Gathering, cooking, preserving and eating wild mushrooms is practically a national sport in Catalunya. 

Catalan mushrooms hunters ‘boletaires’ are out in force in the Pyrenees woods from mid September until the end of December.

Our tradition classifies mushrooms into twenty-six groups: ‘cama-secs’, ‘sabateres’, ‘orellanes’, ‘gírgoles’, ‘mollerons’, ‘ceps’, ‘mataparents’, ‘mollerics’, ‘rossinyols’, ‘rovellons’, ‘pebrassos’, ‘lleteroles’, ‘cualbres’, ‘llenegues’, ‘carlets’, ‘pampes’, ‘cogomes’, ‘rubiols’, ‘cogomelles’, ‘fredolics’, ‘moixernons’, ‘tòfones’ – a subterranean fungus which is much appreciated as a seasoning –, ‘pets de llop’, ‘cassoletes’, ‘múrgoles’ and ‘peus de rata’.

The name of each species can vary depending on the region, the village and even the house. Of all of them, the ones the Catalans most appreciate in autumn are the ‘rovelló’, the black or white ‘llenega’, the ‘ou de reig’, the ‘fredolic’, the ‘camagroc’, the ‘cep’ and the ‘trompeta de la mort’; and, in winter, the ‘tòfona negra’; and, in spring, the ‘moixernons’, the ‘múrgules’ and the ‘corrioles’, amongst others, of course.

Catalan mushrooms hunters 'boletaires' are out in force from mid September until the end of December. Rafael Vargas and Martí Llorens/©ICEX.

A quick guide to wild mushrooms

Ou de Reig – the romantically named ‘royal egg’ or ‘kings testicles’ is the star of the autumn with its regal chestnut cap and pretty yellow gills. If slowly roasted whole, it makes a perfect partner to lightly grilled ducks liver sprinkled with sea salt.

Llenega (wax cap) proliferates in the Bages region from September to December. Its cap is the colour of arbequina olives and can grow up to 10cms across with milky white gills. You’ll find it beneath pine trees in low mountain areas.

More than 1500 different species grow in the Berguedà region. Rafael Vargas and Martí Llorens/©ICEX.

Ceps (porcini) are easily recognisable for their dark flesh and plump, dumpling like bodies. The taste is mild, but shaved like truffles and drizzled with a fruity olive oil they make the most delicate carpacchio.

Rovellons (bleeding white cap) emerge in early September and last through December. They among the most popular mushroom in Catalonia, a pretty sunset colour flecked with green. Grill them with a little olive oil, garlic and parsley and plenty of of salt.

Camagrocs or rossinyols (fleshy, peachy-hued chanterelles) grow between August and October. They thrive in pine forests particularly in the mossy areas at the foot of the tree. They grown in clusters, are trumpet shaped with gills turned inside out in shades of yellow and orange.

Pinetells (delicious milk cap mushrooms) can grow up to 15 cms in diameter with a cap like Saturn: think red and orange concentric circles dotted with green. The stem is white with orange spots and it grows everywhere from the coast to the Pyrenees, from late August to early January.

Múrgules (morels) are the most distinctive looking wild mushrooms with their conical, honeycomb cap. They are unbeatable in a foie and cream sauce and tossed over tagliatelle or sourdough toast.

Fredolics (grey knight mushrooms) have a short season from September to November and are distinguished by bluish-grey colouring. The cap is knobbly, the gills a dirty white colour. It thrives in pine forests and comes out in force after a cold snap.

The Carlet (panther cap) is a pretty, rose coloured mushroom with Bordeaux blushes over the cap. It has a good meaty flesh, and is sweetish providing it isn’t picked too big when it gets bitter. It thrives in oak and beech forests through September and October and lends itself well to bottling and preserving rather than eaten fresh.

Trompetes de la mort (black trumpets, trumpets of death or horn of plenty) far from being deadly are delightful in a creamy pasta sauce. They are in season from August through December and look just like black chanterelles so they are difficult to mistake.

Traditional Catalan cuisine uses both fresh mushrooms, which must we washed with only a little water, and ones that have been dried, salted, crystallised or preserved in other ways. Whole ones, pieces or sheets, they are mainly used as an accompaniment to meat, potato, vegetable, rice, noodle or even fish dishes; sautéed in mixtures with garlic and parsley or bacon, or added to stews, cooked on the grill, or in the oven – in the ‘llauna’ [baking tin] –, fried with olive oil or lard, lightly or slow cooked, served raw, marinated or with juice or sauce, added to soups, omelettes or ‘coques’, or even ground like spices to put into sauces and minces, added to ‘botifarra’ [black sausage] or to flavour the oil. Amongst the traditional, most popular recipes with mushrooms, we find potatoes with ‘fredolics’, pigs feet with ‘llenegues’, calf with mushrooms, ‘rovellons a la llauna’ [‘rovellons’ cooked in the baking tin], ‘moixernons’ omelette, fricandó, mushroom soup and ‘tòfona’ cannelloni.

Recent culinary tendencies – mainly from creative cuisine – have outweighed the traditional uses of mushrooms by adopting uncommon species into traditional cuisine and potentiating the aromatic and physical traits of each one. Nowadays, mushrooms are also preserved or lyophilized and the alimentary industry uses dehydrated ones. ‘Carpaccio’ with ‘ceps’ or ‘ous de reig’, and pasta with ‘camagrocs’ or ‘trompetes de la mort’, are some of the recent Catalan dishes to incorporate mushrooms.

Font: Tara Stevens/©ICEX and Generalitat Catalunya