Hunting for a mushroom feast is a tradition
and a real madness for all of us, especially if it is a good
year for them.
when there's lots) is the local name for a type of edible
fungus that grows on the Island in autumn.
This mushroom of the "Lactarius"
family, an autochthonous, very tasty variety of the "Lactarius
sanguifluus," or "saffron milk cup" as it is
known in English, is practically the only wild mushroom that
most of the locals know can be eaten and look for intensively.
They form part of some of our best traditional
menus and ancestral recipes which have got to be in the proper "Arros i frite de matanses" (the rice dish that
we always cook and serve when we kill the pig and serve up
the meat, ribs, liver, kidneys and tongue that is fried all
together and served as the main course for this event).
It is also much sought after for Christmas
and later on, dried or frozen, for special occasions, such
as on village Saint's days, etc.
Going to the forest to look for mushrooms,
(Anar a buscar "pebrasus", torrar "sobrasada"
i "butifarró" i beure vi pagés), and
barbecuing them, together with the, very fresh, just made
"sobrasada" and "butifarró" and
plenty of the young local wine, is one of the most popular
and anticipated activities for locals at this time of the
year, from the middle of October till Christmas or the first
weeks of January at the most, before it gets too cold.
At least one day out in the forest is spent
by real crowds, especially at weekends, with whole families,
granddads and children included, groups of young friends,
working pals, peasants, people from all the villages and from
Ibiza Town, etc. For a lot of them, this is the only time
and the only reason to go walking into the thick forest, running
up and down hills.
Before, we had to walk for about two hours,
from San Antonio up to the areas where they used to grow,
by "Cala Salada," "Corona," or "Buscastell,"
in the forest up the hills. Three or four happy hours would
be spent looking up and down from one place to another. If
we found enough of them in less time - when we had what we
needed for the barbecue and some more to take back - we had
lunch. Normally from six to ten of the freshest and tenderest
"pebrasus" each, briefly done on the charcoal, with
a bit of salt and a drop of olive oil (the most tasty way
to be eaten with a good piece of grilled "sobrasada"
in between two thick slices of "pa pagés"
(the local bread). And maybe a couple of oranges afterwards,
without the wine in those days (too much extra weight to carry).
After recovering our strength, it was two hours or more for
the walk back with "un sanayó ple de pebrasus"
- a bag full of mushrooms, as we always used to say, even
if it was only half full. It was for me an enjoyable, but
also a very hard day. I slept well those nights.
Now, with the car, it takes ten minutes
to get there, with all the family, tables and chairs, radio
and the mobile phone (in case they get lost in the forest,
they say). As there are new roads all over the place, they
keep using the car to drive to the next hill for a quick look
and if there is nothing there, it's back to the car to try
somewhere else. I often think that wheels are the worst enemy
of the "pebrasus".
The effect of this crowd moving into the
forest, without much control, produces a very severe ecological
impact, especially for such a delicate being as mushrooms.
Some don't even know what they are looking for. They can't
tell the difference between the different kinds of mushrooms,
so they pick up all they see and throw them back as soon as
they find out they are not what they were looking for. Even
if they are edible with a good flavour, they ignore them,
or just step on them, because they are not easy to be seen,
destroying whatever gets in their way.
There is another group of people that also
goes to the forest, to find this very much wanted, specific
and expensive mushroom, though they also know three or four
other ones ("Clitocibe costata", in Ibicenco "esteperol,"
"Agaricus campestris," "xampinyo" (Field
mushroom), "Pleurotus eryngii," "girgola de
fel-la," "Gomphidius rutilus," "pebras
moru" (Peg top) that, if they are found, are picked up
and taken home to be eaten, but nobody will go on purpose
to look for these last ones, or, let's say, not yet.
These groups of people always go one by
one, two or three of the best and most discreet friends together
at the most. Professional mushroom hunters (we will need a
couple of hounds, or a real "Apache red skin" to
follow them in the forest), is formed by local farmers born
by or in their own forest where they have learned from their
ancestors exactly where and when to find them, though they
keep it as a valuable secret. All they have to do is to be
there before somebody else does it, year after year. They
know and respect the environment even they don't know much
about most of the varieties of fungus that they have in the
forest and can be eaten, or the real nature of them. They
do not seem to be interested in any other one either.
These people used to come to sell them in
the shops down town. The "pebrasus" were threaded
through the stem, strung with a long, thin rosemary branch,
six to twelve depending on the size, to be sold by the branch,
that could be hung and dried, to be eaten later.
Now, quite a few people go to their houses
to see if there are any for sale. Some gourmets and restaurant
owners even book as many kilos as possible for the next mushroom
season. The price is always related to the availability, for
instance this year the "pebrasus" from Ibiza are
priceless and there are none in the market. The ones we can
find for sale are another variety of lactarius - "Lactarius deliciosus" - and come from the Mediterranean side of
Mainland Spain, (Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante, Albacete)
at about fifteen euros, (2,500 pesetas) per kilo, the local
ones will normally double this price.
The difference in the ecological impact
for the environment between the two groups is obviously evident.
If you follow the first group, it will be no problem at all
to find out where they have been, empty bottles and plastic
bags, broken branches, unnecessarily pulled up plants, removed
moss and grass, kicked and stepped over toadstools all the
way along. It is an easy track to follow, but you can still
find quite a few of the mushrooms that we are looking for
that they missed. They kill and spoil more then they pick
up, especially little ones.
If you follow someone of the second group,
you will hardly see any changes to the forest and its floor,
but where they have been no "pebrasus" at all will
be found, even small ones, because they say that "is
better a small one for us today, then a big one tomorrow for
Not that I have anything at all against
the people going into the forest and spending a good healthy
day out there. Probably it would be better if they went more
often, as much as I want to keep doing it myself, and keep
finding, as long as possible, this delicious gift of Nature.
But I'm afraid that things will have to change a lot for it
to happen; we all have to learn more about it and adapt our
habits and attitudes towards its preservation.
The mushroom is the "carpophores"
(the fruit body of a "plant") with its "spores"
(seeds) inside of them, in its "gills" or "tubes",
and they are very fragile beings; about 80-85% of them is
water. They need the rain, high humidity and the temperature
is best from eight to twenty degrees centigrade for them to
grow properly. When it is dry and hot, like this season and
the past few years, very few grow and if they don't get picked
up in the first days, very soon they are full of worms, because
being so hot (almost thirty the last week of October) there
are a lot of flies and insects that put their eggs in them,
only very few go through all the process to release the spores,
so there is very little "micelle" (what can be considered
as the "body of the plant" it is formed by the spores)
being form in the forest humus, therefore, it will be far
less mushrooms growing in this area, some forest lose completely
its production for years, until we have a very rainy one.
Mushrooms are not vegetal. They can't process
the solar radiation to produce chlorophyll and they need to
feed themselves with organic matter, as animals do. In this
particular case, the "Lactarius" are symbiotic fungus
which means that they live in association, in symbiosis with
a proper plant, in this case, the "Lactarius sanguifluus"
grows and live in symbiosis with the roots of the local pine-tree, "Pinus halepensis". When these trees get cut, as
is happening every day, building new roads, complexes and
houses in the forest, they also finish for ever with the mushrooms.
We will continue looking for mushrooms next
week, if there are any left and some part of the forest is
open and free for us to go to.
Sorry! In two weeks, I mean. (Art comes
The Good News
A friend of mine, who is a sailor (he prefers not to mention
his name), takes people out sailing and fishing into the open
sea on his own boat. He has told me that he has spotted three
very big whales swimming around the same area (about twenty
or twenty five miles from Ibiza's coast towards Cabrera) for
the past few weeks. They don't leave the area and come very
close to the boat, almost within touching distance. This situation
hasn't been seen in many years around our island.
Last time I saw him he said he was going
to take his video camera to film them, so maybe we can recognise
which type of whales they are. It will be interesting to find
It is lovely to make their acquaintance.
José P Ribas