WHAT ARE MUSHROOMS? The first mushroom definitions go back to the third century b. C. and tell us that they are weird plants, because they have no roots, no trunk, no leaves… for centuries mushrooms have continued fostering any type of imagination, such as they were born "where the lightning has fallen" or "where witches dance"…
For their particular nature they are a separate Kingdom, as they have characteristics in common with both vegetables and animals, moreover, they have their specific reproductive cycle … all that makes them special living beings. There are thousand of mushrooms, taking also forms that are very different from the mushrooms we eat, such as moulds.Mycology is the study of mushrooms, a naturalistic discipline whose purpose is not only to distinguish between "good" mushrooms and "bad" mushrooms but also to understand the relationships between mushrooms and the rest of nature and the correct behaviour of mankind with respect to the ecosystem.What we call MUSHROOM, is actually only the fruit of the mushroom (the part that can be seen); the mushroom plant (mycelium) grows underground, and is made up of an interlacement of filaments extending even ten meters in the ground and can also live for centuries.
In Northern America, a 3,000 year-old mycelium was found and was extended for several hectares. Then the mushroom "fruit" can develop out of but also in the ground, such as truffles.
The importance of mushrooms for the ecosystem, is the way they feed themselves: they make a natural selection in woods as they remove the weakest plants, thus having an important degradation function of organic substances but, above all, they live in a relationship of mutual exchange with vegetable living organisms: in woods all trees have their symbiont mushrooms, without which they would hardly survive
MYTHS TO BE EXPLODED There are plenty of myths concerning mushrooms and some of them (which have then become part of popular sayings) were handed down by Pliny the Elder, whose work dealt with mushrooms exhaustively.
Today we would like to point out that the following beliefs are false:- all mushrooms that grow on wood are edible…- all mushrooms that have been nibbled by animals are edible.- the addition of garlic (or even gold or silver) while cooking mushrooms ensures that they are edible.- mushrooms become poisonous if they grow next to iron objects.- all mushrooms whose pulp colour changes when touched are poisonous.- mushrooms that have been touched by snakes become poisonous!! - it is necessary to cut the mushroom stem at its base to pick it up, because this allows it to grow up again …or rather, if you want to recognise a mushroom properly it has to be entire in all its parts.
Other beliefs are not really myths, but real fairy tales like the belief that certain plants are treated to make mushrooms grow around them…hum!
FUNGO PORCINO “Cep mushroom” is the ordinary name for BOLETUS EDULIS and its related group; those who are used to eating these mushrooms when they are fresh will know that their cap colour is not always the same and this is because the Edulis group includes:BOLETUS EDULIS with uneven brown-hazel cap.BOLETUS PINOPHILUS with a brown-red cap.BOLETUS AEREUS with black-bronze hat.BOLETUS AESTIVALIS with even hazel cap.
All these are equally "Ceps", although some people find they have a few light differences in taste, whose preference is entirely subjective.
Edible even when raw, it can actually be used for any type of gastronomic preparation.
THE ORIGIN The cep mushrooms grow in many countries, where, however, are not often eaten.
In Italy there are many individuals who are passionate pickers, therefore, not only are they required to apply for a compulsory paid license, issued by each single municipality (and valid only in the area of each single municipality!) but also the allowed quantity of mushrooms a person can pick up daily is no more than 3 Kg.It is easy to understand why the whole national crop is concentrated in the baskets of private pickers; a few boxes of mushrooms may be found occasionally at the market, but in very small quantities.
When it comes to packed, i.e. dry, frozen or pickled ceps, the possibility of finding the national products in packets on sale to the public is absolutely remote, practically non-existent, also because of the high supply of labour this product requires: indeed, at present all manufacturing countries have low costs of labour.
The statements above are not absolutely to the consumer's detriment; whether they come from the forests of Eastern Europe, Sweden, Finland, Portugal or Spain, rather than from Turkey or from Yunnan tablelands, the cep mushrooms will be better or worse according to the crop and weather conditions, then of course, processing techniques will play an important role.