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Monday, 01 May 2006

Fall in Italy: Festival of the Mushrooms - Page 2

Written by Diana Armstrong
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Gloria, our housekeeper, appears on my back door step to announce that there is a mushroom festival in a little town called Sipicciano.  A village not far from Orvieto in Umbria.  This village does not appear on any map I own.  It is perched on the edge of the Tiber Valley right on the border of Umbria and the Lazio. Like an ancient eagle, it looks down from its aery onto vineyards and olive groves  and over in the far distance towards all the traffic speeding  between Rome and Florence.

 

 

image
photo by Karen Tobia

The display is quite incredible, there are mushrooms that will kill you, mushrooms that will give you hallucinations and mushrooms that are merely toxic.  There is not a delicious fat porcini mushroom amongst the whole lot.  Locals arrive with baskets at the back door of the church hall and are greeted by a very official man with a mushroom reference book. He picks up their mushrooms in his gloved hand and analyzes them. They are then categorized and displayed for all to see. From the display of about 150 mushroom varieties there are only about 10 that are edible.  A good rule of thumb is don't go out picking mushrooms because they will probably kill you, give you hallucinations and at the very least make you throw up.

 

After being chastised through this very sobering display of toxins, we set off back home, vowing to season the veal roast that is at this point simmering in my oven with something other than mushrooms. The roast is awaiting the final garnish of porcini that would have been garnered from the Funghi Festival.

On our way home, we decide to return to  Castiglione in Teverina and to the local winery Madonna della Macchie  in order to save the day. The owners are a little surprised to see us back so soon.  They greet us with a bottle in each hand filled with  their Orvieto Classico – a cheery slightly fruity white wine. They also see we look hungry and bring out a lovely wheel of local soft Umbrian Pecorino cheese.

Feeling a little consoled, we drive back to Lubriano.  My friend suggests that we go to Luigina’s  fruit and vegetable shop on the off chance she had edible mushrooms (after viewing the display at the mushroom festival I think this is a very brave remark.)  As we walked into Luigina's shop what greets us is a gift from heaven.

 

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photo by Karen Tobia of author

In a basket right by the door is a mushroom of such grand proportions it is astounding. There is just one mushroom for sale. It is  about one foot square.  "Fragrante" says Luigina.  We smell it and we are all sold on this one mushroom which actually weighs 4 pounds.  She says they call it “mouse ears” in Lubriano as it resembles about one hundred mouse ears all clumped together. The main thing going through our minds at this point is that it looks absolutely nothing like anything we had seen at the anti-mushroom festival. We buy it.

 

 

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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