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Forests with a touch of magic, forests with flavour


With the arrival of autumn and the first rains, magic awakens in the Andalusian forests and little elves come to life. The cold and the water join forces to enable mushrooms to reappear from the earth and mushroom lovers can now begin their field trips. Basket in hand, they roam the woods in search of a precious culinary treasure. Every year, chanterelles, "gurumelos" (amanita ponderosa), Caesar's mushroom and the unique black truffle appear as if by magic to the delight of lovers of mycological tourism, an experience that combines sport, gastronomy and contact with nature.

Mycology is a very ancient activity, so much so that it dates back to when our ancestors went to the forests to obtain food. Nowadays we no longer depend on such outings for our survival, but they have become an enjoyable activity to spend an unforgettable day in the field while walking in the mountains, identifying species and collecting the fruit. There are few activities that connect you so wonderfully with mother earth and her fruits. 

Andalusia has all it takes to be a mushroom picker's paradise. The great variety of landscapes and the rich biodiversity make it an ideal destination for lovers of mycology. Take a good basket, which helps disperse the spoors, don't forget your knife and wear your best boots, forests like those in Aracena, Alcornocales, Sierra Norte and Alhama await you.

In Andalusia there is a network consisting of seven mycology routes: "Santa Rita" in Cabra (Córdoba), "Prado Alto" in Bayárcal (Almería), "La Nava" in Aracena (Huelva), "Llano del Enebral" in Iznalloz (Granada), "Pantaneta de Alhama" in Alhama de Granada (Granada), "Valdeinfierno" in Los Barrios (Cádiz) and "Pinares Puebla del Río" in Puebla del Río - Aznalcázar (Seville). Any of them will display an exciting world, hidden among the autumnal forests in Andalusia.

Did you know that you could find the most highly valued fungus in the world in Andalusia? It is called the "black truffle" and its market value reaches such exorbitant prices, that it has earned the nickname of "culinary black diamond". Cheaper, but no less exquisite are the "girolle", frequently found in Los Alcornocales, and "boletus", in the Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche. Another of the most coveted mushrooms is the "Caesar's mushroom", which grows in chestnut and cork oak forests in Huelva. The "Gurumelo mushroom (Amanita ponderosa)" is another that should not be missed. In towns with a tradition for mushrooms, such as Fuenteheridos, they are exquisite prepared simply with scrambled eggs.

Before venturing out to pick mushrooms on your own, it is very important to learn how to distinguish species. In Andalusia, in each province, there is a Mycological Information Point (PIM in Spanish). They are really a great help, as is the Jardín Micológico and Centro Andaluz de Micología "La Trufa", in Priego de Córdoba, a pioneering infrastructure where a visit could help you become an expert in the field.

Routes with experts

It is recommended to follow the routes accompanied by experts working for ecotourism companies discover the secrets of the forests and advise you on how to pick mushrooms. This way you will not only avoid poisonous mushrooms, you will also learn the best way to pick them without harming nature whilst benefiting their dispersal through the forest.

Make sure you are well equipped before setting off on your mycological adventure, a basket and a knife are essential. It is important to carry the mushrooms you pick in a basket, because once they have been cut this enables them to breathe and for the spoors to be distributed whilst you walk through the forest. If you use a knife to cut the mushrooms instead of just pulling them up you avoid damaging the soil and the connections maintained with the surrounding trees.

Each route can take about four hours, so when you reach the end you will want to move on to the next phase which is to taste the mushrooms you have picked. You can cook them at home or go to bars and restaurants, sanctuaries of this extraordinary autumn cuisine. This is food which is healthy, tasty and very low in calories. Ideal to be eaten on their own, with oil and salt, cooked in a thousand different ways or as a simple garnish in a number of dishes. They are perfect just tossed in a pan with a little garlic. 

You have now seen that mushrooms are a culinary delight, this goes back a long way, since the Romans were very fond of them and they figured prominently in their cookery books. As an anecdote, the queen of edible mushrooms is Caesar's mushroom, with the scientific name of Amanita Caesarea, in reference to how much the Roman emperors enjoyed this delicious fungus. What are you waiting for, here is a banquet fit for a king!

Forests with a touch of magic, forests with flavour