Sunday, June 24, 2012

Porcini Mushrooms

In class this week, we talked about many specific kinds of edible plants grown in Italy, from fruits/vegetables to nuts to herbs. One of the things we talked about was the porcini mushroom, the most expensive and in-demand mushroom around.
The word "porcini" translates literally to "little pig". There are a few theories as to why this is. One is that the mushroom grows in such a way that it looks like a little pig coming out of the ground. Another is that people used to use pigs to find mushrooms and truffles, so they simply named it after their method of search. It belongs to the Boletus genus, and is the only species in its genus. There is more than one variety, but they are all the same species (porcini).
The porcini mushroom is also very expensive because they are fairly rare. They can be found only in certain areas, but it is said that chestnut woods are the best place to get them in the wild. To harvest them, you never pull them straight out of the ground, you always cut them at the base, being careful to make a clean cut and not to bruise it. Then, they must be transported in a basket so that they are less likely to get crushed, they can breathe better, and the spores can drop back to the ground so that more mushrooms will grow!
When a group of us went to Arezzo this weekend, we went into a little shop and saw some dried porcini mushrooms; they were just as expensive as we were told! (see picture)

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