areas: first, it's a science; second, it's practically a sport, since people actively pick mushrooms; and third, it's an art when mushrooms are used in cooking. For these three reasons, countless mushroom fans set out in search of these beautiful treasures when fall arrives.

Boletus edulis, the most prestigious

The most well-known, prestigious Spanish mushroom is indubitably boletus edulis, which grows in coniferous forests, with its splendid cap and robust stalk, adding personality to every single dish. A carpaccio, a simple cream, and risotto are delicious ways to discover its subtle flavor.  

Another common mushroom found in Spanish pine forests when fall arrives is the saffron milk cap (Lactarius Deliciosus), which stands out for the orange-colored milk that exudes when it’s cut. Its strong flavor adapts perfectly to a plethora of recipes, and it’s even delicious fried or breaded. This variety can't be dried because it loses all of its aromas.

Caesar's mushroom (Amanita Cesarea), which looks like it sits inside an egg covered with a white veil, has a cylindrical stalk and is yellow in color. Its flesh is very tender, and it's important to tell it apart from other poisonous mushrooms in the same family. These taste delicious when grilled.

The king trumpet mushroom (Pleorotus Eryngii), which is tasty and has a strong aroma, is often grilled or served in an omelet or with scrambled eggs, although it also pairs well with poultry and meat and can be included in broths and soups. This mushroom often grows at the foot of thistle plants. It's generally ash-colored and the stalk is generally off-center, since it grows out of the root of the thistle.

The trumpet of the dead (Craterellus Cornucopioides) is usually camouflaged, and grows in beech and oak forests around All Saints' Day, hence its name. Characteristics that set this mushroom apart are its funnel-like shape and the fact that it has no cap. It's a great variety for drying, as its aroma improves during the process.

The chanterelle (Cantharellus Cibarius) usually grows in large groups in coniferous and deciduous forests. These mushrooms are easy to recognize due to their different shades of yellow and their cap. All of its varieties are edible. They are an excellent garnish for game, and are delicious in lasagna and scrambled egg dishes.  

The blue stalk mushroom  (Legista Nuda) is medium in size and, as its name suggests, is blue. It stands out for its cap, which changes in color, and its tender, white flesh. They grow in meadows and in areas with a lot of fallen leaves, and they taste great in, for example, fish stew.

Spring mushrooms

The arrival of spring brings with it a variety of other flavors. The most popular is St. George's mushroom (Calocybe Gambosa), a true stand out in the forest in spring, with its fleshy white cap, thick stalk and compact flesh. A simple scrambled egg dish brings all of its culinary qualities to the fore.

Another great spring mushroom is the black morel (Morcella Conica), commonly found in coniferous forests. It stands out for its cap, which looks a lot like a hood. Its flesh is light grey, and there is a very similar poisonous mushroom, so it's important to be very careful when picking them. In the kitchen, these mushrooms taste great as a side dish to game and poultry.

At the end of fall, the black truffle appears, an edible fungus that’s associated with the roots of certain trees, especially holm oaks, and which is generally found by trained dogs. This beautiful treasure is usually grated or sprinkled over any food, such as pasta, rice, etc. It can also be used to infuse certain ingredients, such as eggs.

If you're looking to try mushrooms, we recommend several well-established restaurants in Madrid where they are given pride of place when they're in season. María Luisa Bango (La Cocina de María Luisa), Iñaki Camba (Arce), Salvador Gallego (El Cenador de Salvador) and El Cisne Azul, Paradís Madrid and La Chalota are your best bet for discovering the diversity of mushrooms in cooking.

ADDRESSES

LA COCINA DE MARIA LUISA. Jorge Juan 42. Tfno, 917 810 180. Madrid www.lacocinademarialuisa.es

EL CISNE AZUL. Gravina, 19. Tfno. 915 213 799. Madrid 

PARADIS MADRID. Marqués de Cuba, 14. Tfno. 914 297 303.Madrid www.restauranteparadismadrid.es

ARCE. Augusto Figueroa, 32. Tfno. 915 220 440. Madrid www.restaurantearce.com

EL CENADOR DE SALVADOR. Avda. de España, 30. Tfno 918 577 722. Moralzarzal, Madrid www.elcenadordesalvador.com

LA CHALOTA. Fuente, 7. Tfno. 916 373 898 Las Rozas, Madrid

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11/12/2014