In our neck of the woods near the Nebrodi Mountains deep in the province of Messina in the North west of Sicily we are usually blessed by the bounty of fresh Porcini mushrooms at this time of the year.
Last year it was pretty dry so we didn’t get to taste the meaty flesh of these little packages of intense flavour. This year we’ve already had loads of rain, which together with the humidity the end of summer has created bountiful harvests of all types of mushrooms. I think we’ve found two years worth of mushrooms in one month.
The hunting of mushrooms is apparently strongly controlled with a permit issued by the ‘Forestale,’ Forestry department and a limit of three kilo’s in place. As usual with such imposed regulations and rules here in Sicily they are widely ignored and flaunted! You have to be terribly unlucky to come across a stickler of a ranger who cannot be bribed with a case of porcini and actually give you a fine!
Everyone seems to have gone mad for mushrooms! People have filled their car boots, there have been news stories on local t.v stations of record mushrooms weighing two kilo’s. It seems to have become a local obsession.
I’ve always loved the classic porcini with it’s distinct shape and easily identifiable smell and clean white flesh which is difficult to mistake with any other more venomous variety.
As with most other things Sicilian’s have a fear of mushrooms and tell tall tales of families who have eaten bad ‘rooms and have all kicked the bucket. Occasionally you hear the odd t.v news report but I don’t think it happens as often as Sicilian’s would like you to believe it does.
To make sure collected mushrooms are all right to eat you will find the shrewd Sicilian housewife giving them to taste to the local stray cat or even to chickens. To avoid indigestion they say to consume mushrooms during the day and to drink wine instead of water with them, I suppose if you are going to die it’s best to go off inebriated!
I’m happy to report this year I’ve survived meals of veal scallopini and risotto with porcini, enjoyed seasoned galletti in olive oil and devoured exquisite ovuli cooked in lemon.
Porcini are your classic mushroom like those drawn in cartoons, while galletti are little yellow mushrooms that grow like herds of cows grazing in the mountains and ovuli are egg shaped, scraping away the white exterior will reveal an interior egg shell colour and yellow interior flesh. They are all simply delicious.
Take it from a survivor, it’s defiantly worth the risk.
Additional photo’s from Google images