Autumn and spring are the best seasons for walking in the woods of Maremma and to look for mushrooms, which represent an important local economic and gastronomical resource. However, it is necessary to have some experience in order to know when, where and which mushrooms to pick. If fact, you will find Porcini and Caesar’s mushrooms along with many other edible and non-edible ones.
“The good mushroom hunter never reveals where he/she found mushrooms, barely even mentioning the indicative area. When the usual question, ‘did you find mushrooms?’ is asked, the answer is typically a detailed list of size, weight and freshness of their bounty. Some limit themselves to listing the mushrooms found whilst remaining vague about the quantity, whereas others, perhaps more exhibitionists, show off their proud collection by parking their car in the village square with the boot open for all to see, in order to strike the passerby or make the others die of envy. Scratched faces, ripped clothes and wicker baskets that emerge from every wood is part of the parcel because the desire to find mushrooms is contagious and effects everyone.”
There is a code that mushroom harvesters must respect in Tuscany (or for that matter, anywhere). So, if you ever decide to face the woods to hunt for some of this delicious treasure, make sure you read the regulations imposed by regional authorities beforehand.
Here are some recommendations by Just in Toscana, which specializes in creating activities for exploring Maremma Tuscany:
- it is forbidden to use racks or tools to move or scrap the undergrowth, as they could damage the humus and the environment that mushrooms need to grow;
- do not use plastic or paper bags to carry the mushrooms. Instead, you should clean them on the spot and place them in rigid, open containers (such as wicker baskets) to avoid them from squashing or fermenting (while at the same time allowing for the spore to disseminate;
- you should not pick mushrooms that are too young or too old, or damage mushrooms of any variety – including the poisonous ones that are fundamental for maintaining the biological balance of the woods
- it is advisable to wear old clothes because they will easily get torn in the woods, and to use comfortable boots to protect your feet from water and vipers
do not touch mushrooms you don’t know and even if you do know them, make sure you never put your hands in your mouth.
Here is a video of a mushroom-harvest expeditions by a group of friends in the Maremma woods (not sure what’s up with the koala at the end)