Catalonia enjoys mushroom season
The passion for mushrooms among Catalans contributes to economic dynamism in pre-Pyrenees counties such as Berguedà, Bages and Ripollès. Many fairs and festivals are held, as well as especial dishes at the restaurants. Catalonia is one the world’s corners that is more into mushrooms degustation but also search.
Barcelona (Gastroteca.cat).- Catalonia has a special weakness for mushrooms. This is reflected in the way Catalans go out into the wild in search of mushrooms, but also in their presence in markets, restaurants and fairs, which contributes to the economic dynamism in some areas of the country.
The passion for mushrooms in Catalonia is so great that every year between September and November, the country’s forests fill with people in search of the delicacies. In many cases, people collect the mushrooms for themselves, although there are also people who sell them in restaurants or roadside stands. You can also find them in the many mushroom markets and fairs that are organised throughout the country. Some of the markets are intent on organising the mushroom phenomenon, like the one in Ripoll, which started as a simple section at the weekly market and has turned into a tasting fair where mushrooms are presented along with other traditional foods.
Aside from that, a growing number of mushroom seekers coming from different parts of Catalonia have obvious economic repercussions, as visitors tend to spend money on other things. Rosa Maria Auquer, a technician at the Consorci Ripollès Desenvolupament, gave us some details. “In August and even more so in September and October, we see how many visitors come here, attracted by mushrooms. They spend their money in restaurants and fill their car tanks with petrol, etc. There are even people who spend the night in rural houses and it is also very common for them to buy quality products of the area, like our veal. Obviously, our job and that of the tourist offices consist precisely of promoting and expanding this tendency, i.e., promoting mushroom seekers to take the opportunity to visit the early-Medieval Ripoll monastery and to the sights of Núria Valley to boost the economy of the area...and always, of course, picking mushrooms according to the rules! In fact, the companies dedicated to the production of mushrooms and a portion of forest owners are demanding for a regulation in order to prevent clumsy mushroom seekers from damaging the landscape. Some places, like Campelles, have even considered charging a tax to anyone who enters their forests in search of mushrooms”.
The Catalan mushroom calendar is very large and varied, as we can find anything we want. For instance, the villages of Cardona (in Bages county) and Coll de Nargó (in Alt Urgell county, next to Andorra) dedicate an annual fair to a specific mushroom: the ‘llenega’ (Hygrophorus latitabundus) and the ‘rovelló’ (Lactarius sanguifluus), respectively. This is rather strange, as the normal tendency is to dedicate the event to mushrooms in general, like the Seva Festa del Bolet (Mushroom Festival) in Osona county (in Catalonia’s centre), the Fira del Bolet del Solsonès (The Mushroom Fair of Solsonès county) or the Festa del Bolet of Setcases (Mushroom Festival), in Ripollès county.
On some occasions, this starring appearance of mushrooms is shared with other products, such as at the Castellterçol’s Mushroom and Herbal Remedies Fair. Other events where mushrooms share the terrain with local crafts exist in Teià (in the coastal county of Maresme) and in Ribes de Freser (Ripollès). Llagostera (in La Selva county), on the other hand, invites visitors to their Mushroom Fair-Festival-Market, which started as a result of a singular circumstance. Marc Gascons, chef of the prestigious restaurant Els Tinars, spoke of the fair’s origins. “Some years ago, the world of cuisine in Empordà county started its famous gastronomic campaigns where every town vindicates a product of their own so that the general public ends up associating the town to the product. This way, Pals had the rice, Palamós the prawn, etc. The campaigns were so successful that Llagostera decided to join in and it chose the mushroom as its product, simply because it wasn’t taken. We have mushrooms, and very good ones, naturally. The thing is that there are many other towns that also conform to this group!”. Els Tinars offers delicious mushroom-based dishes, such as ous de reig carpattio or fried eggs over a mixture of mushrooms
The area of Catalonia that offers the most outstanding mushroom agenda is Berguedà county (in the pre-Pyrenees area), mainly because there are many mushrooms –and they are awfully good. Expert chef Miquel Màrquez of the restaurant Sala (from the town of Berga), aside from having the extraordinary Menu of the Mushroom, is the soul of the gastronomic projection of Berguedà. In fact, this area not only has the mushroom as its main product, but also has many other delicatessens, like sweet corn soup, ‘masked’ potatoes and even quality certified veal. The role of festivals and fairs is key for the commercialization and spread of mushrooms. This is the case of the fair held in Berga – the Bergabolet But there are more in Guardiola, Castellar del Riu, la Pobla de Lillet and Vilada – which includes a cooking contest. There are also gastronomic campaigns like the Cuina del Bolet (The Mushroom Cuisine), where restaurants and hotels of the area offer breakfasts and tasting menus starring mushrooms. Finally, there are technical days like Els Bolets (The Mushrooms), which is about the preservation of the environment and economic growth, organised by the Consorci de Turisme of the Alt Berguedà.