Italians and mushrooms go way back. Mushrooms love Italy for its rain and sunshine which is the perfect combination for their growth. And Italy loves mushrooms—an important ingredient for their cuisine—since in Italy it is ALL about the food! Mushroom seasons in Italy are summer and autumn and the Italians utilize this time to make all kinds of dishes, but even more important they utilize this time for family bonding.
When visiting family in Italy, there are early mornings that everyone rises to go out and pick mushrooms. It is a family outing adults and kids alike. Usually that night there is pasta made including the mushrooms that were picked. Building family memories and then gathered around the table eating the source of those memories—priceless. Note to self: In the future, shoes must be of sturdy nature, any little bit of a heel will not suffice. But I go off topic.
Mushrooms are not only prized in Italy, they are a passion. It is a pastime to explore and find mushrooms. But beware; believe it or not, you must have a license (tesserino) to go picking. In some areas the license will be delivered to the person that attended a brief, basic course and passed a test. In other regions it is simply given to the individual without conditions. Now that is passion! Also, in some areas you will only be able to collect mushrooms on certain days, in order to limit too many being picked. Some mature mushrooms have to be left so they can disperse their spores and re-populate.
Wow, I’m guessing that you may not have known just how seriously Italy takes their mushrooms. There are more varieties than can be listed; one of the most popular is the Porcini, known as the “king” of mushrooms. However, whether you find Italian mushrooms on Italian soil or you run to the farmer’s market in America to purchase, know that making a meal such as this week’s Sunday Pasta will most certainly have you eating like a king (or queen in my case). Enjoy!
Donna Picciocchi, Editor