Summer in the Italian Alps: Porcini Mushroom Picking
Mushroom picking is the perfect Summer Activity in the Italian Alps. Near our Alpine hotel, many mushroom foragers flock to the forests to find porcini mushrooms. Porcini mushrooms are known to be an ingredient for gourmet cuisine, which is made evident through its premium pricing. It creates an excellent flavour of umami to any dish, while also being a great source of protein. There are many delicious Italian dishes that utilise Porcini mushrooms, in fact our Italian Restaurant Menu incorporates a lot of Porcini into our dishes such as; Porcini Tagliatelle and Crispy Egg with Porcini.
“THE PERFECT CLIMATE”
It is known throughout the gourmet world that Porcini mushrooms are difficult to cultivate. They require the ideal climate to flourish, there are several factors such as the type of soil, the humidity, the temperature, the shade and even the kinds of trees that grow in the area. For Porcini mushrooms, the Italian Alps create the perfect climate for them to grow. Mushrooms have a symbiotic relationship with trees, they thrive living beside trees while nourishing its roots. Porcini mushrooms lie within hardwood forests alongside trees like pine, chestnut, spruce and hemlock. Therefore, if you’re travelling to Northern Italy, do not miss out on foraging these precious mushrooms! As they don’t grow easily anywhere else. The best season to pick mushrooms is summer shifting to autumn - so try and go out when there is higher humidity and you find a greater abundance of mushrooms.
The area of our Alpine Hotel, is in close proximity to many areas where mushroom picking is a popular activity in the summertime. For example, Aprica is an area well-known to mushroom-picking lovers, the Orobic Valleys (Vall Di Sant’Antonio; Val Bondone) are abundant in mushrooms. Not only is Aprica a great place to do skiing, hiking and cycling - but is also great for Porcini hunting. Furthermore, if you go to Magnolta, there have been mushroom picking competitions for the Best Porcini mushroom - and even in Valle Camonica, ‘Super Porcinos’ have been spotted (extra large porcini mushrooms).
HUNTING FOR PORCINI
Once you’ve arrived in porcini abundant ground, the challenge is finding them and making sure you don’t consume any harmful mushrooms. As a rule, do not eat a mushroom you cannot recognise - you could run the risk of poisoning yourself. Porcini mushrooms are quite hard to spot due to its brown colour, allowing it to camouflage in the dense undergrowth. The mushrooms tend to grow in the soil beside trees where it is slightly moist and away from direct sunlight but with access to some. If you find a bunch of brown leaves, you can shift them to the side to see if there are any Porcini mushrooms hiding underneath.
AVOID FERNS If you encounter grounds with ferns, you should move to another area and avoid them. This is due to the fact that they thrive on acidic soil, whereas, Porcini mushroom do not.
CHECK OTHER MUSHROOMS Porcini mushrooms are often found beside Amanita mushrooms - also known as the ‘fairytale’ mushrooms - which is highly hallucinogenic. It is recommended that you do not pick or eat these types of mushrooms as they can be potentially harmful. However, Amanita mushrooms can be indicators that there are Porcini mushrooms nearby, as these two types of mushrooms thrive in the same climate and environment.
BE CAREFUL WHILE HARVESTING
There are a few things to think about before harvesting Porcini mushrooms. Keep in mind that some areas require a permit in order to forage mushrooms - this is done to ensure that the mycelium (the mushroom roots) are not overly damaged to allow for more mushrooms to grow for the next season. For instance, if you are staying in Brescia - the Corteno Golgi area requires you to get a permit while some areas in Aprica and Mountain community of Tirano doesn’t require this. Keep in mind there are also limits in some areas, such as collecting only up to 3kg worth of mushrooms a day. For more information and to buy tickets to harvest, go check the GeoTicket site.
Mushrooms continue growing through the mycelium underground - so even when you harvest it - it will continue to keep growing. Thus, when you are harvesting you should only manually pick it up with your hands or a knife, without damaging the root too much. Clean the mushroom by wiping the debris away or cutting it away, once it is put in the bucket, you won’t have to worry about the dirty mushroom contaminating the others. When placing your mushroom in a container; use buckets, baskets or bags that allow air in so the mushrooms can breath.
Northern Italy really is the best place to harvest Porcini mushrooms! If you are planning to go to the Alps, try foraging out and take it home to cook something delicious. If not, come visit our hotel in Corteno Golgi, stay in, have a relaxing session in our spa and try out the Porcini dishes in our menu!
For more articles about activities in the Italian Alps, read our blog: