One of the most important and high-quality ingredients in Spanish cooking is the mushroom. You can find a wide variety of mushrooms in dishes from Spain, from the button mushroom to the porcini mushroom to the chanterelle mushroom – all are staples in Spanish cuisine. One of the things that make mushrooms a fantastic and often-used ingredient is their availability in Spain.
Foraging for mushrooms in Spain
Autumn is the perfect season to go foraging for all types of wild mushrooms throughout the country, but it is especially done in the north throughout Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, Catalonia, and the Basque Country. September and October are the ideal months to find them so they can be enjoyed in November, December, and later throughout the year.
Once the weather starts to cool down and there’s a noticeable chill in the air, it’s time to search the dense and shaded woods for wild mushrooms. They like to grow in areas of high humidity, so the cool autumn rains mixed with a scattering of warm days provide the perfect conditions for them. The damp forests, whose ground is normally blanketed with golden leaves at this point, give way to wild mushrooms ripe for the picking.
While mushroom foraging has been going on for generations in Spain as a way to make money, many who hunt them today like to go as a leisure activity. Every year, they’ll go with family or friends and enjoy the crisp autumn air, a nice hike, and time spent with loved ones. Plus, they get to return home with some delicious wild mushrooms that they can cook into mouth-watering dishes.
For those who don’t have wild mushroom hunting in the blood or a foraging spot that has been in the family for ages, there are many tours that are offered throughout Spain to go and pick the food in the forest. It’s easy to contact a tour group, and it’s a smart idea for those who are interested in a new experience, but don’t have the knowledge. Local guides are used since they are familiar with the types of mushrooms and they know which ones are inedible or even dangerous.
It’s important to be safe when foraging because there is a chance of coming across poisonous mushrooms in the wild. Dangerous mushrooms make their homes in the same damp woodlands as edible mushrooms, so it’s essential to have an expert like a local tour guide to share his or her knowledge. Some types of poisonous mushrooms can be lethal if ingested, so it’s crucial to contact and go with someone who is experienced.
Traditional dishes made with wild mushrooms
While there are types of inedible and even poisonous mushrooms, there are over 2,000 varieties of edible wild mushrooms in Spain. One of the most common to forage is the porcini mushroom. With a brown cap and white stalk, the porcini is a mushroom that is just as at home in your grandma’s kitchen as it is in Michelin-starred restaurants and fine dining dishes. Its short harvesting season makes it highly desired for those wishing to sell their finds – it usually sells for $30-$60 per pound.
Like the porcini, the chanterelle is a common wild mushroom foraged throughout Spain. Known as seta in Spanish, the mushroom is used in a variety of dishes and a lot of local recipes throughout different regions in the country. These mushrooms are well-suited in egg dishes like omelets and in tapas with a hearty piece of bread.
Some of the best traditional Spanish dishes using mushrooms are also some of the simplest. Champiñones asados, or grilled button mushrooms, are a well-known tapa dish where the button mushroom is the star. The mushroom is cooked on the stove with olive oil or butter, garlic, and parsley. Using such few ingredients highlights the earthiness and high quality of the food, making it a delicious bite that embodies the flavors of Spain.
You can find champiñones asados on the menu at all three of our Socarrat locations, along with other delectable dishes. Stop by our Chelsea, Midtown, and Nolita restaurants to try them out. Keep following the blog to learn more about the food and culture of Spain.