Wild mushroom hunting is exceptionally popular in Spain as a whole, but generally, the province of Girona is considered to be the best area. Known in Spanish as
Gerona, it is a Catalan area, around one and a quarter hours from Barcelona by train. (Incidentally, just outside Barcelona, in the woodlands and forest, there are also great mushrooms to be found). However, Gerona is really the capital of the Spanish mushroom picking area and the pickings are indeed rich!
Mushrooms are quite varied in Spain, with some very big mushrooms growing in forest areas. It is believed that this is because the weather is very favourable to mushrooms, hot summers, but plenty of rain and a very humid and damp climate in the forests. So be prepared to find some giant fungi.
Ceps, also known as porcini and in Spanish as rovellos are quite common. Chanterelles can usually be found quite easily as well. Niscalos which are also known by the names of lactarius deliciosus and in England as the Saffron milk cap or the Red pine mushrooms are also very prolific here. You may also hear these referred to in Gerona as the ‘pinatell. They are to be found under Pine trees and they are extremely delicious (as their Latin name would suggest). They are very much a prized mushroom and taste divine, so do try and source these, when in Spain.
This mushroom is a orange colour with a vase shaped appearance, with the spores being almost fluted. The cap or helmet is often quite sticky if it is wet. When you cut into this mushroom it will give out a red to orange colour of milk, or sap, which is why it is called the saffron milk cap in English. (The latex or milk is very similar to the colour of saffron). Truffles are also available here, but they are indeed a very sought after fungus!
The mushroom season tends to be around September to October time, but it may be slightly earlier or later, depending on the weather. The rain usually arrives by August, but if it is slightly late, then the mushroom season will also be later.
Due to the popularity of mushroom forays in Spain, recently a number of tour companies or locally based people are offering mushroom tours, where you can be educated in where mushrooms are to be found, which are edible and even get to taste the produce.
Some of these organised mushroom hunts even have cooking lessons available, so you can go out to hunt and gather and then learn how best you can cook your spoils!
The benefits of the these tours are that you are more likely to be able to source good areas, where there are plenty of mushrooms. You will also be able to learn a little more about which are poisonous and which are edible. Finally, if there are cooking lessons included, you will also learn about cooking some wonderful Spanish dishes and tapas!