Next autumn will be full of mushrooms
Studies show that mushroom production in the Catalan woods will be at great levels this season, between 55 and 70 kilos per hectare, way above average. Year after year, the end of summer heat is associated with the start of mushroom season, which will very likely be splendid, according to Catalonia’s Forest Technological Centre, thanks to the copious amount of rainfall throughout the year.
Barcelona (Gastroteca.cat).- Catalonia’s Forest Technological Centre (CFTC) is attempting to predict the mushroom season using mathematic models. Juan Martínez, an expert from the centre explains that “in 2009 we were quite successful with our prediction, although we firstly need that the meteorological predictions are also successful as we base our models on those predictions. The rain matters just as much as how hot it was this summer. We have data for each forest as we extrapolate data from 88 samples that we have distributed across Catalonia. Everything makes us think we will have between 55 and 7o kilos per hectare this year, which means it will be a good year since the last 15-year average is 43 kilos. However last year was a splendid exception with some 90 kilos. It has to be said that we are talking about all kind of mushrooms, not only edible ones. Those that are put on the market represent about 25% of the total.
Naturally, when we talk about average quantities it needs to be understood that not all mushroom species react in the same way. Local climatology matters, as well as the species’ characteristics. For instance, the CFTC states that this year it has rained more in Central Catalonia than in the Pyrenees. Therefore, the fungi porcini, which grows in the mountains, will not be as present as other species.
Among the many varieties of mushrooms that are eaten throughout Catalonia, the lactarius mushroom leads the rest in terms of popularity and preference even though experienced taste buds would suggest the porcino, the chanterelle, hygrophorus varieties, the Ceaser’s mushroom, and obviously, the truffle.
There are also several mushroom fairs that are marked by the Catalan festivity calendar. Each year, more and more mushroom-related activities are popping up, some even specialising in a specific type of mushroom. Fairs such as these currently exist in Berga, Setcases, Cardona and de Berguedà, among others.
Mushroom season is tied to proximity: it is always Fall somewhere in the world and therefore there are always mushrooms. It is for this reason that the most celebrated mushroom vendors such as Petràs in the Boqueria are able to operate all year round.
If there are not any mushrooms in Catalonia, there will surely be some in Chile, Namibia, Australia and other corners of the world. In this sense, mushrooms see the same patterns as many other products because consumers want everything all year round. This comfortableness means loosing touch with the natural cycle, the disappearance of the product and its awaited arrival.
However, there also those who vindicate mushroom consumption all year round from another perspective, like Miquel Màrquez of the Restaurant Sala in Berga, a mushroom authority within the Catalan restaurant business. Known throughout the world, Màrquez recently said to an English press: “I have always defended the Catalan mushroom. In my restaurant’s case, mushrooms are a fundamental product year round.” This faithfulness to the Catalan mushroom tradition allows for a network of contacts, though mushroom gatherers cannot always function like this because of volume prices and regularity.
The company Rovellons Estany from the village of Fonollosa admits that it is precisely the Catalan affection for their product that made it necessary to commercialise and expand horizons. “It is only because here people seek out mushrooms for either personal consumption or to sell them. In the end there are also climatic problems; it does not rain when it should rain. Above all, the sector lacks regulation, which is something we have been asking for for a while. It has been some time now since we began going to the French Alps where we have reserved territory. There 50 to 60 people work, all of them insured and with the necessary papers. We just opened a factory in Romania as well where we have porcino mushrooms but they do not really eat them, so we freeze them.”